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Folk/Americana - Released January 1, 1997 | Fantasy Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
A strange man, John Fahey, with an unusual set of guitar styles. This album, originally released on Riverboat Records and later reissued by Fahey's own Takoma label, has a lot of rough edges in terms of the recording but a tremendous amount of power when it comes to the music. Fahey was at the top of his game, alternately playful and dark, so there's never a dull moment. There is always something new to be heard on each playing. ~ Steven McDonald

Folk/Americana - Released January 1, 1996 | Fantasy Records

The saga of Blind Joe Death is an extremely confusing one, for those listeners who haven't been following Fahey's career from the beginning. In short: Fahey originally recorded Blind Joe Death in 1959, in an extremely rare, self-released edition of less than 100 copies. Though few heard it, his debut album was a groundbreaker on the acoustic folk scene in its unusually experimental approach to blues and folk styles, though its innovations sound relatively tame when compared to the best of Fahey's subsequent work. Fahey reissued the album in 1964 on Takoma, re-recording some of the cuts, and dropping one selection ("West Coast Blues"). In 1967, when the album was issued for the stereo market, Fahey re-recorded the entire album from scratch, resulting in performances of the exact same new material, but with improved fidelity and technique. This reissue does us all a mammoth favor by combining the 1964 and 1967 editions of the album (which, to make matters more confusing, bore the exact same catalog number, Takoma 1002) onto one 75-minute disc. A previously unreleased 1964 version of "West Coast Blues," a song which had been on the 1959 edition of Blind Joe Death but was left off subsequent configurations, is added as a bonus cut. Completists should note that this is not the final word in the Blind Joe Death saga. Several of the versions originally presented on the 1959 album that were re-recorded for both the 1964 and 1967 remakes are still absent, for space reasons and because the compilers themselves feel that the later renditions are notably superior. Still, it's a near-definitive package of the important Blind Joe Death material, with extensive historical liner notes explaining the circumstances that gave rise to its various incarnations. ~ Richie Unterberger

Folk/Americana - Released January 1, 2006 | Vanguard Records


Folk/Americana - Released January 1, 2001 | Fantasy Records

Sam Graham once referred to Fahey as the "curmudgeon of the acoustic guitar," while producer Samuel Charters noted that Fahey "was the only artist I ever worked with whose sales went down after he made public appearances." This tumultuous spirit, in turn, made tumultuous music on albums like Days Have Gone By, filled with odd harmonics, discord, and rare beauty. The esoteric titles like "Night Train of Valhalla" stand beside more abrasive ones like "The Revolt of the Dyke Brigade." Fahey's guitar work on the latter song, however, does little to evoke the title. Instead, it reminds one of what might happen if a guitar player from the Far East, familiar with open tunings, interpreted Blind Blake. "Impressions of Susan" combines the same odd tunings with nice, and at times joyful, fingerpicking. Dissonance, though, remains the primary mood that Fahey's guitar resonates. "The Portland Cement Factory at Monolith, California" begins with a lovely cascade of notes, only to fall into odd harmonics that create a pensive foreboding. To call attention to the disharmony and discord, though, is not a criticism. Days Have Gone By, like all of Fahey's early- and mid-'60s work, expands American blues traditions by enriching the palette of the guitar with Eastern tunings. He may create a challenging work like "A Raga Called Pat--Part Two" that is difficult to interpret, but its opulence is undeniable. Fahey has often been grouped with new age music but this -- especially with his early work -- is somewhat of a misnomer. New age strives to build harmony; Fahey revels in conflict. Days Have Gone By is another rewarding reissue of the master's classic '60s work and will be eagerly greeted by guitar aficionados. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.

