All three of the hopelessly rare albums ( Poetry for the Beat Generation; Blues and Haikus , and Readings by Jack Kerouac on the Beat Generation ) the beat bard released in his lifetime, plus unreleased recordings and, as a boxed set profiling a literary giant should, a deluxe booklet. Jack raps, the jazz plays all is cool.
As a reader and performer of his own words, Kerouac wasn't as potent as his beat-generation pals. He lacked the greasy charisma of Allen Ginsberg or the razor squawk of William Burroughs. But what Kerouac did have was real joy
, a certain innocence (despite his wild experiences), and an Everyman's charm. This last quality infects these historic recordings, making Kerouac's freethinking, beautiful words and images jump out of the past with as much potency as when he laid them down in the late 1950s. The Collection
gathers Kerouac's three albums (which feature the author riffing alongside jazzmen Steve Allen, Zoot Sims, and Al Cohn) and a brace of bonus tracks. The performances are coupled with expansive liner notes, photos, and commentary. This set is required beat listening. --Michael Ruby