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America

3.9 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Audio CD, March 10, 1998
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$9.79 & FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Details Only 4 left in stock (more on the way). Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Fahey fans know that this 1971 album is one of his best-but what most don't know is that it was intended to be a 2-LP set. Nine of the songs were dropped just before its release; here they are-for the first time-with the rest of the original album!

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Though America was released in 1971 as a single LP, finger-style guitarist John Fahey conceived it as a double album. This CD finally allows Fahey's full vision to be heard (an additional nine tracks are included here for the first time). It's a true treat for Fahey lovers. The title track features the guitarist on the 12-string guitar, sounding more resonant than ever on the seven-minute composition. "Dvorak" is based on the composer's Eighth Symphony, which Fahey tackles in fine fashion. Fahey also performs a methodical rendition of "Amazing Grace" as well as covers of Sam McGee and Skip James tunes. But Fahey's original tunes--the soul-stirring, 15-minute-long "Mark 1:15," the playfully weird "The Waltz That Carried Us Away...," and the gorgeous melody of "Song #3"--are obvious highlights. The classical, gospel, folk, and blues influences that always permeate Fahey's playing abound on America and make it one of his great recordings. --Jason Verlinde
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (March 10, 1998)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Takoma
  • ASIN: B0000067XZ
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #160,396 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Fahey's "America," in its expanded 79 minute form, bridges two phases of the man's musical evolution. The first half is generally in the early "Blind Joe Death" manner of 3-4 minute original compositions and arrangements of old popular tunes. We're treated to a skeletal "Amazing Grace," a skeletal Skip James lick called "Special Rider Blues," a lush reduction of a slow movement from Dvorak's 8th Symphony (trust Fahey to pass over interpolations from the "New World" symphony for his "America" program), and a couple of resonant versions of a Charlie Patton number called "Jesus is A Dying Bedmaker." Two longer tracks, "America" and "Dalhart, Texas 1967," approach the more meandering improvisational style that dominates the second half of the program - but both tracks are so tightly focused that they seem as if they'd be impossible to improvise. "Mark I:15" and "Voice of the Turtle" run 30 minutes between the two and are among the best examples of Fahey's mystical musical "voyaging."
If Fahey's other albums weren't so uniformly good, I'd assert that "America" is the only Fahey album you'd ever need to appreciate and enjoy all the artist's various facets. But it's hard to imagine anyone being satisfied with only one Fahey album, particularly one so impressive as "America." All of Fahey's albums aren't "essential," or even "classic," but they're all worth having on the shelf. Listeners who come to Fahey from rock music are fortunate if they investigate some of Fahey's blues influences - the celebrated Charlie Patton, Skip James, Bukka White, and John Hurt among them.
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Format: Audio CD
"America" just about sums it up. Fahey manages to cover much of the history of popular song in America with just a guitar and his mindblowing skill with the instrument. This is great, engaging listening. you'll hear snatches of old-as-the-hills folk and gospel relics woven into the notes. The impact of this record is deep beyond words, it seems to speak to a deep, collective memory within us all--- a memory of a world before superhighways, strip malls and the internet. That is what this album evokes. It almost impossible for me to discuss it in a modular sense. The overall impact is what I come away with: the evocation of a primitive, simple place. It is at once merry and deeply sad, tinged with tones of loss and regret. One of the most powerful and important records of the last century.
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Format: Audio CD
You may have heard a lot of hyperbole about this record -- after all, how many re-issues of obscure solo acoustic guitar recordings earn an "A" in Entertainment Weekly?
But in this case, hyperbole is understatement. John Fahey, acknowledged as the inventor of a style some have dubbed "American Primitive Guitar," is without question a seminal musician and composer, the godfather of everyone from Leo Kottke to Bela Fleck to Alex DiGrassi. Yet for years, all most people knew were his few most well-worn and anthologized tunes, and perhaps his Chrisdtmas Album, still an all-time best seller. But until now, Fahey's massive back catalog (28 albums? 30 albums? No one is quite sure) was out of print, available only on dusty vinyl. Now, Fantasy Records, inheritor of the Fahey's long-dormant Takoma label, is finally re-issuing these discs, and in the case of "America" they have found a whole lost album's worth of material recorded but never issued for what was supposed to be a two-album set. The material that was already known could easily be said to be Fahey's best album ever; what is now restored is still more stunning for its having sat in a vault for twenty-seven years.
Fahey's best qualities -- his ethereal tone, his trademark clockwork-like alternating bass, his flourishes that sound like a mechanical guitar-playing machine gone haywire, are all here. But on this recording there is something more: a compositional brilliance, a meditative sweep, a tenacious waltz between predictability and the utterly new, in short a whole new guitar presence, never heard before and rarely since.
If you only have one solo acoustic guitar recording on your shelf, this should be it.
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Format: Audio CD
From the liner notes: "This CD Contains 98.6 percent of the music recorded by John for America... Given the technical constraints of the Compact Disc medium... we were forced to edit two minutes from one track ("Mark 1:15")."

What isn't explicit in the comments above is that these two minutes were taken out of the most important cut on the original album. Of this cut, Fahey has said:

"Out of all the songs I ever wrote, I consider only two of them 'epic' or 'classic' or in the 'great' category and they are both on this record. It's taken me more than five years to complete these. Most of the melodic ideas existed a long time ago, i.e. the primary 'lyric' melody in 'Mark 1:15' is the same as 'When the Springtime Comes Again'..."

So, while this CD release may contain 98.6 percent of the music recorded by John for America, it only contains 95% of the original LP, with 13% (2 minutes from a 16 minute track) of the most important song omitted. I think this was a poor decision. This album should have been issued in a format similar to Rhino's expanded 2-CD version of Randy Newman's "Good Old Boys." The original LP should have been on one CD and the bonus material should have been on the other. This release reminds me of the original CD version of Bob Dylan's "Blonde on Blonde" where "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" was trimmed by 36 seconds.

The liner notes to "America" further state that "The only alternative [to this hatchet job] would have been to release a more expensive 2-CD set." Isn't it worth the extra 3 dollars to have this thing done properly? 2-CD sets simply do not cost that much more money, at least to the consumer.

John Fahey's "America" deserves a better treatment.
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