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September 20, 2017


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Daniel Johnston
The Early Recordings Volume 1 (Dualtone Records)

By: Alex Steininger

Excreting the demons in his head by playing music, Daniel Johnston constantly fights a battle with his mental illness. His songs, however, are his escape, and the escape for many fans, including The Butthole Surfers, Kurt Cobain, and others. With extensive liner notes and two discs worth of early recordings, The Early Recordings Volume 1 stands tall as the definitive document of Johnston's rise to cult status, and the songs that helped pave the way for his influence. Lo-fi, shaky, and oft-times poorly recorded (adding to the beauty of the compositions). It wasn't until I read the liner notes that I began to appreciate the talent - the genius - of Daniel Johnston. His songs are simple, unbiased commentary on things he sees, and experiences in life. They're not tainted by fame. They're not altered to suit some suit's taste. And they're not marketed, or marketable. They sit, complete, finished works of art ready for whoever wants to love them, whoever wants to take them in. And for those that don't, they don't care, they move on. Johnston's early recordings are naive, and in the naivete, they're brilliant. Like a young child, they often times don't understand the 'rules' and that is how they excel, forgoing the rules without even knowing it. I'll give it an A-.
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