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Songs For A Blue Guitar

4.6 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Audio CD, July 23, 1996
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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At first glance, Songs for a Blue Guitar appears much like previous Red House Painters albums, meandering and largely self-indulgent. Eight of the album's 11 songs stray over the five-minute mark (with two more than twice that length), and there are the covers of Yes's "Long Distance Runaround," Ric Ocasek's "All Mixed Up," and Paul McCartney's "Silly Love Songs." Kozelek may have strange taste when it comes to picking out covers ("Silly Love Songs"?), but on this album he's also showing a commitment and sense of deliberate purpose that I've not heard from him before. Even in the album's centerpiece, the more than 12-minute long "Make Like Paper" that contains a guitar solo that supposedly is responsible for 4AD dropping them, there's not a false move. The song unfolds gently, revealing more facets of itself than the spare instrumentation would seem to allow. The guitar's absolutely delicious Neil Young/Robert Quine/Richard Lloyd crunch doesn't hurt, either. That crunch shows up again in "Long Distance Runaround" and "Silly Love Songs," but the rest of the album is built around a gently arresting acoustic guitar that mirrors the soft-voiced Kozelek. --Randy Silver
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (July 23, 1996)
  • Original Release Date: July 23, 1996
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Supreme Records / Island Independent
  • ASIN: B000001EJ4
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #131,631 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
ok, this is basically a mark kozelek solo album. the slow, meandering, acoustic ballads that RHP fans expect are still here, but they are interspersed with a duet(the title track), some disorienting squeal(make like paper),and some interesting covers(long distance run around, silly love songs, all mixed up). the opening track will give you some clue as to whether or not your destined to become a RHP fan; "have you forgotten" is the defining mark kozelek moment: sweet acoustic strumming, melancholy lyrics, and the saddest and smoothest voice that popular music ever produced. "song for a blue guitar" is a quiet ballad that will remind you of mazzy star's "fade into you". "make like paper" is a musician having his moment to push his limits a little, and it fails in a way that works well within the context of the album. (make sense? no? it's true, though.) the other stand outs on the album are the cover of the Car's "all mixed up" and "revelation big sur", which together alone are worth the price of the album. let these songs play back to back while you're out on a date... trust me.
there are seven commercially released RHP albums; i'm recommending you buy this first. if you like this, go on to no. 2 on my list OCEAN BEACH.
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Format: Audio CD
Whereas on the early RHP albums you can fully soak up in sorrow and melt away in atmospheric, reverb-sustaining instrumentation with long guitar jams and independent production, "Songs For A Blue Guitar" was the first rather mainstream release of Mark Kozelek's songs on Island records and so has to lose a bit of a magnificent audiophile experience. The songs rather go into rock than independent, guitars have a warm distortion that reminds a lot of the Neil Young/Crazy Horse 1975 masterpiece "Zuma" parted up with some fine acoustic western/country songs in a traditionally fresh manner. The songs are melancholic but not as touchingly sad and of rebellious art as on earlier realeases (Down Colorful Hill, "Rollercoaster", "Bridge" or the intimate Ocean Beach).

The whole atmosphere on the Blue Guitar seems more mature and hopeful. Rather surprisingly is the up-beat country song "I Feel The Rain Fall", which is definitely one of the most positive tracks Mark has ever done, but on the other side carries you back to his reality with its sarcastic lyrics.
Especially the reverb on the voice has been reduced, and goes on where Ocean Beach has left off.
The poetry to be found on the record is still excellent, there is no trace of losing intensity despite the musical changes. Special moments on the sentimental "Have You Forgotten" (that should later be re-recorded in a mesmerizing full-band version for Cameron Crow's movie "Vanilla Sky") or, the also musically high-lighting track, "All Mixed Up", a majestically arranged Cars cover. Beautifully intimate is the last song "Another Song For A Blue Guitar". Another musical gem is the long distorted howling jam "Make Like Paper" that could be mid-tempo epic Smashing Pumpkins' classic!
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Format: Audio CD
I've been a big fan of the Red House Painters ever since hearing their self-titled 1993 release. At the time, I was a huge 4AD fan and since I still hadn't heard the group with the awesome sepia-toned cover art, I decided to take a chance. After having purchased all of the albums that the group has released, I can honestly say that they are one of the most consistent ones out their. The backbone of the group (and main player on Songs For A Blue Guitar) has always been San Francisco dweller Mark Kozelek and I'm amazed that he doesn't have a larger following by now.

Songs For A Blue Guitar is actually kind of interesting in that it's the first release by the group (or man, whatever you prefer) that isn't on the 4AD label. Apparently, when Kozelek turned in his tapes of the music for the album to the label, they didn't like the style and he decided to go elsewhere with it. Really, I can't see what they saw wrong with it. While it does break in tradition a bit with the slow-core releases of old RHP, it's just as amazing as any of the past releases and probably even better.

The disc starts out with "Have You Forgotten," and the song is the epitomy of what is so great about the group. Although it's just Kozelek and an acoustic guitar, it's catchier and more interesting than a great majority of songs out their today. The lyrics are both instantly identifiable and the simple guitar instrumentation provides the perfect backing. The second song ("Songs For A Blue Guitar") breaks with tradition somewhat in its use of a slide guitar and the duet on vocals with a female singer. Things get even a little more strange on the 12-minute epic "Make Like Paper" where Kozelek uses an electric guitar (and dare I say, rocks?).
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Format: Audio CD
If you have the soul for some beautifully ponderous and melancholy acoustic music, this album is truly exceptional. If you have the ear for jams, the electric tunes are powerful and rewarding. "Make Like Paper" and McCartney's "Silly Love Songs" are outstanding. The latter, an unlikely cover that you just have to hear to believe, borrows some unmistakable tones from Neil Young's Cortez the Killer. Reviews that suggest these jams are sloppy are simply wrong. They are raw, but not sloppy. If your patience and attention span limit you to three and a half minute pop melodies, this album is simply not for you.
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