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Prayer and Fasting

Planet Aquarium 1998


Review

by Mimoza

Prayer and Fasting is basically an unadorned live-acoustic type thing recorded in San Francisco in 1998 and offered as an "Internet-only album," which means you can download the sucker and cut your own CD of it. As opposed to all other Boris's albums, which you can, um, download and cut your own CDs of. What sets this one apart is:

  • The cryctal-clear quality of the recording
  • Boris's fingerwork, unusually elaborate for a solo club date (he clearly knew this one was heading for posterity)
  • The oddest choice of songs.

The album pretty much consists of songs from the very early '80s and at least 5 new ones that, 4 years later, still haven't found a place on an album. In fact, Boris makes references to the strangeness of his repertoire throughout the album, in abundant and good-natured stage patter (also something of a rarity coming from the "Uh, lyubim my vas" man). In retrospect, one can see Prayer and Fasting as Phase 1.2 of Boris's prolonged nostalgic kick that started with the "Time of the Moon" tour and culminated in the "Electric Dog" tour (the titles of which should be self-explanatory). Demibodhisattva Mimoza is ecstatic about Prayer and Fasting, because Boris appears to deliberately act like his Slavophile phase never happened. The rest of Bodhisattvas will most likely consider that a handicap.

The highlights:

Tram: A live favorite without a clear "canonic" version, kicks thins off with a completely reworked central riff.

Hard Coal: Appears to actually have a melody, whereas its previous incarnation, on 10 Arrows was more of a tone poem (not that there's anything wrong with that).

A calmer, bluesier Assholes for those who can't stomach the stadium rock of the studio version (you know who you are).

My Ant: Sprung from the mossy jail that is Triangle's side B, is alive and well. Lovely, complicated vocal line.

Hoochie Mama Blues and Contradance are every bit as good as their Live on Taganka versions but better recorded, and Boris's harmonica playing has gone all the way up to "Tolerable."

Afanasii Nikitin Boogie, Russiablues and Lovers in a White Coupe: three amazing blues numbers in a row, none available elsewhere (Russiablues came out as a single). The first one is a life-on-tour in-joke collection, once again referencing McDougal St. and lots of drugs. "Russiablues" is built around a monster lick. It starts, then stops long enough for Boris to go into an anecdote about its title ("Skorbets" is his and writer Tatyana Tolstaya's coinage purporting to be the direct Russian equivalent of the word BLUES). Then it brings down the house in three verses and two minutes. "Lovers in a White Coupe" is a gentler, slower blues with much train imagery. This live triptych is, in my opinion, the highest point of Boris's not always successful experimentation with the blues form. If not, it's second only to a certain serpentine classic from December's Children...