on 20 May 2012
This could have been a four-star or even a five-star review. One of John Fahey's better albums at last put on a CD, and with additional tracks that were omitted from the single LP. But the total time came to a shade over the 80-minute maximum. So what did the compilers do? Omit a short piece that has been recorded on another album, or leave off one of the two versions of 'Jesus is a Dying Bedmaker'? Or -- the best solution -- issue it as a double CD?
No, the compilers in their wisdom brutally chopped three minutes out of the middle of 'Mark I:15', completely destroying the dynamic of a brilliant piece of music. Would one hack a few inches out of the middle of a Rembrandt if the frame was a bit too narrow for the canvas? Of course not. So why treat Fahey with such disrespect?
America should be reissued again with 'Mark I:15' in full. Then I'll buy it.
on 8 October 2013
This is his finest album and the tracks from the original release are superb: hauntingly beatiful and emotionally charged. Listening again after a lapse of some years these tracks seem to have gained resonance for me and even Knoxville Blues, which was perhaps my least favoured track, is up there with the others now. As to the previously unreleased material, it is all pretty accomplished stuff but none of it quite gets into the league of "The Waltz That Carried Us Away And Then A Mosquito Came And Ate Up My Sweetheart" or "Voice Of The Turtle". And did I miss the 2 minutes of "Mark 1:15" cut to squeeze it on a single CD? I can't say I did. It has been done very well and the nature of the tune is such that you really don't lose any of the emotional intensity: I wouldn't have known if I hadn't been told.
Fahey never played better than here, on "America". He'd been doing it for over ten years, and this is his eleventh album. His control of every syncopated nuance, each intended silence, his melodic precision and emotional range are still quite startling. This is probably not the best place to start with Fahey - try "The Yellow Princess" or "Death Chants" - but fans cherish every note. It was originally recorded as a double album but released as a single album, so this cd re-release provided the opportunity to restore the missing half, which contains the magnificent "Dalhart Texas 1967". Such fingerpicking you never did hear! So yes, it's great, but I do have one problem. The long "Mark 1:15" introduced the concept of the recycled song, in which Fahey remakes one of his snappy old tunes into something a lot longer and looser - a "tone poem", you could call it. In ensuing years Fahey fans had to put up with more than a few of these remakes. Myself I would have preferred a new tune every time. But I'm just a slave driver. I shouldn't complain. If you like Fahey you'll be buying "America" whatever it says here.