VHF (filk audio tape)
|Fandom:||Star Wars, Indiana Jones & other Harrison Ford roles|
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VHF is set of nine audiotapes of filk songs and original music about the many roles of Harrison Ford. "VHF" stood for "Very Harrison Ford."
From an ad in Jundland Wastes: "VHF--a song cycle of ballads, blues, rock sound, country, folk & others, inspired by Harrison Ford & his film incarnations. Serles of 6 tapes written, composed, & performed by Martie Benedict."
From an ad in Southern Enclave (1985): "Harrison Ford inspired songs by Martie Benedict. Tapes featuring Han, Indy, Kenny, Tommy, Rick and others. New WITNESS tape now available!"
The tapes contain 104 selections, of which these are a few:
- Feel Like a Woman (about Leia Organa)
- All the Gentle Ladies (commentary on being a fan)
- Lying on the Dappled Shade (a medieval madrigal)
- A Short Conversation (about Ford's characer, Martin Stett)
- Damn Gypsy Traders (a hail to Corellians)
Reactions and Reviews
This wealth of story-songs, blues statements, and occasional lyrical experiments is perhaps the single most prolific "music-'zine" output thus far to come to light in media fandom. At seven [the fan also includes the tape Communion "volumes"--from VHF to Communion--it represents a ferociously active musical imagination. Furthermore, it is a highly personal, very individualistic, and altogether enjoyable contribution to the music of fandom--a rich area all too often neglected in terms of reviews or rewards ... Martie Benedict is, so far as I am able to judge, SW fandom' s true resident goliard. By no means a mere throwback to earlier times, she is instead a very modern young woman who has within her the spiritual echoes of the song masters of an earlier age coupled with a musical skill that encompasses everything from delicate semi-Oriental chant harmonics to blues to reggae, with stops along the way to nod to country/western, the sounds of the islands and straight rock. At her best, she is capable of enrapturing her audience with skill, wit, and true artistry. When she is good, she is remarkable. If I have quibbles--and no one is perfect, after all-- it some of her material is repetitive or overlong. There are, for example, a Raiders retelling on her first tape; "Getting Back to England" on More VHF V, a recounting of Force 10 From Navarone; and "Zhora" on Communion (even though the harmonics of the repeated refrain are a knock-out, this song just goes on too long) that details the plot of Blade Runner. Make no mistake: the songs themselves are good, but they need pruning. To Harrison Ford fans--or those who have seen the films in question--they may prove to be a little too much of a good thing. These are, I would hasten to add, relatively minor lapses in what is otherwise a truly glittering achievement... Her guitar style is clean, disciplined, quite often a luminous counterpoint to the voice and a perfect evocation of the mood of each piece. Mostly, it's Martie and her trusty six-string, though family and friends have added one fantastic flute here and there, wrist cymbals, bells, drums, clapping hands, and voices that all lend occasional, appropriate musical punctuation. In terms of vocal style, she reminds me of Carolyn Hester (from the. days of folk) or Sylvia Fricker Tyson--though Martie's is a deeper, more "whisky voiced" instrument. However, it is a marvelous balladeer's voice, one that compels the listener to attend carefully to what is being sung--pleasant, mellow, with wonderfully clear diction that is a real pleasure... Martie has learned and uses her vocal instrument with great effectiveness. There are certainly things she could not do--but she already knows that and plies her skills accordingly. For control and presentation of material, she demonstrates real dramatic sense--choosing to be raucous or wry, or dazzling, as the, mood demands. And she has enough sense to vary these alternatives on a single tape so that she retains the listener's attention. With intuitive skill, she infuses her matrerial wi th a chameleon personality that renders her best pieces real dramatic performances. Personal is the word that comes most often to mind, as if she's singing personally for you, making you a part ofheard and tells so well. 
Back in the pages of Jundland Wastes #12 (December 1982), I was privileged to share with fans the joy of listening to Martie Benedict, Songmaster, Writer and Colorado's Special Gift to Fandom, when I reviewed her first seven VHF tapes (that's for "Very Harrison Ford" for the unitiated among you out there). At the time the task of giving adequate coverage to the 103 songs on those tapes nearly defeated me. Well, just in case anybody thought those were the last words on the subject-Martie has produced three more music tapes and a lyric 'zine since that not-so-long-ago review, thus confounding any who may have thought she was resting on the substantial accomplishment of those first tapes. Another 41 songs have been added to the potential collector's lists, and word has it there will soon be even more. This summer, Martie expects to produce her eleventh tape; this one will be dedicated to Indiana Jones and will be entitled, appropriately, Doomsday Book. One satisfaction I have (perhaps selfishly) derived since writing that first review is that people seem to agree with those words of praise and encouragement and are seeking out VHF and its companions. Last May (1983), in fact, at MediaWest Con, Martie received a well deserved accolade-a Fan Q as Best Poet/Filker (Category: Other). What made that award as singular as the rest of Martie's achievements is that it marked an unprecedented occurrence in Fan Q annals: the vote was by popular acclaim, a genuine grass-roots, independent write-in from a large number of the Con's attendees.... While it is true that the sheer number of Martie's songs boggles the mind, what is even more gratifying to the listener is that the output is both stylistically varied and consistently high in quality. Martie's musical "lineage" can be traced to the folk revival in the 60's, contemporary rock and reggae, country music, the sound of the islands, blues and a touch of soul. You will hear elements of all in her music, and yet she has made this diversity work in an entirely new way. In other words, she's an original.
