Jose Feliciano - vocals, nylon string guitar
Years before he struck gold with his Latin-tinged cover of the Doors "Light My Fire," Jose Feliciano was dazzling audiences on the coffeehouse circuit with his languidly beautiful guitar playing and rich soulful singing voice. Blind from birth and one of eleven brothers born into extreme poverty in the Lares Mountains of his native Puerto Rico, Feliciano would overcome these obstacles and become one of the first Latino artists to successfully cross over into the American and then global music markets, paving the way for many others to follow and playing an important role in music history. His recordings would be celebrated the world over, eventually earning him no less than 16 Grammy nominations (including 6 wins) and dozens of Gold and Platinum albums. He would also be recognized as a groundbreaking acoustic guitar player, winning "Best Pop Guitarist" from Guitar Player Magazine, as well as winning best guitarist in both rock and jazz categories in Playboy's annual reader's polls.
Journey back to the dawn of Feliciano's career with this extraordinary recording from the Ash Grove archive, when he played a weeklong engagement opening for Irish troubadour Seamus Ennis in September of 1964. Recorded at the second of two performances on the Saturday evening of that run, this exceptional recording captures Feliciano shortly after the release of his debut album for RCA Records. A wondrous example of his Greenwich Village folk-circuit days, this performance on the other coast finds him easily shifting from arrangements that spotlight his intricate nylon string guitar virtuosity to material that underlines the rich soulfulness of his voice.
At a time when the traditional folk, jazz, and blues worlds were clearly divided from the popular music world and the Beatles had just arrived in America, Feliciano was way ahead of the curve, dismissing all musical boundaries and proving himself to be an extreme free soul in terms of music. As this recording so clearly conveys, right from the start Feliciano was embracing all musical genres from folk, pop, blues, soul, bluegrass, and jazz to classical, proving himself an incredibly versatile musician and an entertainer of the highest caliber.
This recording is yet another remarkable find amidst the wonders of the Ash Grove archive, giving listeners the rare opportunity to hear a superlative world class performer at the dawn of his career, transcending musical boundaries and bridging musical styles in a way that has rarely ever been equaled.
Written by Alan Bershaw
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