Most of this 76-minute CD of previously unreleased live performances was recorded at the Matrix in San Francisco on February 14, 1968; it's uncertain when the rest was done, but the liner notes guess they were recorded a year later, in 1969. The Great Santa Barbara Oil Slick is a solid addition to the John Fahey canon, as the sound is clear and excellent, if drier than much of his studio work. (It also has its share of dead air between songs, punctuated by detached and laconic announcements from the guitarist, though these don't detract from its listenability.) Most of the material presents concert versions of songs that appeared on various Fahey LPs in the '60s, performed with his usual eclectic taste and virtuosity. And as is customary for much of Fahey's work, it mixes the blues, Americana, and some experimental ideas without leaning too heavily on any one of those poles. For dedicated Fahey fans, the big find is the six-minute title track, the only one of these songs not to be included on any of his '60s records, though it contains portions of two compositions ("Requiem for Russell Blaine Cooper" and "Voice of the Turtle") that appeared on his 1967 album Requia & Other Compositions for Guitar Solo and his 1971 album America, respectively. "Dance of the Inhabitants of the Palace of King Philip XIV of Spain" lasts three minutes longer than the original Fahey version, too, with some interesting slide guitar work. Otherwise it's more a testament to Fahey's mastery of the tunes (and the guitar) than it is an exposure of unsuspected hidden sides of his art, but it's no less worthy for that.
AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger