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Reissue has Fahey at quirky best


The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death
By John Fahey

Fantasy Records: 1997

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This review first appeared in the May 10, 1997 edition of the American Reporter.

It's probably not a thought that pleased him, but John Fahey is as much responsible for the popularity of new age and light jazz as anyone.

In the late 1950s, Fahey began recording himself on solo acoustic guitar. Not exactly blues, not exactly folk, Fahey was off in his own genre that melded elements of both with a little jazz and a large dash of classical. Combine him with the electronic instrumental music of early Pink Floyd or Tangerine Dream, and you aren't too far off from contemporary new age.

Fantasy Records has been reissuing Fahey's old, out-of-print recordings from his Takoma label, stuff like his first, ground-breaking album, "The Legend of Blind Joe Death." We're up to 1965 now, and a release by Riverboat Records, "The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death."

This reissue is Fahey at his best – meandering, thoughtful playing on his own, oddly titled compositions ("Orinda-Moraga," "The Death of the Clayton Peacock," "101 Is a Hard Road to Travel") and traditional folk.

One unique item on this release: L. Wayne Smith playing rhythm banjo (!) on "Beautiful Linda Getchell" (Fahey generally plays alone). And even by Fahey standards, the album cover art is darkly ornate with death skulls and snakes.

If you're not familiar with Fahey, this is one of his best recordings to start with; if you're a Fahey fan and your LPs are wearing out, you no longer have to ration your listening.