Ed Askew - A Child in the Sun: Radio Sessions 1969-1970

by Bill Golembeski Rating:8 Release Date:2017-11-17
Ed Askew - A Child in the Sun: Radio Sessions 1969-1970
Ed Askew - A Child in the Sun: Radio Sessions 1969-1970

A bit of an American icon here.

Ed Askew has been singing his songs and playing his tiple since 1968. He’s still at it today. And these are radio sessions from the golden period, 69-70. It’s not a proper album: There are few coughs here and there and bits of dialogue. In fact, Ed explains his artistic ethos in “Purity Talk”: “It’s not the purity of the thing. I like that. But there are lots of things that could be added that would fill it out but make it, uh, easier to take, ah etcetera, ah but I don’t want to like add anything that doesn’t add to the essence of the music. I wouldn’t want to anything that makes it sound nicer because that’s absolutely worthless.” (I think I missed an “ah” or two. But you get the gist.)

Trust me: There is no fear of an over-produced record.

By the way, a tiple is a small guitar with varied numbers of strings. I believe Ed plays a Martin with ten.

Now, to the point: I love this record. I fully understand there are a lot of people who won’t think much of it. I mean, the guy recorded for the ESP-Disk label years ago side by side with The Fugs, Ornette Coleman, Pharaoh Sanders, Sun Ra, and Peter Stampfel and his Holy Model Rounders. The great Tom Rapp recorded for the label. I love Stardancer. Often times, eclectic music requires effort to find an entry point. But once inside the music, well, the colorful world of Oz opens its portals. This is that sort of record. One way or another, this is all pretty idiosyncratic stuff. Full points for that. But it didn’t sell way back then; however, the chosen few who bought this stuff are a tough breed who still insist on vinyl records and tube amplifiers.

Now, to another point: I missed this the first time because I was thirteen and obsessed with the pop music of The Grass Roots. Within a year I would purchase The Band’s Big Pink, so I should get some points for trying. But flash forward too many years (and believe me, many record stores and many records later), and I hear in this music a kindred spirit to the great Kevin Coyne. Yeah, fans of Kevin’s first (brilliant) solo record Case History or the acoustic stuff from Marjory Razorblade like “Talking to No One” or “Chicken Wing” truly need to hear this record. Ed Askew’s “Red Woman and “Mr. Dream” are from the same cut of cloth. In fairness to both men, A Child in the Sun never veers into the weird and wonderful psychology of Coyne’s “Mad Boy” or “Good Boy,” but the music here is blues-based folk brilliance with songs that don’t exactly follow common structures.

I suppose this qualifies as acid folk. But this is real music as it touches reality. It’s urgent human music. And that’s a rare thing. The first song, “Fancy That,” sounds like the early Roy Harper on The Sophisticated Beggar or Fokejokeopus.

By the way, “Peter and David” is an absolutely beautiful song. As is “Oh, the Lovely Face” with its added harmonica. And “Reasonable Man” is a beautiful shade of blues.

Just an idea: I was watching one of the morning television shows long after the real news had been played out and at least one cooking demonstration had been, well, cooked, and was too lazy to even grab the remote, so I watched on as Ed Sheeran performed a song. I had never heard of the guy. Apparently, he’s quite famous in a Taylor Swift sort of way. There was a small audience on the TV set, and everybody clapped. But, truly, here was a guy with a small guitar (not a ten-stringed tiple mind you) singing an acoustic song. Perhaps the world is finally ready, one again, for clever singer-songwriters and tube-amped vinyl sound.

So, I don’t know, perhaps if this music by Ed Askew could get some exposure, that same audience could be entertained by an artist who deserves similar applause. Stranger things have happened. One movie lifted the obscure (but fantastic) Proclaimers into worldwide fandom.  

Ultimately, though, this record is just a snapshot of an artist as a young guy performing his songs live for a radio audience. Perhaps, an initiate should begin with Ask a Unicorn or Little Eyes. But this record rekindles the spirit of the open road, a road in which every artist may be worth the effort, a road that simply asks for an open mind, a couple of bucks, and a willingness to reject “anything that doesn’t add to the essence of the music.” This album is a pretty good yellow brick road. So, Ed Askew, thank you for that. And yeah, by the way, you are a bit of an icon.

 

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