Joan Baez & Friends – Beacon Theatre, New York (2016)

FrontCover1Joan Baez is still the mother of us all. At the Beacon Theater, where she celebrated her 75th birthday on Wednesday evening with an all-star concert of duets, she was a quietly magnetic woman in charge. Radiating her characteristic maternal strength and easygoing humor, she projected the welcoming empathy of someone you can turn to in times of trouble. She looked terrific: trim and fit, with short silver hair and a wonderfully goofy smile.

That strength is embedded in a voice that has shrunk in range and power but conveys an embracing reassurance and solidity. Her upper register is all but gone, but her middle range, where she remained comfortably settled for most of the evening, was as warmly expressive as ever.

It wasn’t actually the birthday of this great folk-pop singer, who was born on Jan. 9, 1941. But why quibble? The concert, in which she sang with guests including Paul Simon, Judy Collins, Mavis Staples and Jackson Browne, was taped for the PBS series “Great Performances” to be broadcast in June.

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with David Crosby

For the live audience, the concert presented technical difficulties. Except for Ms. Baez, the singers were under-rehearsed and had trouble reading lyrics on a teleprompter at the back of the orchestra. The sound in this unusually quiet concert was passable at best. Too many of the duets were so glaringly out of tune that they will have to be redone or adjusted before the broadcast. A particularly embarrassing casualty was David Crosby, who was so confused he seemed barely present during his chaotic duet with Ms. Baez on the Beatles’ “Blackbird.”

The technical lapses suggested a depressing possibility: that as much as they’d like to continue, many folk singers (not Ms. Baez) can’t go on forever without losing vocal power, stamina or spirit. The younger guests — the Irish folk singer Damien Rice, the Chilean singer Nano Stern — gave the show a shot of adrenaline and passion it desperately needed.

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with Damien Rice

The all-acoustic concert began with strong, steady performances by Ms. Baez, accompanying herself on guitar, of Steve Earle’s “God Is God” and the great Phil Ochs song “There but for Fortune.” The parade of guests began with David Bromberg and continued with Mr. Crosby, Mr. Rice, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Emmylou Harris, who recalled that while growing up she wanted to be Ms. Baez.

Mr. Browne, playing the piano, sang his prophetic ’70s anthem “Before the Deluge” with Ms. Baez, who glumly observed that “as we head into the abyss” this expression of apocalyptic foreboding is even more relevant today than when it was written. A weary sense of impending doom was a persistent undercurrent throughout a concert that tried and mostly failed to conjure a ’60s-style inspirational fervor. Ms. Staples, 76, came close in her duets with Ms. Baez of “Oh, Freedom” and “Turn Me Around.”

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with Paul Simon

Ms. Baez’s duets with Richard Thompson on “House of the Rising Sun,” arranged as a waltz, and his original song “She Never Could Resist a Winding Road,” were stronger. Late in the evening, Mr. Simon sang a low-keyed rendition of “The Boxer” with Ms. Baez. The concert’s final number was her solo rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young,” a trite song that mocks baby-boomer narcissism.

The appearance of Mr. Stern lent the concert its only moment of genuine excitement. That 30-year-old Chilean singer and guitarist infused the theme song of the Argentine diva Mercedes Sosa, “Gracias a la Vida,” written by Violeta Parra, with an incandescent verve and spirit. It is the title song of Ms. Baez’s mostly Spanish 1974 album. As he and Ms. Baez sang it, their performance generated the kind of lightning you might have experienced at a joyful ’60s hootenanny when everything seemed possible and hope was in the air.

For a moment, the hush of depression lifted, the generational sense of defeat abated, and the concert came thrillingly alive.

wNanoSternwith Nano Stern

To celebrate her 75th birthday, Joan Baez held a concert at the Beacon Theatre in New York; the guests included Jackson Browne, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Judy Collins, Emmylou Harris, Indigo Girls, Damien Rice, Paul Simon, Mavis Staples, Nano Stern and Richard Thompson.

Joan Baez remains an icon of the Sixties folk revival, one of the movement’s foremost architects and a lifelong champion of vernacular musical tradition. So despite the grand setting and fancy roster of artists, Wednesday’s show was, true to spirit, a folk concert through and through, full of spontaneous sing-alongs and impromptu lyrical ad-libs, and with nary a single electric guitar to be found onstage. (by Rolling Stone)

Recorded live at the Beacon Theatre, New York, NY; January 27, 2016
Very good audio (ripped from HDTV – Arte HD – broadcast).

