1 December 1940 (age 77)
Ed Askew, a gay singer-songwriter, cut one of the best and most obscure LPs in the original ESP Disk’s vague rock/folk/freak series, issued eponymously and since reissued as Ask The Unicorn, before apparently dropping off the edge of his world. Years later, thanks to detective work by - naturally - Mr Clint Simonson of the De Stijl Records imprint, it turned out that not only was Askew still breathing but he had actually recorded a follow-up to his ESP Disk in 1970 that had lain in the can for decades. Originally released as a limited vinyl edition by Simonson himself, Little Eyes blew even his revered ESP side to ribbons and stands as one of the most magical outsider/freak artefacts to ever escape the prodigious gravity of the decade in which it was birthed. Askew has a highly idiosyncratic vocal style that is equal parts quizzical bubble-gum chewing kind on shrooms and doe-eyed real people Richard Brautigan character. Perhaps the closest comparison would be to Tom Rapp or Judee Sill’s old buddy Tommy Peltier. His instrumental conceptions certainly owe a massive debt to bob Dylan circa 64/65 - who the fuck didn’t - especially his spine-tingling harmonica work but it’s the beautiful arc of the songs that will keep you coming back, the way he combines rough, fluffed performances with eye-watering lyrical sentiments, heartbreaking phrasing and weird, clunky chords played on a ‘Martin tiple’. If you ever dug the whole late-60s freak-folk fall-out as documented by Pearls Before Swine, Bleib Alien, Tim Buckley, The Fugs, The Roots Of Madness et al you are gonna crease. Simply put, one of the most beautifully cracked singer-songwriter albums of a timeless age. Only the hardest of hearts could resist it. This new CD edition comes with six incredible bonus tracks culled from various radio broadcasts across 1970 and 71 and liners by Byron Coley. Highly recommended. Ed has recently released FOR THE WORLD on Tin Angel records. http://www.tinangelrecords.co.uk/edaskew/index.html
- David Keenan / Volcanic Tongue 2007
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