Tuesday, June 26, 2007

now playing: Joan Baez

Joan Baez: Vanguard Visionaries

In the early days of the folk music revival, and for some years beyond, the people at Vanguard did something unusual -- they treated recording of folk and pop music with as much care as they gave to the sound quality of their classical music catalogue. One result of that is an extensive and fine sounding range of archival material, which they’ve mined in various ways over the years. This summer, they’ve chosen thirty artists to be featured as Vanguard Visionaries, each represented by a budget priced CD with minimal liner notes. This approach forces the listener to focus on the music, and as part of the impetus of this collection is to make connection between these artists and those more recently in the mainstream, that’s likely a wise choice -- this series is intended to open doors, and ears, rather than offer extensive narrative about the music.

Joan Baez was perhaps Vanguard’s flagship folk artist, with nearly two dozen albums to her credit on the label. Compilation producer Vince Hans has done an excellent job of selecting ten sides from all that material, songs which represent the range and breadth of the music Baez chose, and the range of he musical styles as well. These choices inlcude Silver Dagger and Mary Hamilton from the Appalachian and Anglo folk tradition, Birmingham Sunday form the Civil Rights times, Long Black Veil from the country side of things, and of course Dylan, represented by Love Is Just a Four Letter Word and Farewell, Angelina. The collection closes, fittingly enough, with Hickory Wind, a song long associated with its writer, Gram Parsons, and taken into progressive country territory in subsequent years by a woman who was influenced by both Baez and Parsons, Emmylou Harris.

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


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