Henry Jacobs - Around The World With Henry Jacobs [Important Records - 2010]Henry Jacobs returns with another selection from his archives that laid abandoned under his house for 40 years. Sadly the linear notes are somewhat scant and don’t provide enough background information. I don’t know if this is perhaps some deliberate act designed to foster an air of mystery around these recordings or just an honest oversight by the label but a booklet with some more history and a bit of context would be more than useful.
But basically from the beginning of the 1950s and into the 1970s Henry Jacobs experimented with tape music creating a range of characters that would appear in his sound collages as crank callers (think Phone Jacker) or salesmen doing pitches or spoof interviews.
I suppose you could say that in these little clips there are elements that had they heard them would have appeared to have influenced a whole generation of radio broadcasters, comedians and musicians from Howard Stern to Frank Zappa to The Goons to Spinal Tap to Negativeland’s Over The Edge radio shows.
It’s hard to describe the individual sketches but there are some truly hilarious moments. The interview with Beat Poet John Grey is a fantastically funny pastiche as is the interview with the lady singing in a microtonal style.
There’s quite an element of Musique Concrete in this album too. Mostly confined to the background softly playing behind sketches and only occasionally coming to fore on tracks like the imaginatively titles 12345. I assume these are by Henry and if they are would love to hear an album of them on their own rather than just as compliments to spoofs/comedy. The small fragments we get to hear are not a million miles from the sounds that the Pierre’s Henry and Schaeffer were creating around the same time.
Perhaps this isn’t a release you’re going to sit down and listen to over and over. Like comedy albums the pieces start to get less exciting with repeated exposure but it’s a great listen to the first few times, he really has managed to capture and rip the piss, very successfully, out of the underground currents of the eras he recorded these in.
The album is credited with production by Jack Dangers. I’m not sure if it’s Meat Beat Manifesto’s Jack Dangers but I guess it could be. Though we’re a long way from MBM territory here.
The album comes with a bonus disc of a poetry reading by Kenneth Rexroth and Lawrence Ferlinghetti recorded by Henry Jacobs in 1957. I’m a huge Beat Generation fan but I’ve never been impressed by Ferlinghetti’s poetry. Without his City Lights publishing house we’d probably never have seen Howl by Allen Ginsberg or works by a number of other Beat poets but unfortunately Ferlinghetti pales in comparison. Rexroth is slightly more successful but neither are up there with Ginsberg, Corso, Snyder et al and this is not much more than an interesting historical document.David Bourgoin