STEVEN TAYLOR-SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND OF EXPERIENCE: SHEWING THE TWO CONTRARY  STATES OF THE HUMAN SOUL.

Steven Taylor-Songs Of Innocence and Of Experience: Shewing The Two Contrary States Of The Human Soul.

Ace Records.

Nowadays, many critics consider that the enigmatic William Blake was England’s greatest ever poet and artist. Some critics have gone as far as to say that he was the greatest poet and artist and artist ever. Blake was certainly a revolutionary whose work was innovative and influential.

The work of Blake has influenced everyone from the pre-Raphaelite artists, Romantic poets, writers like Aldous Huxley, James Joyce, Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs as well as filmmakers, cartoonists and the great and good of music. 

Everyone from The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Jim Morrison, Led Zeppelin and David Axelrod, who proudly described himself as a self-confessed “Blake freak were all influenced by Blake.” So has singer, songwriter, musician and ethnomusicologist, Steven Taylor.

Recently, Ace Records released definitive versions of William Blake’s Songs Of Innocence and Of Experience: Shewing The Two Contrary States Of The Human Soul. The album features twenty-nine tracks that are described as being “tuned by Allen Ginsberg and Steven Taylor” with the latter receding them  posthumously for the album William Blake’s Songs Of Innocence and Of Experience: Shewing The Two Contrary States Of The Human Soul. Its roots can be traced to July 1948.

That was when Ginsberg hallucinated the voice of Blake  and began chanting two songs from Songs Of Experience. This was just the start for Ginsberg.

Later, he began to set Blake’s songs to his own arrangements. This was next step in what was a lifelong love of, and homage to the man who was by then regarded by many as England’s greatest poet and artist.

Then in 1976, Ginsberg was booked to play a gig at a college and needed a guitarist. One of the professors approached a student who could accompany him on guitar. That was the easy part. The student had to be able to accompany Ginsberg as he sang Blake’s songs. Fortunately, Steven Taylor was able to do so.

Little did Steven Taylor realise that this was the start of an association and friendship between Steven Taylor and Ginsberg that lasted three decades and twenty years. 

Six years later, and the two friends were wandering through Greenwich Village, when Ginsberg said that Ed Sanders was rehearsing at One Fifth Avenue and why didn’t the gatecrash the rehearsal? When the pair made their arrival, Ed Sanders was rehearing with a trio and were hoping to play at the Mudd Club. Not long after this, fate intervened when the band began singing Blake’s Oh How I Roam’d, and Steven Taylor decided to add a harmony. Ed Sanders liked when The Fugs reformed he joined the band. However, his collaboration with Ginsberg continued.

During that time, Steven Taylor accompanied Ginsberg on guitar when he performed Blake’s songs to an appreciative audience of afficianados of the legendary poet and artist’s work. The continued to work together right through until 1996, but sadly, Ginsberg passed away on the ‘5th’ of April 1997 aged seventy. That day, America mourned the passing of one of a great poet, philosopher and writer. Ginsberg’s final words to his friend were “finish the Blake.”

Steven Taylor set out to carry out the final wishes of his friend and longterm musical collaborator. He began recording Blake’s songs his two books Songs Of Innocence and Songs Of Experience. Joining his were a band that included fellow Fug Scott Petito on acoustic bass, electric bass and keyboards, drummer Billy Atwell II, pianist Marilyn Crispell and Ross Goldstein on mellotron. They recorded the twenty-nine tracks on Songs Of Innocence and Of Experience: Shewing The Two Contrary States Of The Human Soul which was recently released by Ace Records. It has been a labour of love for everyone involved in the project 

Opening the album is Introduction, which is the first of eighteen songs taken from Songs Of Innocence. It was first printed in 1789, and was a conceptual collection that included nineteen poems. The book was illustrated and hand coloured by Blake. Among the other songs from Songs Of Innocence are The Shepherd, The Lamb, The Chimney Sweeper, The Little Boy Lost, The Little Boy Found, Holy Thursday and A Nurse’s Song. Some of these titles Blake revisited five years later in Songs Of Experience.

Blake published Songs Of Experience in 1794, which featured twenty-six poems. Eleven feature on Songs Of Innocence and Of Experience: Shewing The Two Contrary States Of The Human Soul. A couple of the poems, The Little Girl Lost and The Little Girl Found had featured in Songs Of Innocence and Blake moved them between the two books. 

Blake also used the same title on Holy Thursday and Nurse’s Songs, but the meaning of the two songs are very different. Just like all of Blake’s work they’re cerebral and thought-provoking.

Other poems from Songs Of Experience include The Sick Rose, The Fly, The Angel, The Garden Of Love and London. They’r just some of the eleven songs Steven Taylor and his band covered. These songs have understated and subtle arrangements which allow the vocal to take centrestage. That is the case throughout this captivating album, and the less is more approach works allowing the listener to focus on the songs and work out their meaning on Steven Taylor’s homage to his late friend Allen Ginsberg Ginsberg who prior to his passing asked him to: “finish the Blake.”

While he’s not quite finished this ambitious project, twenty-nine of the forty-five songs feature on Songs Of Innocence and Of Experience: Shewing The Two Contrary States Of The Human Soul. It’s been part of Steven Taylor’s life for over twenty-two years, and the story so far features on Songs Of Innocence and Of Experience: Shewing The Two Contrary States Of The Human Soul which was recently released by Ace Records. Steven Taylor has carried out Allen Ginsberg Ginsberg’s wishes with homage to, and reminder of the enigmatic genius that is William Blake who was England’s greatest ever poet and artist who was an innovator who has influenced everyone from poets, artists, writers and musicians, and will continue do so forevermore. 

Steven Taylor-Songs Of Innocence and Of Experience: Shewing The Two Contrary States Of The Human Soul.

2 Comments

  1. I was not aware of the collaboration. I’ll certainly checkout the recordings.

    • It’s a lovely album and one I can throughly recommend. I hope that you enjoy it.

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