This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 9/04
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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This release is alternately titled "Great American Song Series
Vol. 1" as it features favorite songs selected and sung by 60s folk icon Eric
Anderson so as to introduce or re-introduce them to current folk music
Some are familiar, primarily the anti-war anthems. But many are not, at least to these ears.
Also, there is a delineation to the offerings between those of
social commentary and more personal cuts, which
mirrors the spectrum of both folk music of the 60's and today's.
The snapshots on society and the world begin with Buffy
Saint-Marie's war weary "Universal Soldier,"
unfortunately as applicable today as it was when first released. Dusted
off and with electric guitar-driven backing, it proves as
compelling as ever.
Phil Ochs' anthem-like "I Ain't Marching Anymore" acts like a
companion piece to "Universal Soldier," utilizing a catchy combination
of percussion, electric guitar and most intriguingly, Uilleann pipes.
Ochs reappears with the Vietnam era "White Boots Marching In A
Yellow Land." Anderson brought in additional lyrics written by Robert
Aaron and Wyclef Jean, updating the tune in such a way that "White
Boots Marching Into A Sandy Land" could be an applicable title.
Bob Dylan's oblique, armageddon-like "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" is given a bluesey sheen via electric and slide guitars.
Peter LaFarge's "Johnny Half-Breed" tells a poignant tale of
racial discrimination but the songwriting isn't quite at the level of
the other cuts in this category.
Listening to this particular set leads to the question: where are the timely poets the likes of Phil Ochs and Buffy Sainte-Maries today? Actually, they do exist so the question is moot. Maybe the more appropriate inquiry is why is any artist who creates "inappropriate noise" (as opposed to jingoistic patriotism) condemned to the far left (ironic, isn't it) of the FM radio dial and most definitely will not appear on any Clear Channel pre-approved playlists.
Does this connote 40 year or progress, or blatant regression?
The other side of this offering are the more introspective
cuts. Given the near-impossible task of matching up to the
emotion-laden protest tunes, these stood out: Paul Siebel's poignant
"Louise," covered by Bonnie Raitt and others, and David Blue's "These
23 Days In September," which, believe it or not, brought to mind how much fun Mick
Jagger and the Stones could have with this tune.
Anderson slips in two of his own compositions, the touching
"Waves Of Freedom" and "The Street Was Always There," a personal hymn
applicable to so many who grew up in the 60's:
"...Thinking we could change the world
Before the world changed us
Believing that the path to love
Was the path that would free us..."
Is such altruistic seeking simply dismissed today as the
desires of 'girlymen,' in the case of males, or probably more
derogatorily, for females? The past, the 60's and 70's in this case,
was by no means perfect but it seemed like a lot more people, in
and out of government, were selflessly trying to make the world better and were heralded, not belittled, for it.
Andersen's voice has obviously aged since he first came upon
the folk scene but that maturity wraps an aura of wisdom around these
songs first sung by earnest 20-year-olds.
A final note: the liner notes are wonderfully laden with interesting
details about the songs and the time of their genesis. Lyrics would have also been a nice touch.
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