The third in the Bob Gibson Legacy series, The Perfect High centers itself in the devastating wit Gibson loved to fall back into. The CD, originally an LP independently released, is a live gig from the Charlotte's Web venue (Rockford, Ill.), backed by Tom Paxton and Anne Hills, and a delicious exhibition of the perfect synchrony he and Shel Silverstein had achieved at this point (1980), a pairing I daresay has never been quite equalled, so flowing are the sympathies and multi-level harmonies.
Silverstein's not once really been accorded proper recognition for his uncanny poetry, but I use his Where the Sidewalk Ends in my third-grade to high school tutoring, and it's been extremely efficacious, especially the title piece, as an introduction into language and poetry interpretation. GIbson—having mentored Joan Baez, Paxton, and others—obviously knew significant artists when he saw and heard them, and Silverstein may have been his most unusual discovery. Garreting himself away to write with the guy, then, was a master stroke and this CD is the hallmark emblem of it.
You might hear Perfect High as a redemption record, and indeed it was, as Gibson had gone through the hell of addiction and emerged alive; thus, it was much more than just a rehab statement, Perfect was an epiphany in motion. Gibson's voice, humor, playing, sense of high harmonics, and general exuberance surpass anything he'd done to the point, infectious to a incredible degree: witty, sarcastic, campy, warm, tender, caustic with a panoply of incisively humorous takes and opinings, not mention a continuance of his own folk stylings. There's a serious side as well, though, and his and Silverstein's Rock Me Sweet Jesus is staggering in its heartfelt delivery, a companion to the messianic paeans by the Doobies and others penning humanistic odes to the anarchist so miserably represented by the Christian religion itself. Here, as with such righteous odes a Jesus is Just Alright, the Christ gets his due, and the song dynamically centers a rollicking and rhythmically hypnotic release - for my money, his shining moment.
The Legacy quintet is a necessary and laudable work, but start with this release if you want Gibson at his absolute zenith and you'll have any keys you might need in understanding the full breadth of his labors.
[For an extensive historical intro to Gibson's place in the folk firmament, see the review for Funky in the Country, here.]
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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