Gavin Bryars, Tom Waits - Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet

Tuesday 1st August 1995
Gavin Bryars, Tom Waits - Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet
Gavin  Bryars, Tom Waits - Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet

STYLE: Classical
RATING 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10
OUR PRODUCT CODE: 16428-17184
LABEL: Point Music CDVE938724384597023

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

Serendipity: unexpected but pleasant discoveries. One of my local music shops was playing this piece - I think Classic FM had featured it. I heard only a few minutes but was entranced. I bought the CD in order to listen to it all. If it was on vinyl I would be on the way to wearing it out. My initial thought was to submit a Touched By A Song but as the album is still available perhaps a review is not inappropriate. In 1971 Gavin Bryars worked on a soundtrack for a film about people living rough in London. One clip of an old man singing a hymn was not used in the film. Bryars then made a tape loop which became the foundation of a moving orchestral and choral work. In 1975 a version came out on Brian Eno's Obscure Records label. The advent of the CD has allowed Bryars to develop the piece. On one level we have an old man singing five lines of a hymn over and over for 74 minutes. But we also have a beautifully constructed suite. First a string quartet, then various orchestral combinations, a chorus and finally Tom Waits (who says that the original version was his favourite recording) join in. I do not have the musical vocabulary to do justice to this work. "Minimalist" seems inadequate. I can, though, give a personal, subjective response. I enjoyed this more than any contemporary classical work that I have ever heard. I am not ashamed to say that it reduced me to tears. I cannot comment on the religious outlook of Gavin Bryars, Tom Waits or the unnamed tramp but between them they have created something deeply spiritual. Was it Adrian Plass who commented that God's angels can be found in the most unlikely places?

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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