Out from the silence, a lone tramp raises his frail voice in song "Jesus blood never failed me yet, this one thing I know, for he loves me so...." Originally recorded as footage for a documentary that was never released, this unidentified man's voice serves as both a backdrop and a centerpiece for Gavin Bryars' touching but challenging epic, running over 74 minutes in length. Some critics prefer the out-of-print 1975 recording (released on Brian Eno's Obscure Records label) because it was shorter, though Bryars' personally felt limited by the time restrictions of vinyl pressings. When compact discs hit the scene, he set about to lengthen and re-orchestrate the piece and make the most of the format. This newer version on Point Music still inches along gracefully enough, but over time listeners may identify more and more with the hobo's fatigue. The field recording of the old man is quoted to be a favorite of junkyard minstrel Tom Waits, who shows up here near the finale of the piece to sing alongside and around the tramp in unison and in counter melodies. In the final minutes, Waits is left to sing alone with high strings, only to wander off into the cavernous darkness from which the piece came. This melancholy and repetitive disc may test the patience as it wears on, though Bryars squeezes every drop of sweetness he can into the slowly shifting score. It is said that no matter how many different ways you paint a house, it is still essentially the same house. Here, it is the hobo's verse that holds the piece together, but ironically it's also the thing that keeps it from taking flight with its relentless constancy; it is repeated over 150 times. The meditative and haunting qualities this disc should have run dry quickly, but if the concept of this piece is intriguing, turn instead to Bryars' far superior piece, "The Sinking of the Titanic," for a more rewarding experience.
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AllMusic Review by Glenn Swan
|Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet|