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Beautiful Songs Vol 1 (The Best of Jad Fair)

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Album Review

Jad Fair's very first album was a epic-scale three-LP set (1980's 1/2 Gentlemen/Not Beasts, recorded with his band Half Japanese), and if that speaks of a firm commitment to his musical ideals, that's nothing compared to the body of work that Fair accumulated during the next 30 years. Working with a variety of different collaborators (including Yo La Tengo, Daniel Johnston, Kramer, R. Stevie Moore, Jason Willett, John Zorn, and literally dozens of others), Fair's approach has changed remarkably little with the passage of time — writing and recording dirt-simple but emotionally direct tunes dealing with his myriad obsessions, most notably girls, monster movies, and sweets, with the lyrics often twisted around simple, sturdy melodies and boasting accompaniment that's often more enthusiastic than technically accomplished. Beautiful Songs: The Best of Jad Fair is a three-CD set that offers a thorough overview of Fair's recording career to date, collecting 109 songs drawn from 47 different albums recorded by Fair and his various projects (Fair sought to include at least one song from every album he's made, and this comes close, though there are a few LPs left unrepresented), and extremely little of this music strays far from the template Fair established with his first album. Even when Fair has accomplished musicians backing him up, his own style is so impulsive that it forces everyone to follow his lead, and in many respects his career is a decades-long tribute to the concept of "first thought is best thought." One of the reasons Fair has been able to get away with this is that, even though much of his work sounds like reedy wailing in a caterwauling sea of sound, he's capable of writing songs of genuine strength, humor, and wisdom, and there are more than a few of them on this set. There's also a lot of failed experiments and noisy chaos on board, but that's too much a part of the Jad Fair experience to be ignored; Beautiful Songs is nothing if not a honest summation of Fair's body of recorded work, and if this isn't going to appeal to everyone, if you want a sampler or a beginner's guide to his music, this is as good a collection as you could ever ask for.


Born: June 9, 1954 in Coldwater, MI

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

There are plenty of performers who rock critics describe by using the label "primitive," but few if any can hold a candle to the greatest American rock primitive, Jad Fair. With his wildly influential band Half Japanese or as a solo performer, Fair has constructed a prolific and extremely interesting career. He writes and records songs that display an uncomplicated emotional directness, unselfconscious (almost hokey) charm and warmth, and a genial simplicity that is beyond words. Although Fair's...
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Beautiful Songs Vol 1 (The Best of Jad Fair), Jad Fair
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