Friday, August 19, 2011


Jack Elliott - Jack Takes the Floor (1958)

I feel I should confess up front that I do not now, nor have I ever, enjoyed Folk music. I don't mean real, traditional folk music, like Negro chain-gang spirituals or "Greensleeves". I refer, in this case, to the music of what musicologists refer to as the "Second Folk Revival", which is also known as the "Folk Explosion", commonly associated with artists like Peter, Paul and Mary, The Mamas and the Papas, Simon and Garfunkle and Joan Baez.

It is certainly true that many of these artists produced influential work of lasting popularity, and I don't mean to tar all of them with the same brush. However, much of the music from that era gives me the willies. Maybe it's the harmonies, or the recording techniques that were used. There's a hollow, cult-like quality to much of it that gives me the same kind of Manson Family creepy-crawly feeling that I get when I watch the Hippie Commune scene from Easy Rider.

If you've seen the movie you'll remember the scene. A bunch of sunburned Jesus Christ lookalikes with vacant stares pray over a simple supper of gruel smooshed together from the meager selection of crops they've managed to tease from the barren patch of scrubland where, in their shirtless Hippie wisdom, they have decided to "make a go of it". As Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda prepare to depart, Hopper expresses his doubts about the operation. In response, Fonda says something like: "They'll make it... dig?" What a pompous ass. This one scene alone almost ruins the entire film for me.

Even though I probably share a lot of the political views held by many of these artists, some of their music still sets off alarm bells in my head. Perhaps it is because I have taken the time to educate myself about what was going on behind the scenes of that "scene" that I'm over-sensitive to certain nuances pertaining to it. Perhaps not. It nevertheless remains an indisputable fact that much of the "product" surreptitiously unleashed by certain Sinister Forces back in that most misunderstood of sociopolitical eras was responsible for sucking in, chewing up and spitting out more than a few good-hearted, soft-headed people, dragging them through the Chapel Perilous against their wills, causing many to drown there and be forever lost in the lava lamp undertow of Acid Fascism.

What does all of this have to do with Ramblin' Jack Elliott or this album in particular? Other than the fact that he was a tremendous influence on most of the artists of the 60's Folk Explosion, not a whole hell of a lot. I guess I just had some ideas that I needed to let out of my head. Thanks for reading.

Oh, and don't forget not to take the Brown Acid, the one-time Holy Host of the CIA.

Had I heard it before? No.
Do I like it? Not really. But it's better than most of what came after.
Am I keeping it? Only two songs.
Standout Tracks? "Muleskinner Blues", which I genuinely like, and "Bed Bug Blues", which I am keeping because there is currently a continent-wide Bed Bug panic, and this song might come in handy for some future media work.

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