John Fahey - Vol. 4 The Great San Bernardino Birthday Party and Other Excursions LP
4 Men with Beards reissue
This hodgepodge of tracks from 1962-66 was among the last of Fahey's early Takoma albums to make it onto CD (which it did in 2000). Perhaps that's because Fahey himself has a low estimation of the record. Nevertheless, it stands as his most, well, far-out work, and one of his most innovative. Edited together from several pieces, the 19-minute "The Great San Bernardino Birthday Party" anticipated elements of psychedelia with its nervy improvisations and odd guitar tunings. The six briefer pieces that comprised the rest of the record also broke ground with their unsettling moods and dissonances: "Knott's Berry Farm Molly" suddenly moving from a characteristically placid instrumental to backwards tapes that Fahey assembled on a tape recorder, and the lo-fi "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" putting some aggressive picking against a mysterious church organ. The beautiful "900 Miles" also had unexpected instrumental accompaniment, by Nancy McLean on flute, while future Canned Heatmember Al Wilson played "veena" (sitar) on "Sail Away Ladies." Despite Fahey's curmudgeonly dismissal of the record several decades later, it's an important, if uneven, effort that ultimately endures as one of the highlights of his discography.