On most of the tapes, including the three most recent that will be reviewed (Candle in the Shadows, VHF Addendum and Spacer's Blues), the production usually consists of Martie and her trusty six-string. Occasionally, friends provide additional musical accompaniment and, two or three times, you'll get Martie on a triple track vocal and guitar. Generally, her renderings and production, the latter ably engineered by husband Frank Benedict, are simple and carillon-clear. She has a husky, deep-toned vocal instrument that is well suited to her rollicking, earthier broadsides, but she is also capable of unleashing higher register tones that fit themselves perfectly around the notes and harmonies of a piece of magic like "The Star Weaver". In doing so, she creates enchantment. It's a vocal quality that's oh-so-easy on the ears-sweet without a forced note or a false one, deep where it ought to be, and always true. Her guitar and occasional banjo provide ideal balancing elements to her voice, producing picks, flails, runs and trills that feather or rumble as the songs decree. These latest three tapes in her series show a progression of style and skill that reveal she is still hard at work at her craft. And we are the beneficiaries of that work and the resulting growth of her instrumental craft. Candle in the Shadows, first of the three new tapes, is billed as music for and about Han Solo from the point of view of one who loves him. It features moments brilliant, moments wry and moments poetic. One of the strongest individual tapes in the entire VHF collection, Candle is more consciously produced", musically, than the others mentioned here, but it still manages to be warmly personal, touching chords of recognition to the listener — "Yes! That's what it looks like. . .how it feels!" Whether for Han or for your own "Mariner", if you're a romantic, you will find yourself nodding as your foot keeps time in accompaniment. On this tape, almost more than the others reviewed here, it's damned hard to pick only a few favorites: they all so good! A few lines come to mind — "There's a line that's drawn between dark and dawn, a line between life and art. It can be a grind, when you're tryin' to find the boundaries that keep them apart." It sure can! The tape's title song is, to me, the beauty piece of this group, the gemcenter of a splendid display. It makes you want to sing along, and you're bound to think - "Wasn't it on the radio only yesterday?" "Big Cat" is a must for anyone who ever noticed the feline quality in Solo's moves; "Natural High" will, if you listen carefully, ring a rollcall of the places and peoples in Martie's beautifully constructed and remarkably contiguous universe. (This making it all part of the same whole is something she learned to do when she fell in love with Tolkien years ago.) And listen carefully you must—for her phrasing, her wording makes you think as well as feel, a rare accomplishment. Others might take her for just an entertainer but this tape proves her designation as "Meistersinger"! VHF Addendum, a tape with quite a different feel than Candle, returns to a simpler form of rendition—fewer multiples, in track or voice or instrumentation. It's thoughtful in places, a quieter slice of song. Out of it, I would pick "Standin' in Your Shadow" to play to fans. A wry commentary on Martie's own writing proclivities, it serves as a statement on behalf of any number of other fan writers similarly enthralled, whether the subject is a Harrison Ford character or some other hero type. In "Sweet Satisfaction", you know you've met a woman who knows love, who has felt it and who expresses it fully with every creative fiber. "Wyoming Wind", a song for Tommy LiIlard, might have been sung for any wandering cowboy and reminds me, strongly and happily, of the best of the western pieces written by Canadian folk singers Ian Tyson and Sylvia Fricker.Spacer's Blues is exactly what it claims to be: a round of all the faces of blues, reminiscent of great blues pieces out of folk and pop. It's alternately the spacer and the women he's encountered in his star traveling. It's the sound of knowledge and experience—wry, slightly cynical about most things—except, perhaps, for the joyous coming together of lovers. "Sun Jumper" will make you shiver a little, I think. And one a capella piece, "The Slavers", is so infinitely sad that it wrenches the mind, to say nothing of the heart. "Silver Bell" has the same eerie, calling minors interspersed with warm, happy majors as the old traditional folk piece, "Blow the Candle Out". In "Arms of My Man", Martie again shows her poetic sense, the sweet flow of one line and phrase into the next. For poetic imagery to blow you away, try "Star Weaver". It's one, like so many others here and on earlier tapes, that requires you to listen with your mind as well as your ears. The addition of Carol Mally's able second guitar and vocal are positive pluses—on this and those other pieces where they're used. Considering the strength of Martie's solo performances, it's astonishing to find a voice and style so well matched and meshed with hers. I hope we'll be hearing more of this. In "Space Farin' Man", again you'll find a touch of the bawdy and funny, as it points up something Martie does with apparent effortlessness—this balancing, this touching of the heart and the head and the funny bone so that, when the tape is done, you come away with a feeling of having been filled to the brim, but not so full that you won't want to go back and do it all over again....