Payday Albums: 3/29/13

Today’s payday. I bought just one title.

But it’s a 6-LP box set. The Transcendental Waterfall: Guitar Excursions, 1963–1967 collects John Fahey’s first six releases: Blind Joe Death, Death Chants, Breakdowns & Military Waltzes, The Dance of Death & Other Plantation Favorites, The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death, The Great San Bernardino Birthday Party & Other Excursions, and Days Have Gone By.

The set was released by 4 Men With Beards, on December 18, 2012, and it nagged at me every day thereafter—I kept thinking, “Should I buy it? Should I buy it? Should I buy it?”—until I finally broke down and bought it. Really, I don’t know what took me so long. The set is limited to just 2000 copies, and I’m fairly sure that one of those copies was made just for me. Owning it, then, is not only a joy, but a relief: I can stop worrying about it. I can sit back, relax, listen, and wonder.

Now that I have one, I think that I should have bought two: one to play and one to stash away somewhere safe.

I don’t feel prepared to write about John Fahey. His music is extremely special to me, touches me in a way that no other music can. I’ve heard that Fahey was loving, reclusive, unpredictable, impetuous, his own worst enemy, a kind of mad genius—and I’ve read the books, have listened to the tapes, and have watched the videos, all of which do nothing to dispute those claims.

When I listen to John Fahey play the guitar, I think he must have been an angel.

In an interview with Byron Coley, for the Perfect Sound Forever webzine, Fahey said:

I’ve always really thought of myself as a spiritual detective and a psychological detective. I guess with my music I’m always trying to get to a fuller understanding of myself. I felt so alienated from the culture around me, like I was from a different planet, like I wasn’t really a member of the human race. I had two heads, one just wasn’t visible. So I was looking for another path of music. I didn’t really know what it was. I didn’t care what it was and I still don’t. Makes no difference to me and that’s perfectly okay. ’Cause I’m just a little blip. The whole style is just a little blip on all the mainstream of music. We don’t fit anywhere. And we never will.

The six 180gm LPs are housed in beautiful tip-on jackets, with perfect reproductions of the original album art and liner notes. In addition, The Transcendental Waterfall box includes a t-shirt, poster, and postcard. I bought my set, number 441, from Forced Exposure.

Gubarenko's picture

I've never bought anything from 4 Men with Beards label, but now i think i might. But it's cheaper (in shipping) here:

jonzimmer's picture

Saw this at ILS the other day and have been thinking about it ever since.  

Stephen Mejias's picture

Don't be jealous. Get even!

mmole's picture

Stephen-I've read a lot of feedback on this set that says some of the LPs in the box were pressed off-center.  I actually picked the box up and put it down again today at the Princeton Record Exchange because of all the bad press.

Have you played all of the records yet? Any problems?


Stephen Mejias's picture

I haven't played any of the records yet, but I'll get back with a complete report in time.

stereo slim's picture

... as 6album of the month ...

Fahey's music is too intense for me to listen to for more than one LP side, so I'm probably happy forever with his young person's guide (Sea Changes, Coelacanths, and so forth).

Next payday is inevitable: should you come across any of Annette Peacock's old albums (like X-Dreams or The Perfect Release), buy them straight away - no way you'll ever regret.

Happy Easter!

Devil Doc's picture



Wanderlust2000's picture

Glad to see his name pop up around here!  I discovered Fahey after listening to guys like Adrian Legg, Leo Kottke, and Chet Atkins of course, and realizing that I just cant get enough of this stuff!  My personal epitome of beautiful!

Was this set released in any digital formats?

MWaehner's picture

I used to live in Austin and now, every time I visit, I go to my favorite record stores. Today at Antone's I found the 1967 version of Blind Joe Death, and I felt like I'd been struck by lightning (in a good way). When I took it to the counter, the woman working informed me "My friend thinks he killed John Fahey." My eyebrows shot up. She explained that her friend had gotten to drive Fahey to a gig in Austin in 2001 and had done it even though he had the flu. A few weeks later Fahey died in a hospital. The only proper response was, "I think your friend might have killed John Fahey."

Now that I'm home and have Wikipedia I see that he actually died of complications from heart surgery, not the flu. But it was a good moment.