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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If there is a best Fahey album this is it, 31 Oct 2000
By 
P. Bryant (Nottingham, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: John Fahey, Vol. 4: The Great San Bernardino Birthday Party and Other Excursions (Audio CD)
My personal favourite Fahey album, originally released in late 1966, containing the exciting, gorgeous and mesmerising title track, all 19 minutes of it and not a note wasted, each section brilliantly melodic and crisp, and so superior to the more meandering works of later years. As well as that, the truly exotic guitar/veena 6 minute epic "Sail Away Ladies" with Blind Owl Wilson of Canned Heat, the guitar/church organ duet (has there ever been another one of those anywhere?) "Will the Circle be Unbroken" in which a rather dirgy Old Timey hymn is turned into a horror movie soundtrack, and, as if that wasn't deranged enough, "Guitar Excursion into the Unknown" which was too frightening for Fahey when he composed it in 1962, but here it is. So stylistically this is all over the place, unlike "America" or "Fare Forward Voyager" which have coherence, grace and calm. "San Bernardino" has anything but, it careens all over the place. If you like Fahey, you know you need this. If you've never heard him, start here.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still sounds brilliant after all these years - a great original, 18 Mar 2009
By 
Tom Evans (Caversham, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: John Fahey, Vol. 4: The Great San Bernardino Birthday Party and Other Excursions (Audio CD)
It shows my age that I first owned this on vinyl, when it was new. It sounded beautiful, brilliant and other-worldly. The mix of traditional American folk and blues guitar, avant-garde experiment and a touch of religion, and the slow lazy rhythms, was a heady brew. I lost the album on the way, and hadn't heard it for over 30 years: unlike most things, it is just as fresh and good the second time around. Fahey was an original, clearly an impossible man, and not everything of his works. But this is one to discover if you want to hear what his (very sophisticated) American primitivism was all about. It is also a historic document of a moment and place in twentieth-century musical culture.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Fahey's Best, 6 Jun 2012
This review is from: John Fahey, Vol. 4: The Great San Bernardino Birthday Party and Other Excursions (Audio CD)
The sleeve-notes to this reissue CD explain why John Fahey did not like this album. The long title track describes musically what was not a happy evening for him, and I can imagine why, once having got it down in music, he didn't want to ponder too much over it. But Fahey's discomfiture is, perhaps perversely, the listener's pleasure, and the title track is for me one of the very best things that he ever recorded.

Back in the mid-1970s I was by chance visiting the home of a chap who since then has had quite a career as a music journalist and biographer. From the record-player came this astonishing solo guitar tune, long and at times exhilarating, at others quiet and reflective. 'Who's this?', I asked. 'John Fahey', came the reply. I just had to buy it. It wasn't that easy finding his LPs, but they would turn up as imports in the now-closed Dobell's folk and blues shop or occasionally in the chain shops, and a few were issued here. This one, with its bright orange cover, was an import and cost a few bob, but it was worth it, and its re-release, Fahey's worries notwithstanding, was most welcome.

The 19-minute title track is a delight, with its changing moods and tempi, and the slide interlude is unsurpassed. This complex but wonderfully flowing track alone is worth the price of the CD. Other gems are the chirpy guitar/veena duet 'Sail Away Ladies', the downright weird organ/guitar duet 'Will the Circle Be Unbroken?', the beautiful guitar and flute rendering of '900 Miles', and the closing hymn 'O Come, O Come Emanuel'. Fahey often ended his albums with a sombre hymn, and whilst I am not a religious bloke, I do like his renderings of hymns and this is about the best of them.
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