Two legends, together again. Teenage Fanclub's Norman Blake and Half Japanese's Jad Fair have teamed up to bring you their new magnum opus, "Yes". Encompassing all the songwriting eccentricities that have made these guys famous, this new collaborative album also features some of the most genteel, engagingly catchy, and downright adorable music in recent memory.
Norman Blake and Jad Fair originally collaborated over a decade ago on the Teenage Fanclub and Jad Fair album "Words of Wisdom and Hope" (Domino/Alternative Tentacles). Unlike the simple, aggressive style of Half Japanese, the 13 new tracks on "Yes" feature refined, guitar-laden power pop and saccharin-sweet melodies, accompanied by backup singers and layered horn arrangements. Fair's characteristically-manic vocal style is still present, but when coupled with the head-bopping, articulately-layered arrangements of Norman Blake, the result is a potently earnest album that is brimming with positivity.
The third part of Jad Fair's "Artist In Residency" Box Set is a playfully abrasive collaboration with lo-fi legend R. Stevie Moore. "The Great American Songbook - Vol. 1" contains 19 haphazardly-joyous experimentations, most of which clock in under the 2 minute mark. Alternating between heady-bedroom-jazz and electro-noise-collages, half of the tracks sound like they could have been recorded by innocent kindergarteners, and the other half sound like they were recorded by demented madmen.
Enlisting the help of John Dieterich (Deerhoof) and Conrad Choucroun (NRBQ), Jad Fair & R. Stevie Moore seem endlessly willing to try new ideas, and avoid pigeonholing at every turn. And out of the myriad of ideas they throw at the wall, those that stick are superbly interesting. And a little creepy.
Anyone who ever had a Solid Gold Heart -- wouldn't they want to turn around and share it? Of course they would. Jad Fair and Danielson do. And their 11 tracks of sweet collaboration, collected under said title, sound like what you might expect: gleaming tunes of sincere sing-speak, resplendent with sparkling back-up vocals and warmly melodic, inventive instrumentation; a sunshine-bright outlook of positive encouragement to keep "rockin' on the side of goooood" -- because, after all, "We deserve chocolate cake/ We deserve apple pie/ Enjoy your life ..."
The first installment of the Jad Fair 2014 "Artist In Residence" Box-Set is the incredible album from Jad Fair & Strobe Talbot, titled "Let's Born To Rock!".
Strobe Talbot is more or less a collective of Jad's buddies, including John Dieterich of Deerhoof, Mick Hobbs from Half-Japanese, and lo-fi legend R. Stevie Moore, among others.
First released in 1989 on Jad's own 50 Skidillion Watts Records, Jad Fair & Daniel Johnston's IT'S SPOOKY (as it was called for the European pressing; the American version carried the title Daniel Johnston & Jad Fair) seemed like the perfect pairing of two of the most unique and idiosyncratic songwriters to emerge from the post-punk rubble of the late-'70s. Jad and his brother David Fair self-released their seminal first album as Half Japanese in 1977, citing punk forefathers (and fellow Michiganders) MC5 and the Stooges as critical influences. They followed that with over a dozen full-length albums and countless singles, not to mention Jad's collaborations with Yo La Tengo, the Pastels and Teenage Fanclub.Meanwhile, Daniel Johnston had self-recorded his first songs on the family piano with a boombox between 1980-82. These songs would eventually make up the earliest of the twelve cassette releases which he hawked on Austin, Texas, street corners, a few of which were re-released by Homestead Records, and were subsequently followed in the early '90s by his two stunning studio classics for Shimmy-Disc (1990 and ARTISTIC VICE), and his one and only record for Atlantic Records (1994's FUN). A Beatles fanatic at heart, "a healthy number of discerning musicians and critics have hailed Daniel Johnston as an American original in the style of bluesman Robert Johnson and country legend Hank Williams." On this new expanded reissue -- which contains 6 bonus tracks not on the original version -- IT'S SPOOKY stands up as a true masterpiece, sadly overlooked in its day. A magical trip through the child-like universe of two kids at heart, it is even more impressive now with twelve years of perspective just how uninhibited Jad & Daniel are as they walk you through their best fantasies and worst dreams on IT'S SPOOKY's 25 originals and 6 covers (by the likes of Burt Bacharach, the Beatles, Phil Ochs, and Austin friends and co-conspirators the Butthole Surfers and Glass Eye).Also, as a special added bonus, this reissue is an enhanced cd and features a very moving live video performance of Daniel on organ playing his "Don't Play Cards With Satan". This never-before-seen archival footage was shot by David Fair during the original IT'S SPOOKY recording session.
Reissued on June 18, 2001.
The Lucky Sperms: Somewhat Humorous by Jad Fair and Daniel Johnston is being released hot on the heels of the Jagjaguwar reissue of Jad and Daniel's once-sadly-overlooked opus It's Spooky (originally released in 1989.) It is a timely reunion of two of the most compelling and idiosyncratic songwriters to emerge from the post-punk rubble of the late-'70s. Their initial collaboration on It's Spooky seemed too good to be true. This time they have entered into the proverbial bat-cave with co-conspirator Chris Bultman and have created a piece of heaven on earth.
Recorded and produced by Jad Fair, The Lucky Sperms: Somewhat Humorous is made up mostly of songs composed skeletally and separately by Bultman, Fair and Johnston. With Bultman being the x-factor notwithstanding, what makes all of Jad and Daniel's shared works so special is the natural chemistry between them that is so readily apparent upon first listen of the record. There is an unrefined playfulness in their work, a playfulness not much unlike what was present on Bob Dylan and The Band's Basement Tapes.
Both Fair and Johnston have enjoyed long careers making music in their own unique way. They have forged their own paths and created their own mythologies, borrowing little from anybody else. Since 1977, Fair has--with his iconoclastic band Half Japanese, as a solo artist, or with collaborators Yo La Tengo, the Pastels or Teenage Fanclub--defied convention while continually tapping that primal-root-without-inhibition that most every artist strives for. Johnston, likewise, has unflinchingly plowed forth for the past twenty years with his own artistic vision. Since the early days of hawking his boombox-recorded cassettes on Austin, Texas, street corners, through his classic mid-period Shimmy-Disc albums, through the major label fiasco and to now, as he is at long last re-emerging as a public artist, Johnston has been making a clear case for his being one of this past quarter century's most important songwriters. He is nothing less than a visionary. It is no surprise, then, that each of Jad and Daniel's trademark personalities are in full-regalia on this new record. (How could such large personalities be anything but?) It blissfully follows--true to the form of all of their past works--that The Lucky Sperms: Somewhat Humorous is another chapter in a magical trip through the child-like universe of two kids at heart. On it, both of them uninhibitedly walk you through their best fantasies and worst dreams.
Released October 29, 2001.