Guest post by René Kladzyk
"Come ride with me
We'll gallop through the sky
The stars our road will be
On racing winds we'll fly"
Aldebaran is a giant orange star in the Taurus constellation, and is one of the brightest stars in the nighttime sky. Farewell Aldebaran, a singularly bizarre and captivating album produced by Jerry Yester and Judy Henske over a couple weeks in the summer of 1969, is appropriately titled, existing in a musical space located far outside of its time and the trodden terrain of planet Earth. Each song sounds remarkably different, widely-ranging in style, instrumentation (with Yester playing over a dozen instruments and contributions from Ry Cooder, Zal Yanovsky, and David Lindley, among others), and the disparate contours of Judy Henske's incredible voice.
Henske, who was known as the "Queen of the Beatniks," had cultivated a style of powerful vocal delivery singing at clubs in Greenwich Village, and peppered her performances with wild jokes and vivid story-telling (live performance recordings from this era are hilarious and amazing). In Farewell Aldebaran, her poetics and nuanced vocal delivery are at their most transfixing. Her voice ranges from sweetly lulling to powerfully wailing, as she sings stories of a bewitched clipper ship named Charity, church fundraisers, and lands beyond the edge of death.
The musical arrangements travel just as swiftly along these outer space winds, merging folk and psychedelia in an inventive array of instrumentation (including toy zither, marxophone, Chamberlain tape organ, hammer dulcimer, bowed banjo, and heavy use of synthesizers).
My obsession with this album was immediate and very potent, and has only grown with repeat listens. I had the pleasure of recently seeing Jerry Yester play at a small venue in Northwest Arkansas, where he performed unreleased songs from the Farewell Aldebaran sessions and shared stories of his incredible musical career (he also played in The Lovin' Spoonful, Modern Folk Quartet, and New Christy Minstrels, and produced for Tim Buckley, Tom Waits, The Turtles, and The Association, to name a few). He was even sweet enough to let me sing "Rapture" with him accompanying at the end of his set, a moment forever etched in my memory. If you're ever driving through Northwest Arkansas, consider a visit to the Grand Central Hotel in Eureka Springs to hear Jerry Yester play, and prepare yourself for pure wonder. Until then, listen to this!