The Prestige/Folklore Years, Vols 1-4 (Big Beat/Fantasy, CD only). Best known for its albums by modern jazz musicians like Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk, Bob Weinstock's New York-based Prestige label diversified during the early Sixties, setting up a special sub-division to record performers plucked from the buzzing folk clubs of New York, Boston and Chicago. The A&R men who signed artists for Prestige/Folklore never found the Bob Dylan or Peter, Paul and Mary to give them a breakthrough into the commercial mainstream, so the label lasted a mere four years - long enough, however, to make important recordings by the sort of people who might have been found on the bill at Gerde's Folk City in the hootenanny era. Volume 1, subtitled "All Kinds of Folks", has the best stuff: Ramblin' Jack Elliott's "Railroad Bill", Jean Redpath's gorgeous "The Fife Overgate", Eric Von Schmidt's "Joshua Gone Barbados", Bonnie Dobson's "She's Like the Swallow" and three tracks by the young Tom Rush. Volume 2 concentrates on the blues influence, Volume 3 has the gospel and country material, and Volume 4 presents Elliott, Dobson, Pete Seeger and others at the 1962 Philadelphia Folk Festival. This isn't deathless stuff, by any means, but what it does have is a marvellous sense of innocence and discovery. Richard Williams
David Torn: Tripping Over God (CMP, CD/ tape). Where James Blood Ulmer examines the blues side of Jimi Hendrix, David Torn opts to investigate the muse of the space cowboy. Which, on this solo album, means music that drifts and swirls, fuzzboxes pushed to Warp Factor 10, over a collage of noise elements. If you took Hendrix's "Third Stone from the Sun" and removed all the recognisable melody, harmony and rhythm, this is what you'd get: something nebulous and narcotic, not recommended to the faint of heart. RW
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