Classical - Released February 2, 2018 | Cult Legends

Most of this 76-minute CD of previously unreleased live performances was recorded at the Matrix in San Francisco on February 14, 1968; it's uncertain when the rest was done, but the liner notes guess they were recorded a year later, in 1969. The Great Santa Barbara Oil Slick is a solid addition to the John Fahey canon, as the sound is clear and excellent, if drier than much of his studio work. (It also has its share of dead air between songs, punctuated by detached and laconic announcements from the guitarist, though these don't detract from its listenability.) Most of the material presents concert versions of songs that appeared on various Fahey LPs in the '60s, performed with his usual eclectic taste and virtuosity. And as is customary for much of Fahey's work, it mixes the blues, Americana, and some experimental ideas without leaning too heavily on any one of those poles. For dedicated Fahey fans, the big find is the six-minute title track, the only one of these songs not to be included on any of his '60s records, though it contains portions of two compositions ("Requiem for Russell Blaine Cooper" and "Voice of the Turtle") that appeared on his 1967 album Requia & Other Compositions for Guitar Solo and his 1971 album America, respectively. "Dance of the Inhabitants of the Palace of King Philip XIV of Spain" lasts three minutes longer than the original Fahey version, too, with some interesting slide guitar work. Otherwise it's more a testament to Fahey's mastery of the tunes (and the guitar) than it is an exposure of unsuspected hidden sides of his art, but it's no less worthy for that. ~ Richie Unterberger

Folk/Americana - Released January 1, 2006 | Vanguard Records

This particular John Fahey side is a personal favorite of many of his devout fans for several reasons. And although such a judgment is tough, if one were looking to own only one album by this unique guitarist, The Yellow Princess could be the one. The recording sound is among the best of his many releases; at the proper volume, the effect is as if one had taken up residency inside the sound hole of a giant acoustic guitar. The program of pieces is marvelously emotional and varied, with many moments of precisely stated harmonies moving at courageously slow tempos. The second piece on the first side, "View (East from the Top of the Riggs Road/B&O Trestle)," is surely one of his masterpieces, on a par with Charles Ives for musical Americana. It is a great added bonus to have liner notes by the artist, some of the best and most absurd text he ever came up with. Yet another reason this is one of Fahey's top sides is it allows a chance to hear one of his few collaborations with other musicians. Several members of the fine rock group Spirit are present, along with drummer Kevin Kelley, for several lovely pieces, including "March! For Martin Luther King," a remarkably heartfelt tribute that could have gone on much longer. Taped sounds and electronic effects on "The Singing Bridge of Memphis, Tennessee" certainly predict the more noisy stuff Fahey would get into in the later part of his career. ~ Eugene Chadbourne

Folk/Americana - Released January 1, 1999 | Concord Records

The title The Dance of Death and Other Plantation Favorites might lead some to believe that this is a collection of public-domain items that go back to the Deep South of the 19th century. However, while this 1964 session does contain a song titled "Dance of Death," most of the material (including that tune) was written by Fahey himself in the early '60s. So an intriguing title is simply that: an intriguing title. Nonetheless, Fahey's music does have strong southern roots. Unaccompanied, the acoustic guitarist/instrumentalist demonstrates his love of African-American blues as well as the Anglo-American country, folk, and hillbilly music of Appalachia. This is essentially a folk album, but a folk album with strong country and blues leanings; in fact, numbers like "Worried Blues" and "Revelation on the Banks of the Pawtuxent" incorporate the slide guitar technique that came from Mississippi Delta blues. Not that Fahey limits himself to American influences -- Appalachian music is a descendent of British, Scottish, and Irish music, and Fahey is hardly unaware this. Further, Indian raga is an influence on the Fahey piece "On the Banks of the Owchita." This album makes it clear that even back in 1964 Fahey was quite original. ~ Alex Henderson

Jazz - Released January 1, 1996 | Fantasy Records

Like some of John Fahey's other projects in the '60s, this was actually recorded and assembled over a few years, and primarily composed of duets with various other artists (including overdubs with his own pseudonym, "Blind Joe Death"). One of his more obscure early efforts, Voice of the Turtle is both listenable and wildly eclectic, going from scratchy emulations of early blues 78s and country fiddle tunes to haunting guitar-flute combinations and eerie ragas. "A Raga Called Pat, Part III" and "Part IV" is a particularly ambitious piece, its disquieting swooping slide and brief bits of electronic white noise reverb veering into experimental psychedelia. Most of this is pretty traditional and acoustic in tone, however, though it has the undercurrent of dark, uneasy tension that gives much of Fahey's '60s material its intriguing combination of meditation and restlessness. ~ Richie Unterberger

