Marc Ribot-Saints

August 23, 2008

Marc Ribot

Saints (Atlantic 2001)

http://www.mediafire.com/?s5uawdkaipt

As a bored and lonely teenager, I tended to search for any free or all-ages concerts to fill in the many blanks in my life. There was a series of free concerts at Penns Landing in Philadelphia where I got to see Billy Bragg and Roger Mcguinn as well as lesser lights like Suddenly Tammy. I had never heard of T-Bone Burnett since this was before his work with the Coen Brothers on the Oh Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack. However, the concert was free and my dance card was empty, so what the hell. To be honest, Burnett was kind of a drag, but his guitarist had so much charisma and his playing was electrifying and eye-opening to my young soul. His name was Marc Ribot and I did some research and found that he played on one of my favorite albums, Tom Waits’ Rain Dogs. From that moment, I decided that I would always keep an eye out for any record on which he played.

Sadly, my obsession was never fully rewarded as he hadn’t released any solo records at that point. A few years later, I shelled out a bunch of money for Shrek, a Japanese import on John Zorn’s Avant label, and was kind of disappointed. I plowed through Yo! I Killed Your God and Shoe String Symphonettes and I appreciated and enjoyed some of it, but they didn’t inspire me like those life-affirming moments of his live performance. His work was challenging, but it didn’t speak to me. I put my fascination with Ribot on the back burner and this hiatus lasted for many years until I encountered his Saints album in 2001.

Maybe it is due to the fact that most of the album consists of covers of Albert Ayler, the Beatles, Stephen Sondheim, John Lurie and John Zorn, but Saints was an entirely different beast than anything else I had heard him play. Maybe it is because Ribot is the only ingredient here. It is just a brilliant guitarist paying tribute to his favorite compositions while reinventing them in a new light. Saints is such an intimate listen and he creates a noirish atmosphere that is so minimal and moody. In fact, it is one of the few solo guitar records where I really feel every note that the musician is playing. I want to hear every twist and turn he takes with the source material. To be honest, it’s kind of a sensual record to me because he takes his sweet time mining every ounce of emotion from each composition. I love Albert Ayler and his versions of “Saints” and “Witches and Devils” outdo the master as Ribot replaces the fire of the originals with some meditative, expansive shit. I always say this, but I am shocked that more folks haven’t embraced Saints because it is such an evocative piece of work. The man even takes “Happiness is a Warm Gun” into some languorous, meditative place that Lennon and McCartney never intended. Definitely one of the best instrumental albums of the past decade and possibly one of the first records I reach for when I want to zone out and ponder life.

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