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John Davis Plays Blind Tom: The Eighth Wonder

16 customer reviews

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Audio CD, January 11, 2000
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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Between 1857 and 1904, Tom Wiggins led a life fit for the big screen: He was born a blind slave, but his masters soon discovered his real value lay in his prolific talents at the piano. Billed as both "The Eighth Wonder of the World" and an idiot savant, Blind Tom (presumably autistic) could replay passages on first hearing, take requests from a list of 7,000 works, and impress the classical music critics of the Civil War-era with his stunning virtuosity--all the while scaring audiences with his inexplicable onstage antics. In the 1860s, he was earning $100,000 a year for his masters (and for the Confederacy), touring the country and Europe. Of course, this story has a sadder ending: After being traded numerous times by masters (and later "guardians") and eventually giving up his career--Blind Tom was buried in a pauper's grave.

On this insightful disc, 14 of Tom's original 100 or so compositions live on in the hands of pianist John Davis. While "Battle of Manassas" is perhaps Tom's most enduring piece, the entire disc is entertaining and playful. The music is a strange and wonderful mix of romantic compositions, gallops, marches, and a nocturne. Tom's music is charming--he imitated nature sounds ("The Rainstorm," composed when Tom was just five) and sewing machines ("Sewing Machine")--and, at times, sophisticated. Davis has a true love for this music and the liner notes--including an essay by Amiri Baraka--are extensive. In short, it's a enlightening discovery and a fun disc for all piano lovers. --Jason Verlinde



Product Details

  • Performer: John Davis
  • Composer: Thomas Wiggins
  • Audio CD (January 11, 2000)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Newport Classics
  • ASIN: B00003OPAP
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #59,987 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By J. Reich on February 23, 2002
Format: Audio CD
John Davis plays Blind Tom is a composition you can put in your computer - surf the web, relax in leisure when listening, admire, feel good about, or just plain loose yourself in the music.
One of my favorite music CD's. When I wish to listen to great music composed by a true master of the piano, Thomas Wiggins, I find this CD greatly satisfying. I find track 14. Reve Charmant--Nocturne especially relaxing. Of course, "Battle of Manassas" and "The Rainstorm" are synonymous with Blind Tom and these are his most popular compositions. I was surprised to find on this CD many other great songs; I had previously not had the pleasure of hearing. Oliver Galop is a short, energetic song with youthful rhythm. Cyclone Galop is the style and creativity only of Tom.
Included with the CD is a booklet, which provides good detail of information of Tom's life. The first history of Tomas Wiggins provided is written by John Davis, a well-written short story, others include Ricky Jay, Oliver Sacks, and finally Amiri Baraka.
For the most part forgotten in American history, Blind Tom's music is truly inspiring. I greatly admire Tom's music creativity, not to mention John Davis's recreation of this unique music. I rarely purchase classical music although this CD was unexpectedly surprising. I cannot express myself enough about the quality of this recording.
I would love to witness more of Tom's compositions reintroduced. A great compilation of fine music, bravo!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Tim Phillips on September 28, 2001
Format: Audio CD
John Davis very lovingly plays these "tour de force" works by a composer whose name is usually known only to historians. While Mr. Davis has an obviously solid keyboard technique, his interpretations go beyond notes on a page. They bring new life to this now all but forgotten musician. He plays the music with unusual insight, devotion, and expertise. A joy to hear over and over again. Recommended very highly.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jackson K. on September 16, 2002
Format: Audio CD
I first heard about this story on ABC's UpClose; an interview with the pianist, John Davis, about the life of Blind Tom Wiggins, the composer of this beautiful, lilting music. John Davis researched the Georgia slave and possibly savaunt musical prodigy of the mid 1800s, and came up with as many as 100 compositions this blind man wrote. Mr. Davis played a few pieces on the show and I knew I had to have the CD. Since I enjoy semi to classical music on the order of Chopin, Mozart, Offenbach and Ragtime music by Scott Joplin, and others, I had goose bumps when I heard the whole CD. You want to hum, tap your feet, and just take in this mans' melodic music. There is a little bit of Chopin and Joplin intermixed and I thought the sound of the piano and pianist were excellent. One should know the story of this composer and realize what he went through; but there's also a happy ending of sorts. I am just a consumer, but I recommend this CD highly.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Winifred Centofante on February 25, 2003
Format: Audio CD
I, too, saw the interview with John Davis on Nightline and ordered the album. This is wonderful music, stirring, descriptive, evocative and beautiful. John Davis'interpretive and technical skills bring it to glorious life. The album begs to be played and over and over, and contrary to becoming tiresome, becomes more beautiful and meaningful with repetition.
I should think that no music lover could hear it without becoming fascinated with the melodies, the cadences and without a doubt, the history behind it all. Where did this beautiful music come from? And did Blind Tom play it with the sensitivity that we hear in John Davis' presentation?
Fourteen of Blind Tom's compositions played by John Davis is not enough. Mr. Davis - more, please!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 11, 2000
Format: Audio CD
This album is a revelation. Davis brings a spontaneous joy to the art of man who experienced so much suffering in his life. The resurrection is a kind of miracle and a rare work of art. The liner notes are a valuable testament in their own right. Thank you, Mr. Davis
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By "xxxdorisdayxxx" on May 7, 2003
Format: Audio CD
Blind tom is so awesome! When youn listen to his music you can actually see what you hear. For example, Rainstorm, you can just imagine yourself lying in bed one night when suddenly you hear the sweet trinkle of rain fall to your windows. Then out of no where you hear storm clouds and lightening , just to come back to the serene droplets serenading your dreams. I recommend this to any pianst who loves dynamics!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Paula Smith on March 1, 2000
Format: Audio CD
I heard selections from the CD on 29 February as part of the WETA (public radio in Washington, D.C.) salute to Black History Month. I cannot recommend it too highly. The CD combines the work of a superb pianist with extraordinarily beautiful and inventive compositions. It was a magical musical discovery for me, and I am sure that it will be for others as well.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 20, 2000
Format: Audio CD
Davis has acheived a minor miracle in resurrecting the works of an obscure 19th century composer. His playing expresses the spontaneous joy of a man who endured such sorrows in his life. The liner notes alone are worth buying the CD. Thank you, thank you Mr. Davis.
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