Various Artists

Howls, Raps & Roars: Recordings from the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance

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The subtitle -- "recordings from the San Francisco poetry renaissance" -- perfectly places in context the vitality of the contents of this multi-disc box set. While the Bay Area based Fantasy label is primarily known for its uncompromising and otherwise groundbreaking jazz releases, they were also home to some of the Beat Generations most prolific and genre defining figures. This collection gathers over four hours of recordings documented during the height of the Cold War in the late '50s and early '60s, historically reflecting the world as interpreted by such freewheelin' thinkers as Lew Welch, Michael McClure, David Meltzer, Kenneth Rexroth, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg. Under the influence and careful annotation of Ann Charters -- who is perhaps best known in the literary community for her valiant efforts as editor of the Portable Beat Reader -- Howls, Raps & Roars (1993) revisits some of America's most brilliant spoken-word recordings and aurally stimulating recitations borne of the tremendously prolific mid-century poetry scene. In addition to the definitively earnest efforts of the afore mentioned authors, also prominently featured on this collection is the work of comedian and social commentator Lenny Bruce -- who commences the set with over an hour's worth of his most profound recordings for Fantasy. His works -- most especially the irony-laden "Shorty Petterstein Interview" and equally strident "How To Relax Your Coloured Friends At Parties" are as over the top and deliciously ironic in the 21st century as they most assuredly were in the heart of the previous one. Also included are more established cornerstones of the Bay Area beats such as Ginsberg's "Howl" and the first part of "Kaddish" as well as Rexroth's biblically inspired "Thou Shalt Not Kill" and Ferlinghetti's epic "Moscow In The Wilderness, Segovia In The Snow" -- all of which have been previously issued, albeit difficult to locate. However the unqualified centrepiece of Howls, Raps & Roars is the plethora of unissued recitations -- including an entire disc of unissued masterworks corralled under the moniker "From The Mad Mammoth Monster Poetry Readings." On this volume are nearly an hour and ten minutes of rare recordings from the likes of well-known artists such as Ginsberg ("Patna-Benares Express") and McClure ("From Dark Brown") to the potentially less recognizable Lew Welch ("From Hermit Poems") and Phillip Whalen ("From The Art of Literature"). The importance of the works included in this aural compendium can not be overstated and remain as shimmering artefacts of reality from within a decidedly and increasingly image conscious post World War II America. Accompanying the discs is a 36-page liner notes booklet that includes copious eye candy and verbiage to accurately place the recordings in perspective for the modern consumer. This is an essential, if not somewhat compulsory release!

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