Folk/Americana - Released January 1, 1998 | Fantasy Records


Jazz - Released January 1, 1998 | Fantasy Records

Listen to John Fahey's America and hear an honest-to-goodness pioneer of solo acoustic steel-string guitar. With a truly distinctive approach, Fahey creates dusty, sweetly evocative worlds of American folk and blues that make the soul throb. His fingerpicking on alternating and drone bass lines, coupled with chorded melodies, continues to provide inspiration to acoustic players. America opens with the bittersweet "Jesus Is a Dying Bedmaker," a spirited folk painting of elation dressed in suffering. Fahey's halting articulation at the outset of the tune eventually gives way to an uptempo gust of glad resolve. Here and elsewhere lies Fahey's remarkable talent for squeezing a wondrous amount of expressiveness out of simple musical materials. Skip James' "Special Rider Blues" crawls along like a 12-string sloth, its call-and-response melodic lines full of languor and images of a breezeless afternoon in Mississippi. "Dvorak" is a sensitive arrangement of the third movement of Dvorak's eighth symphony, a perfect offering of classical composition with a natural folk sensibility. "Steel string wailing" spoken here. ~ Rovi Staff

Pop/Rock - Released February 11, 2003 | Revenant

Red Cross is the last consciously recorded 'new' John Fahey record. Intended for release in 2001 but met with delays following his ill health (and eventual death), Red Cross bookends an important discography, to say the least. In a manner perhaps typical of Fahey, this collection of self-produced pieces ends his career on a note both simple and probing. Ultimately, though, the prevailing tone is one of peaceful resolution and it is this feeling above all others that lends this session its haunting beauty. For the first time in years, we hear Fahey, if not without, then at least de-emphasizing the experimental, and at times downright menacing leanings, displayed on recordings such as Womblife and City of Refuge; favoring, instead, a more personal and reflective approach. Make no mistake, there are still a handful of effects and avant-garde dissonances on this recording but even these are used sparingly. This time, instead of being an end in and of themselves, these passages augment some of the most warm and vulnerable playing we've heard out of Fahey in a very long time. This is the sound of a man who, at the time of these recordings anyway, was only recently coming to grips with periods of his career he had all but disowned. Especially poignant is the cyclical "Charley Bradley's Ten Sixty-Six Blues," a tune which should remind listeners of moments as far back as "Sligo River Blues" from his 1963 album. On this piece we hear a refreshed and revitalized Fahey and little in the way of the clumsiness of which he has been accused in recent years. It is a piece rooted both in the traditions of American folk form and, interestingly, his own history. His most 'traditional' moment in some time now, this is the kind of tune listeners have become accustomed to hearing only on reissues and expensive LPs, and it stands out as perhaps this set's highlight. Otherwise, the standards "Summertime" and "I Remember" are handled in a similar, albeit deliberately paced, fashion while his own "Ananaias" is reminiscent of the style heard on albums such as 1971's America. "Untitled With Rain," on the other hand, is an informal seven-minute drone featuring two guitar tracks, organ, and an ambient room mic. This piece, though less aggressive, is especially reminiscent of the experiments heard on Womblife, while "Red Cross, Disciple of Christ Today," the album's second cut, sounds rather like Neil Young's score to the Jim Jarmusch film, Dead Man. All said, this probably isn't the place to begin investigating Fahey's immense body of work, but listeners unfamiliar with his more recent leanings will get an abbreviated taste of them here. A highly recommended, confusing, yet ultimately fitting end to a brilliant career. ~ Brandon Burke

Folk/Americana - Released January 1, 2007 | Vanguard Records

Though John Fahey cut only three records for Vanguard between 1966 and 1969 (he cut a slew for his own Takoma label as well) , some of his most adventurous -- and some would say maddening -- work is here. Vanguard Visionaries compiles ten cuts from the latter two of these LPs, 1967's Requia & Other Compositions for Guitar Solo, and 1969's Yellow Princess. From the former, some listeners will be either gratified or horrified to know that all four parts of "Requiem for Molly" -- a 20-minute composition for acoustic guitar and electronic tape montage with the manipulation of found sounds -- is here, as is the beautiful and moving "Requiem for John Hurt." The other five cuts from Yellow Princess, represent Fahey's "American Primitive" trademark guitar style, full of its mode and stylistic changes all though repetition and rhythmic shifts. These cuts, serve, as well as any, the mannerisms of Fahey's playing on his earlier Takoma recordings. That said, he is forever unpredictable, no matter how often one hears these songs. His playing is simply the element of imagination and surprise itself. While it's true that "Requiem for Milly," may be off-putting for those looking for a real introduction to Fahey, this is his earliest experimentation with the electronic sounds he explored a great deal more in his later career, and stands as a singular moment in his catalog. ~ Thom Jurek

Christmas Music - Released September 25, 2015 | Happy Holidays

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Folk/Americana - Released January 1, 2002 | Concord Records, Inc.

