While Rhino's compilation might mark a better place to start, Reads on the Road is certainly a worthy collection of some of Jack Kerouac's narratives and poetry, embellished by some actual singing. Kerouac is a more enjoyable author to hear reading on disc than most, since his prose had much of a jazz rhythm, and since he was an engaging reader/performer himself. The big find on this 74-minute CD is the 28-minute excerpt from On the Road his most famous and widely-read book, found on '50s acetates that had been thought lost. "On the Road" is presented as it was discovered, with just Kerouac's voice, but guitarist Vic Juris and Hammond organist John Medeski recorded music in 1998 for his early-'60s musical song-poem "On the Road" (a separate performance from his reading of material from the book). It's unexpected, and amusing if not brilliant, to hear Kerouac sing three jazz standards by the likes of Sammy Kahn, Johnny Mercer, and Gordon Jenkins in the late 1950s (presented with the original musical backing, by unknown musicians). David Amram, who had provided musical backup for Kerouac's readings in the late 1950s, wrote and recorded music in 1998 for two more Kerouac poems, cut by Kerouac in the back of a record shop, including the previously unpublished "Washington D.C. Blues," which runs for 17 minutes. Ending the set is Tom Waits, backed by Primus, doing yet another "On the Road," for which Waits put music to Kerouac's prose.
AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger