Gavin Bryars: Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet
Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet
Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet (Point Music 135396)
Tom Waits (vocals).
Orchestra conducted by Michael Riesman. Composed by Gavin Bryars.
Recorded: Various locations, date not given (CD released in 1993)
Rating: 66/100 (learn more)
In the original 1971 version of this famous (infamous?) composition, Gavin Bryars looped a short tape of an unknown amateur vocalist (patronizingly referred to by the composer as "the tramp") singing a lopsided stanza. It repeats again and again and again and . . . well, you get the idea. Some formulaic accompaniment, added after the fact, fleshes out the tramp's meager contribution.
Gavin Bryars has revisited this composition periodically, and though it has gotten longer with the passing years, it hasn't necessarily gotten better. I am confident that you will get the "concept"Świth a small, very small, "c" here, pleaseŚwithin five minutes; and though you may want to sit around and wait an hour (and seemingly a thousand repetitions of the loopy loop) for Tom Waits to arrive on the scene with his solid lead vocal, I suggest that you pour yourself a stiff drink to help you through the interval. Or maybe check your email. Or shop online for a more interesting CD.
I consider myself an advocate of minimalism, but when you try to marry the repetitiveness of that idiom with the oh-so-clever attitude of post-modernism at its most self-congratulatory, you get the musical equivalent of purgatory. Somebody please find an outfit for the emperor! Or, better yet, give his diadem and royalties to the tramp. The fact that this piece has been lauded and held up as a role model of sorts tells you much about the state of modern composition, and even more about the state of contemporary criticism.
Reviewer: Ted Gioia