Album Reviews

Allen Ginsberg

The Last Word on First Blues

Artist:     Allen Ginsberg

Album:     The Last Word on First Blues

Label:     Omnivore

Release Date:     05/20/2016


I can hear you groaning out there: Why is this oddity getting review space in Elmore?

Shouldn’t this handsomely packaged, 3-CD set be getting its props in some obscure poetry blog or highbrow lit mag? Elmore is for bands and musicians, after-all. But since rock’n’roll provides an excessively massive tent for thousands of often tone deaf, though organically righteous and orgiastic singers (in whose company I blatantly and blamelessly include myself) then why not iconic poet, activist and performance artist Allen Ginsberg? I mean Ginsberg’s cohorts throughout this sprawling set of finger pointing field blues, dada mantras, yawps, and loping meditations include Bob Dylan, Happy Traum, David Amram, Ed Sanders, and David Mansfield among others and was recorded by studio legend Jack Douglas (Lennon, Miles Davis, Cheap Trick, etc) and was produced by John Hammond.

So stop moaning and listen as Ginsberg, who was never beholden to any cultural convention or societal paradigm, adapts that modus operandi to his songs and strips back America’s sick layers (at times better than any songwriter working the boards today dares to transmit) and sets out to disrupt the ’72 Republican Convention in “Going To San Diego.” Then, through the remaining 34 tracks (11 of which are previously unreleased) gears up a street wise expose of the corporatist/police state we willingly inhabit with such colorful titles as “Vomit Express,” “Reef Mantra,” “Put Down Yr Cigarette Rag,” “CIA Dope Calypso,” “Hardon Blues,” “Stay Away From The White House,” and “September on Jessore Road.”

Originally recorded in 1971, ’76, and ’81, but not released until 1983, this is far more than your run-of-the-mill cultural artifact or satanic scheme to add a few cents to the poet’s estate. What Ginsberg does here is what he fearlessly always contributed: the dark corner truths behind our national lunacy. A lunacy that, at the moment, has either reached its predictable heights or its bottom feeding, sewer sucking noir. Allen never shied away from either. Neither should you.

– Mike Jurkovic

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