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4.3 out of 5 stars14
4.3 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 14 June 2007
I heard 'Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet' played on the radio in another room late one night. Had to stop what I was doing. Ended up staring at the radio like a zombie. The music was captivating, mesmerizing; I didn't want it to stop. Well, I must have been feeling tired and emotional at the time, 'cos when I got my hands on the CD and played it in the bright, brisk morning the effect was gone. I played it to some friends, and they were very curious about it. The question most of them asked was; How long does this %*$!?£% go on for? Shame on them! Well, I've had the CD for a while now, so feel able to give a settled view of it, which is this. You really do have to be in the mood for this type of music, and unless you're a chronic melancholiac these moods won't come round too often. It really would be a waste of time putting this CD in that little black box in the car. But on those few occasions when you really are in such a mood, there can be little to come near it. So an average of three stars - five for when you're in the mood, and one for when you're not.

One thing that strikes me about the other reviews is that they seem to focus almost exclusively on 'Jesus' Blood'. To my mind 'The Sinking of the Titanic' is equally evocative. The repeated dirge-like tune is similar to the device used in 'Jesus' Blood', and the sampled sounds with which it is mingled just pile on the atmosphere. We hear distant indistinct, presumably long-dead voices, and what could be the throbbing of engines and the deep ringing metallic echo of a cavernous hull. Takes you back.
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on 25 July 2005
The piece Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet leaves you acutely reflective and deeply touched, not to mention desperate to know what has become of the man. The old man heard on the 25 minute track is apparently not a drunk, though he was homeless when Gavin Bryars recorded him singing. His voice is all at once innocent, sweet, tender, elderly and fragile. But the words he sings are full of optimism and strength. Though I am not in the slightest a religious person, there is something profoundly spiritual in this minimalist composition. The voice, which is looped throughout the whole work, is at first heard alone, determined and insistent. It is so very slowly joined by instruments of the orchestra, as if they are not altogether convinced, but touched by his sentiments. As they continue in the loop and others join they gain strength and their voices become as certain as the old man's.
On many levels you can find something allegorical about this work. In one sense the old man is like a shepherd, the orchestra his flock, being brought to safety by his continuous calling. In another, the orchestra are like his faith, closing round him, like the hand of his god, protecting him, giving him strength. As I have stated, I am not religious, so for me the most profound aspect of the work is the lack of awareness this voice has of the developing accompaniment around him, his ignorance of the beauty enveloping his simple honesty, and the questions the piece evokes about the whole idea of ignorance and faith.
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on 19 February 2001
The version of Jesus's Blood on this CD is the one produced by Brian Eno in the early 70s. It is 25 minutes long compared to the later 75 minute version on which Tom Waites duets with the (long dead) tramp.
This is one of the oddest things I have ever heard and it is guaranteed to silence any collection of friends you choose to play it to. The tape loop of the tramp's thin voice is hypnotic and thought provoking - and also strangely disorientating, since the tune he sings seems to lose its beginning and its end as the piece progresses.
As an expression of simple faith by one who was undoubtedly excreted upon during his lifetime it is either uplifting and/or sad, depending I suppose upon your own stand on religion.
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VINE VOICEon 27 July 2008
After Brian Eno had finished recording his third solo album "Another Green World" he approached the then , independent record label "Island " with a view to forming a new record label catering exclusively for the nascent experimental music scene. He wanted to promote music that otherwise ,wouldn't find an audience, but that would appeal to a select band of esoteric connoisseurs. Island , realising that there was a loyal following who would buy anything involving Eno , and trusting to his fecundity of ideas agreed, the low recording costs also appealing to their business senses. Eno named the label "Obscure " , astutely giving the label elite cache, and the first release on "Obscure" was Gavin Bryars double header "The Sinking Of The Titanic"/Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet". Recorded at the low key Basing Street studios , Eno was ensconced as producer though in actuality his role amounted to little more than an advisor.
