Stefan Grossman

STEFAN GROSSMAN - Those Pleasant Days
Castle Music CMDDD1038

Well, HOT DAWG! If it isn’t Stefan Grossman after all this time. With a double album retrospective (as if a single album from this guitar master was not treat enough!)

Here, Castle Records have made an astute raid on the 8 albums Grossman made for the Transatlantic label in the early-mid 70s. Seldom have vinyl archives been plundered with such inherent good taste, and many of his past classics make their first appearance on CD here. Disc One concentrates on the vocal numbers: Disc Two lets that engagingly whining/croaky voice take second place to the extraordinarily gifted and varied guitar styles.

Not for nothing did the teenage Grossman once study up to thrice-weekly for two years at the Bronx home of the Reverend Gary Davis! It shows here, every bit as much as it did for me back in 1970 when I first saw Stefan perform at the Les Cousins club in Soho .

I guess it is hard to categorise Grossman the GUITAR player. The word “versatile” would be an insult, since the truth is that he is not what that implies… i.e. a jack of all trades. For the fact is that he is a master of all styles, and a jack of none!

Blues, ragtime, jazz, folk…you name it. Grossman puts his DNA all over it. And long may he continue.

Half of the current crop of top class folk guitarists seem to cite Stefan’s instructional albums released jointly on Transatlantic and his own Kicking Mule label, as seminal in their development as a guitarist: so all those new rookie guitarists reading this should invest in this double album in order to set the Gold Standard for their future attainment.

The album is handsomely produced, and contains erudite liner notes by Colin Harper. This is a “must buy” for serious students of the folk/blues guitar.

One minor caveat: if you are a Ewan MacColl fan and thus hurry along to Track 15 of the 2nd disc, you might be disappointed. For although the back cover tells you that this is his "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face", let me assure you that it is not quite what it seems. Stefan bases his version on Bert Jansch's interpretation...not a work that is known to me. But trust me, I can find nothing in this sublimely cerebral – almost meditative - track, that even REMOTELY has any link with that remarkable masterpiece-of-a-song, made into an international hit by Roberta Flack! That said however, this cut of Stefan's has its own intrinsic merit, and maybe you will listen to it and decide immediately that it is a first cousin to the MacColl original, and that I need my ears syringed. If so, so be it.

Dai Woosnam