Monday, October 19, 2009

Daniel Johnston Continues Story

During the 1980s and very early 1990s, I spent countless hours listening to Daniel Johnston. His lo-fi basement recordings were beautiful, brilliant, charming and, above all, outsider art. By the 1990s, Johnston had gained the acclaim he deserved, but music execs and alternative musicians began "helping" him in actual recording studios. Sure, the songs were clean and crisp, but the charm was lost.

Last week, Johnston released 'Is And Always Was'. One of my power-pop heroes, Jason Falkner, produced. Hmm, this was a quandary. Would Falkner, follow his predecessors with the overproduction that, in my opinion, had ruined Johnston's records? As expected, I have mixed feelings. I'm happy to report Johnston's songs are strong. As someone who hasn't bought one of his records since '1990', I was stunned to hear the gravely voice of a middle-aged man. He sounds nothing like he did on 'Hi, How Are You?' or 'Yip/Jump Music'. Falkner's work on the record is far from lo-fi but, thankfully, he didn't go over the top.

'Is and Always Was' doesn't fill me with the pure joy I felt upon hearing Johnston's work when I was a young teen, but the record plants me firmly back into the artist's camp. Here are a couple of my favorites from the LP.

Daniel Johnston - Tears (mp3)
Daniel Johnston - Freedom (mp3)

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