The Sinking Of The Titanic was a 1969 orchestral piece featuring fragmentary arrangements of the Episcopal hymn "Autumn" , which a survivor of the disaster has heard the string ensemble play as the ship went down. It's a wonderfully evocative noble piece of music that stills retains a churning pathos all too redolent for it's subject matter
Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet is based on a thirteen bar loop of a vagrant ,s impromptu hymn singing recorded by documentary film maker Alan Power in 1971 , and not Gavin Bryars himself as many believe. I find this piece of music phenomenally moving yet can understand those dissenting voices who hear only a tramp warbling over an orchestra tuning up ...actually that's too harsh but you get the point. The way Bryars lets the music ebb and flow yet inexorably build with ever growing verdant layers is mesmerising enough but the true heart of the music lies with the vagrant who despite his circumstances sings with quavering dignity and something approaching true and pure hope or maybe faith ....or maybe he was just seeing life through a glowing alcoholic haze that day......either way it's stunning .
The album was recorded as two sides of twenty five minutes as audiophiles told Eno that was the way to get the best sound quality out of the medium. Bryars has subsequently recorded longer versions of Jesus Blood, one with Tom Waits counterpoising the vocals. It's wonderful stuff but it divides listeners like little else. Some hear a turgid bilious racket but for those of us who do get it- and I am not assuming some moral or intellectual high ground here- this is one of the most poignant remarkable pieces of music ever. A dazzling melding of human tragedy -one major / one minor -and musical bravura .
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on 2 October 2003
I don't think religiosity can possibly come into this. I can't agree with the one-star review. The piece is neither contrived nor grating and it shouldn't be shot down by people who are trying to find in it something that isn't there. It is what it is: beautifully arranged, conducted, conceived. An understated masterpiece.
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on 24 October 2002
Despite possible accusations of displaced maudlin sentimentality (a kind of musical Munchhausen's by proxy), this is an amazingly effective piece of music. It is modern by date, and yet very classical or Romantic in style, so not off-putting for those who like their classical music to have a "tune". At the same time, the almost mixed-media nature of the dance band music interweaved through Bryars composition is truly eerie. Critics might say that what we are doing is adding cheap Hollywood (or Ealing) imagery to the music. But who cares what critics say, eh? this is a great piece of music full of soul and heart.
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on 12 April 2014
I bought this CD because I had heard Jesus' Blood several times over the years on the radio, and always loved it. But I had never heard it played for longer than a few minutes, So, I assumed that more would be better. Not for me it wasn't. After about ten minutes
I was looking at my watch and asking myself if I could stick it out to the end.. The same few words, though hauntingly beautiful, and the same few cords. I did listen to it all, but wish that I hadn't, because it has (temporarily I hope), spoiled how I felt about this unusual piece.
As for the Sinking of the Titanic. Well, I found it a general mish- mash of sound without substance, which was lost on me. My loss perhaps!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 28 August 2012
During a 1971 documentary film about homeless alcoholics in South London an elderly man(a non-alcoholic) was recorded singing part of a religious song. The experimental composer, Gavin Bryars, acquired an unused tape which was destined for the rubbish bin and "rescued this voice from oblivion" by making a tape loop of the brief stanza of the song and orchestrating it with layers of sound.
The resulting 'Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet' is a 25-minute minimalist classic - intensely moving, mesmerising and full of humanity. Once heard, never forgotten.
Th accompanying piece, 'The Sinking of the Titanic' is almost as impressive.
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on 28 January 2010
jesus never failed me yet got into my soul and those who I played it to all ages don't have to be classical music lover Im not it's a melody that will grow in your sub conscious. Try it .
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on 12 September 2013
I heard "Jesus Never Failed Me Yet" on Radio 3's "Words and Music" and was very moved by it to the extent that I logged on to the BBC website to find out about it. The poignancy of the unknown tramp's mantra set against the accompanying arrangement by Gavin Bryars is irresistible.
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