Saturday, 10 December 2016

Allen Ginsberg - The Last Word On First Blues, album review

Poetic Blues Truths

This is a joyous collection of Ginsberg’s songs, performed by the poet, available for some time but neatly collected here, and there are a number of authoritative reviews out there which I encourage you to read if interested in what is extremely detailed background information on performers and producers involved with Ginsberg over the years in his musical ventures. These experts are better placed to deliver this, and I defer to them [this Pitchfork review is superb].

I have simply enjoyed so much listening yesterday. There are naturally the peacenik satires and protests and diatribes, a favourite is CIA Dope Calypso, and the blues provides a platform for so many of these poetic tunes, from the outrageous to the beautiful. Titles like Hard-On Blues, Dope Fiend Blues and You Are My Dildo set the scene for one area, and Father Death Blues [which is quite affecting] and Ginsberg’s performance of Blake’s Tyger set another.

Ginsberg’s voice is light and holds a melody [contrary to some observations] and is distinctive enough when not aping Dylan, who plays on the first three tracks of this collection, or when dredging up from lower registers as in Gospel Noble Truths, but then this isn’t meant to be crooning. His ‘sound’ has been compared with the Holy Modal Rounders, but you will also hear Incredible String Band and Dr Strangely Strange in the often intentionally naïve take on performance. Interestingly, what you don’t hear is the production finesse of The Fugs, certainly in their work like It Crawled Into My Hand, Honest.

A flavour of the lyrics you’ll hear in these songs – not quoting the delightfully scurrilous – can be found in CIA Dope Calypso, a song for our times too when being reminded last week of the CIA’s 600+ failed attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro, and Trump’s recent phone conversation with Thailand’s leader:

In nineteen hundred forty-five
China was won by Mao Tse-tung
Chiang Kai Shek's army ran away
They were waiting there in Thailand today

Supported by the CIA

Pushing junk down Thailand way

First they stole from the Meo Tribes
Up in the hills they started taking bribes
Then they sent their soldiers up to Shan
Collecting opium to sell to The Man

Pushing junk in Bangkok today
Supported by the CIA

Brought their jam on mule trains down
To Chiang Mai that's a railroad town
Sold it next to the police chief's brain
He took it to town on the choochoo train
Trafficking dope to Bangkok all day
Supported by the CIA

The policeman's name was Mr. Phao
He peddled dope grand scale and how
Chief of the border customs paid
By Central Intelligence's U.S. aid

The whole operation, Newspapers say
Supported by the CIA

He got so sloppy and he peddled so loose
He busted himself and cooked his own goose
Took the reward for an opium load
Seizing his own haul which same he resold

Big time pusher for a decade turned grey
Working for the CIA

The whole operation fell in to chaos
Till U.S. intelligence came in to Laos

I'll tell you no lie I'm a true American
Our big pusher there was Phoumi Nosavan

All them Princes in a power play
But Phoumi was the man for the CIA

Touby Lyfong he worked for the French
ig fat man liked to dine & to wench
Prince of the Meos he grew black mud
Till opium flowed through the land like a flood

Communists came and chased the French away
So Touby took a job with the CIA

And his best friend General Vang Pao
Ran the Meo army like a sacred cow
Helicopter smugglers filled Long Cheng's bars
In Xieng Quang province on the Plain of Jars

It started in secret they were fighting yesterday
Clandestine secret army of the CIA

All through the Sixties the dope flew free
Thru Tan Son Nhut Saigon to Marshall Ky
Air America followed through
Transporting comfiture for President Thieu

All these Dealers were decades yesterday
The Indochinese mob of the U.S. CIA

Operation Haylift Offisir Wm Colby
Saw Marshall Ky fly opium Mr. Mustard told me
Indochina desk he was Chief of Dirty Tricks
"Hitch-hiking" with dope pushers was how he got his fix

Subsidizing the traffickers to drive the Reds away
Till Colby was the head of the whole world CIA

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