Mimi & Richard Fariņa:
Celebrations for a Grey Day
Vanguard (VSD-79174) April 1965.
Re-issued on CD in 1995.
Cover photo by Kenneth van Sickle.
Running time: 38:47
8. HAMISH 1:47
Instr.--autoharp & dulcimer
9. ANOTHER COUNTRY 4:00
Vocal--with guitar & electric guitar (Bruce Langhorne)
10. TUILERIES 1:45
11. THE FALCON 3:38
12. RENO NEVADA 3:07
Vocal--with guitar, dulcimer, electric guitar (Bruce Langhorne), piano (Charles Small) and bass (Russ Savakus)
13. CELEBRATION FOR A GREY DAY 3:47
Instr.--guitar & dulcimer
This bold debut from the new folk duo featured mostly original compositions and a surprising number of instrumentals (seven out of the thirteen songs are instrumental) to showcase the more distinctive features of their style: Richard's inventive, percussive attack on the dulcimer, and the rhythmic flair of both performers that propelled folk toward the new sonic universe of sixties rock. Richard's playing inspired a whole generation of dulcimer players, and Mimi, who was 19 when the album was recorded, developed a beautifully expressive, winsome style on the guitar that complemented Richard's dulcimer perfectly.
This hitherto unusual combination of dulcimer and guitar provides the foundation of their style: a diatonic instrument and chromatic instrument, the one archaic and primitive, the other infinitely versatile, just then emerging as the pioneering instrument of progressive popular music. This is the "android synthesis" that Richard cryptically discusses in the album notes and illustrates with a long list of groceries, mingling traditional fare such as fresh country eggs with assorted processed, frozen, or wholly invented foods and medicines, as well as experimental diets such as the macrobiotic. The seemingly pointless list is a sly metaphor for their music, combining old and new, borrowed and invented, traditional and innovative. The reference to "our foreign blood" and "a tradition barely ours and hardly its own" is not merely a reference to the couple's Hispanic ethnicity (of which Richard liked to make much ado, long before identity-politics posturing became the rage) but also a recognition of the myriad, inextricably tangled traditions of folk music that provided a smorgasbord from which the Fariņas' own inventive artistry could serve up this feast.
Thus, the album still sounds amazingly fresh today--the modern listener is struck by the uniqueness of the sound, and the feeling of new musical terrain being discovered. Their next album would take the traditional-modern synthesis even further, but this album, with its brilliant exposition of the dulcimer-guitar fusion, beginning right with the first song and continuing throughout a generous helping of instrumentals, is my own personal favorite. Although the Fariņa Poll reveals that Reflections in a Crystal Wind is much more popular, I suspect most people would agree that Celebrations isn't far behind in quality--it's like the difference between Rubber Soul and Revolver: one is clearly a leap forward, but the earlier one yet has that indescribable, unrepeatable charm.
Celebrations featured the two songs by which Richard and Mimi are still best known, "Pack Up Your Sorrows" and "Reno, Nevada." Both were released as singles the following year: "Reno, Nevada" was backed by "One Way Ticket," and "Pack Up Your Sorrows" by "Joy 'Round My Brain" (which didn't make it onto LP until Memories.) "Pack Up Your Sorrows" proved to be the Fariņa song most frequently recorded by other artists, with a flurry of cover versions in 1966 following Richard's death, and continuing well into the 70s, then lagging in the 80s, to be picked up again in the 90s and on into the 21st century (see the Cover Versions page for more info). Richard would be proud of the song's enduring popularity and the many tributes by friends and fans. But although it's inevitable that the bitter-sweet song would become an anthem for his brilliant life and untimely death, the popularity of "Pack Up Your Sorrows" is ironic, perhaps even regretable, because its summercamp sing-alongability has given an impression of a conventional folk sound that sells short the Fariņas' true style. People who know Richard & Mimi only from that song, or have heard facile comparisons to Ian & Sylvia, don't know what they're missing, and therefore may never bother to seek out the stranger, wilder paths their music traveled.
Next Album: Reflections in a Crystal Wind
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