Allen Ginsberg - First Blues 1971-83 (Incl. Bob Dylan)

Rabu, 10 Oktober 2012

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Personnel: Allen Ginsberg (spoken vocals); Bob Dylan (vocals, guitar); Arthur Russell (cello).Beat generation poet Allen Ginsberg was also a singer/songwiter who was encouraged to write and record by none other than Bob Dylan, who took Allen into the studio his first ever "music" recordings. Those 1971 recordings with Dylan, as well as sessions from 1976 with members of Dylan's Rolling Thunder Review band produced by maverick John Hammond (Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin and Bruce Springsteen), and additional recordings from 1981 were gathered together and released as the double LP First Blues in 1983. Many of the recordings feature cello player Arthur Russell (known for his 1970's Flying Hearts band and his ground-breaking 1980's solo recordings).

As I listen to this two-CD recording by the late Allen Ginsberg, I cannot help thinking about Dick Cheney. The American vice president might just be the exact polar opposite of Allen Ginsberg, kind of a beat Dr. Evil. I suspect he’s never heard Ginsberg read his unexpurgated Buddhist poetry or joined a sing-along with his harmonium. But then again, who knows what Cheney does in his bunker. He might be learning the lyrics to “Everybody Sing”—”everybody is just a little bit homosexual, whether they like it or not.” 

The famous poet was nearly beatified before his death in 1997. His recordings have included poetry readings, of course, but also song. His most easily accessible release would be The Lion For Real (Great Jones, 1989), a Hal Willner-produced session with jazz artists Marc Ribot, Arto Lindsay and Bill Frisell. He also recorded with Philip Glass, Paul McCartney and The Clash. 

First Blues, a reissue of a long out-of-print LP, revives these sessions from 1971 (with Bob Dylan and Anne Waldman), 1976 (with famous producer John Hammond) and 1981. Ginsberg’s naked voice is quite honest. Like his poetry, he can strip a lyric to plain meaning, whether he speaks about war, corporate greed or sex with young men. Like the late recordings of John Lennon, pretensions are dropped. How else can you sing about dildos and eternity? 

File these sessions as Ginsberg unplugged, covering tunes he is famous for: “Father Death Blues,” “Vomit Express (Going To Puerto Rico),” and “CIA Dope Calypso.” Raw, funny and beautiful, his life and his karma endures in this music. I don’t know if we should miss him in these troubled times or we should be happy he doesn’t have to endure them.(By Mark Corroto) 

Released on LP in 1983, First Blues is Allen Ginsberg's recorded opus; it was finally made available in the 21st century on compact disc courtesy of those wonderfully weird folks from Water Records in San Francisco. It contains studio-recorded performances of songs he'd written and performed and finally taped between 1971 and 1983. Ginsberg's charm as a songwriter is the same one he holds as a poet: he was a fearless queer dharma lion who was so utterly and completely honest. With the Heart Sutra as his creed, he spoke, read, sang, improvised, protested, and lived as one so in the moment and brutally honest with himself that he made one either want to join him in present fearless nearness or to flee from him as fast as one could travel. These songs of his are, in their way, beautiful. His ragged angel's singing voice, so flat and devoid of musicality, was musicality itself. Obviously others thought so, too, when looking at who appears on some of these cuts. The first three -- "Going to San Diego," "Vomit Express," and "Jimmy Berman (Gay Lib Rag)" -- are played by David Amram, Bob Dylan, John Scholle, and Happy Traum to name a few (the beguiling his priestess of American poetry, Anne Waldman, appears as a vocalist as well).

These first sessions, from 1971, were engineered by no less a studio persona than Jack Douglas. The next sessions were taped in 1976 and make up the remainder of disc one and the first two selections of disc two. These were produced by the legendary John Hammond, and featured David Mansfield, the late Arthur Russell, Stephen Taylor, Scholle, and Ginsberg. Some of these tracks -- "CIA Dope Calypso," "Everybody Sing," and "Put Down Yr Cigarette Rag" -- are the best known. The final ten tunes are from the ZBS Media session recorded in 1981 between Allen, Peter Orlovsky, and Taylor. Amram, Russell, and Scholle also participated later and were overdubbed onto the original tracks. Of these cuts, the most infamous were "Dope Fiend Blues" and "You Are My Dildo," but far more beautiful are Ginsberg's musical read of William Blake's "Tyger" and his own "Father Death Blues," perhaps the most well known song he recorded. He performed it on the harmonium at readings until the end of his life in 1997. Ginsberg's knowledge of the blues form as a historical and improvisational entity that tied it to the poetic voice was singular. He found in the blues a universal voice that lent itself to an expression that could always be shared by anyone willing to join the song. And for Ginsberg, it was always, always about song. One had only to hear him read once to know that he and song were one, and these recordings bear that out especially well. (Thom Jurek, All Music Guide)

Disc: 1  
01. Going To San Diego  
02. Vomit Express  
03. Jimmy Berman (Gay Lib Rag)  
04. NY Youth Call Annunciation  
05. CIA Dope Calypso  
06. Put Down Yr Cigarette Rag  
07. Sickness Blues  
08. Broken Bone Blues  
09. Stay Away From White House  
10. Hard-on Blues  
11. Guru Blues
Disc: 2  
01. Everybody Sing  
02. Gospel Nobel Truths  
03. Bus Ride Ballad To Suva  
04. Prayer Blues  
05. Love Forgiven  
06. Father Death Blues  
07. Dope Fiend Blues  
08. Tyger  
09. You Are My Dildo  
10. Old Pond  
11. No Reason  
12. My Pretty Rose Tree  
13. Capitol Air  

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