One of the finest and most underrated blues acoustic guitarists to come out of California, John Fahey was a master of fingerpicking, modal blues, and gospel explorations. He also had the ability to reinterpret Elizabethan ballads and other English folk material. All of this talent is represented in this excellent anthology. On cuts such as "Poor Boy a Long Way from Home" and "St. Louis Blues," Fahey is virtually a reincarnation of Son House and Mississippi John Hurt. Medieval-oriented tracks like "Revolt of the Dyke Brigade" show Fahey's incredible mastery of modal tunings and complex chord structures, all of which come out sounding deceptively simpler than they really are. A real guitar player's record, this is excellent to learn by, and even more fun to listen to. ~ Matthew Greenwald

Folk/Americana - Released January 1, 2009 | New Rounder

Guitarist John Fahey recorded four albums for Rounder's Varrick imprint during the 1980s, before being "rediscovered" by indie rock and vanguard music fans in the '90s, shortly before his death. These recordings -- Let Go (1983); Rain Forests Oceans & Other Themes (1984), I Remember Blind Joe Death (1986), and Old Girlfriend's & Other Horrible Memories (1988) -- were given some marginal notice, but generally weren't regarded as among his best. That said, one could rightfully argue that some of that criticism came from "journalistic" quarters that were more interested in music that was currently "happening" rather than music of quality in its own right. The ten selections compiled on Twilight on Prince Georges Avenue: Essential Recordings and taken from those albums are proof that the critics were dead wrong. While Fahey may have been struggling with health issues and personal poverty, his guitar playing continued to reflect his sense of adventure and wry humor; it blended various world musical traditions with American roots music from folk-blues to Appalachian country melodies, and was never better (despite his being tagged as a "new age" musician, a catch-all phrase at the time) or more canny in its sense of blurring time between past and present. Each selection here is worthy, and so were the albums they came from. This is an excellent introduction to an obscure period in the father of American Primitive guitar playing's strange, nearly mythological career. It won't set you back much and may indeed prod you into seeking out the very recordings represented on this budget compilation. ~ Thom Jurek

Folk/Americana - Released January 1, 1987 | New Rounder

4 Stars - Excellent - "Fahey's style is all his own--a stately, yet not po-faced, authority that evokes the mystery of the past and ponders mortality, just as philosophers of old would keep a skull on their desks for just such worldly contemplation."

Ambient/New Age - Released October 28, 2016 | Concord Records, Inc. (UMG Account)


Folk/Americana - Released January 1, 1986 | New Rounder


Ambient/New Age - Released January 1, 1983 | New Rounder

The famously abrasive and eccentric John Fahey -- a brilliant guitarist and composer who once recorded under the name Blind Joe Death -- is not the first person one would expect to make a sweet and apparently unironic album of Christmas instrumentals. Being the bloody-minded coot that he was, he made several, all of them wonderful. Popular Songs of Christmas & New Year's is the second of them, this one recorded with the help of fellow guitarist Terry Robb. Almost all the tunes are familiar Christmas favorites, but few are commonly associated with the solo steel-string guitar: his gorgeous arrangement of the "Skater's Waltz" would come as a surprise if his approach to it weren't so natural as to make it sound inevitable; similarly, his elegantly simple setting of "Do You Hear What I Hear?" and his slowly loping, Merle Travis-on-Quaaludes arrangement of "White Christmas" bring new insight to overly familiar material. Only on a strangely enervated take on "Jolly Old Saint Nicholas" does he sound like he's having anything other than a lot of fun. His guitar is maybe a bit too closely miked and his tone a bit astringent, but this is a delightful record in almost every respect. ~ Rick Anderson