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Bryars: Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet
Gavin Bryars, Michael Riesman, Tom Waits
Bryars: Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet
Genres: Dance & Electronic, Special Interest, Rock, Classical
  •  Track Listings (6) - Disc #1

This late minimalist, 74-minute piece for orchestra and tape has had, and continues to have, a near-legendary effect on its audience. It's the rare work created specifically to tug gently at one's heartstrings that actuall...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Gavin Bryars, Michael Riesman, Tom Waits
Title: Bryars: Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet
Members Wishing: 5
Total Copies: 0
Label: Philips
Release Date: 8/10/1993
Genres: Dance & Electronic, Special Interest, Rock, Classical
Styles: Techno, Historical Periods, Modern, 20th, & 21st Century
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 028943882323

This late minimalist, 74-minute piece for orchestra and tape has had, and continues to have, a near-legendary effect on its audience. It's the rare work created specifically to tug gently at one's heartstrings that actually does, and not subtly, either. It starts with a found recording of a homeless man singing a halting, simple melody looped over and over. Then Bryars builds and buttresses this with a full orchestra brought in incrementally, from the first carefully placed short pendulum string sweep to, 10 minutes from the end, the gravelly-voiced singer Tom Waits joins in. It's an obvious but effective work--appealing to all the basics of our emotional nervous system, but still tragically beautiful. --Robin Edgerton

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CD Reviews

A transcendant listening experience
(5 out of 5 stars)

"My introduction to this CD came during a discussion with a friend of mine who wanted to underscore a point that "people will put out anything on CD". He reminded me that this CD was proof that there was "a sucker born every minute". His "evidence" to demonstrate how low music had gone was Gavin Bryars "Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet". As he put it on the CD player, I realized that I was already vaguely aware of this recording, having heard a brief feature on National Public Radio, several weeks prior. He plunked quickly through the CDs segments (all of which featured this looped audio passage of a hobo singing this four or five line chorus, backed by subtle varitions of orchestral accompaniment) to demonstrate his "point". To his amazement, I asked to borrow this CD. Once I got home, I couldn't quit playing it. It worked in much the same way as Brian Eno's Ambient Music For Airports. This was music that worked at different volumes, but seemed to work best when played at a relatively low volume. The effect seemed to "tune" and "cleanse" the atmosphere. I found that there were times when I would be in tears, touched by deep emotions, while the piece was playing. On several occasions, I played this CD for friends and watched them overcome with emotion. This is a powerful CD for anyone with the patience to let the music wash over them and carry them to those places where the deepest emotions and symbols reside.Gavin Bryars' "Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet" is fearless music and easily one of the most magical CDs in my library of over 30,000 albums and CDS. Needless to say, my friend is still incredulous that I would even admit to liking this CD. All I can say is you'll either love it or you won't get it."
Inexplicably powerful
Orrin C. Judd | Hanover, NH USA | 10/01/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"In the year following September 11th, one of the places one could turn for solace or to vicariously express grieving, or even rage, was to music. You rarely hear people speak so openly and so often about the therapeutic value of music as you have in recent months. The release of Bruce Springsteen's The Rising was greeted not just as a musical event but as a potential moment of catharsis for the whole country. One of our favorite musicians would sum everything up for us in one definitive album. This was of course asking far too much and while Mr. Springsteen's disk is quite good it has hardly obviated our need for other music, nor will any other single album nor any other artist. But I wonder if maybe The Rising did come right around the time that we're, many of us, ready to move on. Not move on and forget, but move on to the next phase in our national life. I wonder in particular if other folks, as I do, feel the need to listen to songs of affirmation now, rather than of decimation. If you do feel such a need and you've a sense of adventure, you might enjoy Gavin Bryars' unique Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet. Be warned though, don't go running out to buy it. Listen to some samples first and let me try to explain what you're going to hear. In 1971, Mr. Bryars, who is one of England's best regarded minimalist composers, was helping with the audio on a friend's movie. He found a bit of tape that featured a an old man singing a short religious verse: Jesus' blood never failed me yet
Never failed me yet
Jesus' blood never failed me yet
There's one thing I know
For he loves me so ... He took this bit of found sound and while the old man, or tramp as he's referred to herein, sang it over and over, Mr. Bryars gradually added accompanists, so that continuous loop of the the lonely ditty was eventually joined by a string section or an entire orchestra or whatever he had on hand. The composer used variations on this theme that apparently became legendary for their effect on listeners and one earlier version was the first release on Brian Eno's Obscure Records label. For this new definitive (perhaps?) version Mr. Bryars added a part specifically for Tom Waits who had written expressing his admiration for an earlier version. The liner notes describe the sections of the work as follows: 1. Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet [Tramp With Orchestra I]
2. Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet (Tramp With Orchestra II]
3. Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet [Tramp With Orchestra III]
4. Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet [Tramp With Orchestra IV]
5. Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet [Tramp and Tom Waits With Full Orchestra]
6. Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet [Coda: Tom Waits With High Strings] It fades in from silence onto the tramp singing by himself. He's gradually joined by strings, then by a full orchestra, then by Mr. Waits, then the orchestra and the tramp fade away until it's just Tom Waits with strings and then by himself and back to silence. It lasts for seventy-four minutes with that one unchanging verse being sung the whole time. Sounds annoying, huh? You'd think it would be, but instead it's mesmeric and uplifting. Sounds like it must be ironic or even sarcastic, eh? But it's not. Although Mr. Byars does not share the stubborn sentiment of the old man's song, he quickly understood that any piece he composed around it had to "respect the tramp's humanity and simple faith". He succeeded brilliantly and his composition is a compelling affirmation that takes on something of the quality of a chant, working on an almost subliminal or subconscious level. It has an anodyne effect, leaving the listener cleansed, healed and profoundly moved. Or, at least it does me. But, as I said, it's a very unusual piece of music, so try to give it a listen before you take my word for it. GRADE: A"
Minimalist Composition-Maximum Heart
Mark Brumfield | St. Louis MO USA | 11/29/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I took a chance on Gavin Bryars a couple of years back when I purchased a copy of his "The Sinking of the Titanic" and was pleasantly surprised at just how satisfying his minimalist approach to composition could be. Then recently,while scanning the Tom Waits section of an on line catalog, I came across an entry for "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet" and was immediately intrigued. I read the reviews and found the descriptions of what Bryars had done with a continuous loop of a little snippet of a lone voice singing a religious song. I became even more interested. Added to that was the fact that Tom Waits,one of my favorite people,was a part of this production and it wasn't long before I put in an order for a copy of this musical piece.As the five stars would indicate I was not disappointed. At once I was captivated by the beauty of the heart felt and simple song that The Tramp was singing. It spoke volumes on the faith and comfort that this individual took in his relationship with Jesus. Whether onr shares his faith or not you could not help but be touched by the tranquility and hope that came through in his voice.Now, how to keep this feeling fresh and alive for 74 minutes?Bryars achieves this admirably with the simple and elegant accompaniment supplied by an orchestra that is coupled in various movements by a string quartet, low strings, full strings and finally culminating with Tom Waits joining The Tramp on vocals,with full orchestra, in the 5th movement.
It is topped off with a coda featuring Tom Waits on vocals with high strings.By the time the piece was finished I felt thoroughly at peace. This piece is not something you could listen to without fully devoting yourself to the time it takes but it is well worth the time. Enter this musical landscape with an open mind and an open heart."