So there you have it – vinyl is not always the final word in best sound. Some titles have been served quite well with digital compact discs. It’s all about doing the research and making wise purchases (at least if you are restricted to a budget). I certainly have made some fairly expensive mistakes over the years, but that’s life.
A more fruitful endeavor in format obsessive-ness for me has been 78 RPM disc collecting. Just last weekend I scored some really old 78s. Have a look:
Having a wide range in taste for music helps when collecting old 78s. I’m just as happy to find old polka records as I’d be to find pre-war blues, though the latter is a neigh impossibility, really. I’ll never compete with good old Joe Bussard and his ilk. If you want to see how 78 collecting is really done, have a look at this documentary:
John Fahey was a name I’d read about for years. Mainly connected to a great box set his latter-day record label released on Captain Beefheart called "Grow Fins".
The title is what grabbed my attention and seeing it was a book by John Fahey really piqued my interest. To say that this book blew my mind would be like, oh – sounding like the faux-record collector geek in the clip above! Heh heh. What really gave me the heebie-jeebies was discovering how Fahey was also a classical music enthusiast and a thrift store maven (as I had become in recent years). He would have appreciated the irony of his book being discovered in such a place. The written side of Fahey actually gave me a better understanding of how to listen to his music. I’d heard the Live in Tasmania album off youtube years before and I didn’t get what was the big deal. Seemed like okay guitar music to me, but nothing like Lenny Breau or something.
What I was missing was the connection to the MYTH. Here’s another 20th century figure who really understood the power of myth. Fahey constructed a whole mythology context to place his musical creations in. Even so far as to author short stories posing as album notes for his early releases. And those early albums were put out by his own record label – Takoma Records. Hang on. The same Takoma that put out the first Fabulous Thunderbirds album in the late 70s? Yep. Denny Bruce was Fahey’s business partner. When Takoma was sold to Chrysalis Records in the early 80s, the T-Birds contract went with the sale. Hence, the classic T-Birds records being on that label.
Oh, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg with Fahey. Beyond starting a record label to record his own music on in the early 60s, he was a key figure in bringing many surviving old blues singers to the folk festival circuit in that era. Booker White. Skip James. Son House. Folks might not have heard these guys later on were it not for Fahey’s detective work. But that’s not all. Fahey also helped to pioneer the steel sting guitar as a solo instrument. As improbable as it seems to me, before Fahey it was considered unusual for instrumental steel string guitar music to be taken seriously as a genre. He learned old blues and bluegrass fingerpicking styles from the old forms, yet he used them to perform slightly avant-garde original compositions which borrowed equally from blues, folk, modern classical and Indian music. Yet, with all this eclectic mishmosh going on, there was a mythology tying it all together. Fahey called his genre American Primitive. Totally fascinating stuff. If you’re looking for something to watch I will recommend the recent documentary. It’s on netflix – check it out.
This was Basho's only release on Blue Thumb records in 1970. I decided to modify the cover art slightly to keep this place family-friendly. Aside from the provocative sleeve art, the music is quite amazing, most especially due to his incredible voice and very esoteric sense of cosmology.
Basho's life was cut short during a freak chiropractic accident at the young age of 45 in the mid-80s. His legacy continues to grow, just like that of John Fahey. Now, normally I am loathe to offer music downloads on this site, but this one was offered for free through the Vanguard website in 2007. These were unreleased recordings dating from about 1975 for a record that Vanguard never issued in those days. For reasons still unknown it was indeed posted for free so I'll pass it on here:
I know I've deviated from the promised new music focus a bit lately. As a follow-up I have to admit I broke down and bought the Young the Giant first album on (can you guess?) VINYL. What I need to do is get their new release (on vinyl of course) and hope they buck the system and stay together for years and years. I'd follow them just to see where they wind up. And, it's worth mentioning that Guy Clark's "My Favorite Picture of You" won a Grammy Award since I posted about it back in January. Why? Because it's great! Once in awhile justice is served through the system. Indeed. Happy Listening until next time!