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Anthology (1961-2007) Lost Tapes

Davy Graham

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Album Review

For a guitarist who's never risen above cult status despite his influential and often excellent work, Davy Graham's been honored with a good number of collections of rare and previously unreleased material. At the time of its 2012 release, this three-CD compilation was certainly the most extensive of them, with live recordings, demos, and miscellaneous tapes spanning 1961 to 2007. Quite a few of these songs were included in different versions on the official releases he issued during his lifetime, including some of the more celebrated tunes associated with him, such as "Anji" (heard twice), "Maajun," and "Blues Raga." The majority of the tracks were done during his most creative period in the '60s, with disc one featuring performances from 1961-1963; disc two cuts from 1965-1970, and disc three material from 1970-2007. Though the fidelity is variable, as you'd expect from recordings (according to the liner notes) "collected, unearthed and assembled over a very long time; left in cupboards and boxes, listened to and then left to ferment and mature for a longer time still," it's fairly good on the whole, and not so lo-fi to make for difficult listening.

Of note on disc one are five tracks from the acetate of Graham's first audition in 1962, as well as the earliest recording (from 1961) of his signature song "Anji." Disc two has some live stuff from a 1965 folk club gig of notably rougher sound quality than most of the set. But it also has as the entire anthology's highlight a ten-minute version of "Blues Raga" that's one of his most ambitious pieces, and the one that most explicitly combined blues with Indian music. ("Blues Raga" and another song, "When Did You Leave Heaven?," seem to be the same performances that were included on the early-'70s compilation LP Rock Generation, Vol. 8.) Disc three is of less interest as it heads toward the final years of Graham's life, but the constant elements of his style that continue to fascinate listeners — an unpredictably eclectic hybrid of folk, blues, jazz, and Indian/middle eastern/African/world music elements, usually played with virtuosic imagination — are present throughout. Maybe exact recording dates and sources were unavailable for many of the tapes, but it is frustrating that most of the tracks are not detailed at all in these respects, other than the span of years given for each CD. Some of the cuts on disc two, for instance, seem to be from a radio broadcast, but which one and where it was done is left unsaid; interesting items on disc three seem to have been done with accompanists on Indian instruments, though again details aren't forthcoming. As some compensation, there are rare photos, clippings, and documents taken from the scrapbook Graham himself kept from 1961 to 1980.

Biography

Born: 22 November 1940 in Leicester, England

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Davy Graham was one of the most eclectic guitarists of the 1960s, and his mixture of folk, blues, jazz, Middle Eastern sounds, and Indian ragas was an important catalyst of the British folk scene. Like Sandy Bull and John Fahey — two folk-based guitarists with a similar taste for genre-bending experimentation — Graham could not be said to be a rock musician. But like Bull and Fahey, he shared the eagerness of the '60s psychedelic rockers to stretch out and incorporate unpredictable influences...
Full bio

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