1963, Music

Fantasias for Guitar and Banjo (1963)

Given how much I like path-breaking music, and how interested I am in reading about it, it’s surprising to me I wasn’t at least aware of Bull before listening to Fantasias for Guitar and Banjo.

Bull combines what is called “American Primitivism” – i.e. solo acoustic guitar performances using folk techniques but often incorporating more advanced musical ideas – with covers of European art music – Carl Orff and William Byrd! – and Indian music influences. (The Orff track is one you’ll know if you hear it.) Very few people in popular music were making music influenced by art music at this time – Bull is a few years ahead of rock bands, for example – and that alone makes this record a big deal. (Fahey was doing this, and had been doing it for a while, but I’m not sure he had a record deal yet.)

Bull is accompanied at times by a drummer, which makes this sound a little like jazz at times, and the jazz influence (particularly Indo Jazz) is pretty evident.

Bull shows off his impressive range on the Indian-influenced stuff, the “classical” stuff and even a piece based upon a gospel hymn. The breadth is impressive as is his playing.

This is right up my alley but it is also remarkably out there for the year it was recorded, which makes it both a pretty great and a pretty important record.

9/10

  1. “Blend” by Sandy Bull; 22:00
  2. “Carmina Burana Fantasy,” taken from Carmina Burana by Carl Orff; 4:34
  3. “Non nobis Domine,” a setting of the hymn by William Byrd; 1:39
  4. “Little Maggie” by Sandy Bull; 4:09
  5. “Gospel Tune,” credited to Bull but based upon “It Must Be Jesus” as far as I can tell (that’s the song that inspired “I Got a Woman”);  10:01
  • Sandy Bull: Guitar, Banjo
  • Billy Higgins: Drums

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