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with Judy Collins

Tracklist:
01. God Is God (Earle) 3.35
02. There But For Fortune (Ochs) 4.34
03. Blackbird (with David Crosby) (Lennon/McCartney)) 3.20
04. Catch the Wind (with Mary Chapin Carpenter) (Leitch) 4.01
05. Hard Times Come Again No More (with Emmylou Harris) (Foster) 5.30
06. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (Traditional) 3.50
07. Oh, Freedom (with Mavis Staples) (Traditional) 2.46
08. Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around (with Mavis Staples) (Traditional) 3.39
09. The Water Is Wide (with The Indigo Girls and Mary Chapin Carpenter) (Traditional) 4.54
10. She Moved Through The Fair (with Damien Rice) (Traditional) 5.41
11. She Never Could Resist A Winding Road (with Richard Thompson) (Thompson) 3.39
12. Before The Deluge (with Jackson Browne) (Browne) 6.38
13. Diamonds And Rust (with Judy Collins) (Baez) 5.44
14. Gracias a la vida (with Nano Stern) (Parra) 6.21
15. The Boxer (with Paul Simon and Richard Thompson) 7:26 (Simon) 7.26
16. Forever Young (Dylan) 4.31

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with Jackson Brown + Emmylou Harris

 

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Emmylou Harris – The Ballad Of Sally Rose (1985)

FrontCover1This is one of the most intriguing albums of Emmylou Harris’ career, and that is saying a lot. It marked the first album where she wrote or co-wrote all the songs, and the strength of the songwriting makes one wonder why she had never attempted it before. One can tell that this album is truly a labor of love, as it is a semi-autobiographical concept album that she also co-produced. It tells the story of a girl from a small town who gets taken under the wing of singer that takes her (and her angelic voice) out on the road. (The story mirrors her relationship with Gram Parsons, although it is a fictional account of the life of another woman.) As a concept album, it only partly holds together; one must read the liner notes to get a true feeling for the story. However, Emmylou Harris sounds particularly inspired, and the songs themselves are strong both musically and lyrically. As expected, she truly shines on the slower ballads such as “Diamond in My Crown” and the closer “Sweet Chariot.” While not essential for casual fans, it is an interesting album worth tracking down for Emmylou Harris fans. (by Vik Iyengar)

BackCoverPersonnel:
Steve Cash (harmonica)
Barbara Cowart (background vocals)
Gail Davies (background vocals)
Hank DeVito (guitar, dobro, pedal steel.guitar)
Philip Donnelly (guitar)
Bessyl Duhon (accordion)
Ray Flacke (guitar)
Vince Gill (guitar, background vocals)
Emory Gordy (bass, guitar)
Emmylou Harris (vocals, guitar)
John Jarvis (keyboards)
Waylon Jennings (guitar, vocals)
Shane Keister  (keyboards)
Paul Kennerley (guitar)
Russ Kunkel (drums)
Albert Lee (guitar, mandolin, vocals)
Larrie Londin (drums, percussion)
Dolly Parton (background vocals)
Tom Roady (percussion)
Linda Ronstadt (background vocals)
Gary Scruggs (harmonica)
Buddy Spicher (fiddle)
Barry Tashian (guitar)
Barry Tashian (vocals)
Holly Tashian (vocals)
Bobby Thompson (banjo, guitar)

BackCover1Tracklist:
01. The Ballad Of Sally Rose (Harris/Kennerley) 2.47
02. Rhythm Guitar (Harris/Kennerley) 3.19
03. I Think I Love Him/You Are My Flower/Heart To Heart (Harris/Kennerley/Carter) 3.29
04. Woman Walk The Line (Harris/Kennerley)     4:06
05. Bad News (Harris/Kennerley) 1.48
06. Timberline (Harris/Kennerley) 2.52
07. Long Tall Sally Rose (Harris/Kennerley) 1.35
08. White Line (Harris/Kennerley) 3.43
09. Diamond In My Crown (Harris/Kennerley) 2.58
10. The Sweetheart Of The Rodeo (Harris/Kennerley) 3.42
11. K-S-O-S (Instrumental Medley): 2.50
11.1. Ring Of Fire (Carter/Kilgore)
11.2. Wildwood Flower (Carter)
11.3. Six Days On The Road (Greene/Montgomery)
12. Sweet Chariot (Harris/Kennerley) 2.59

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Booklet02A

Gustavo Santaolalla & Various Artists – Brokeback Mountain (OST) (2005)

FrontCover1What is most notable about the soundtrack to Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain is the original score by Argentinian music wizard Gustavo Santaolalla (producer of the grand Café Tacuba recordings and a songwriter in his own right, as evidenced by his two albums, Gas and Ronroco). His interludes and cues evoke the very landscape that Lee portrays in his film, but there are also some fine vocal performances by a star-studded cast of singers. Willie Nelson’s read of “He Was a Friend of Mine,” complete with squeezebox and layered acoustic guitars, is gorgeous. Emmylou Harris’ performance of Santaolalla and Bernie Taupin’s “A Love That Will Never Grow Old” is simple, spare, and poignant. The shuffling honky tonk ballad that Santaolalla wrote for Mary McBride, with its crying pedal steel, hits close to the bone and evokes Patsy Cline. Likewise, the hard-driving country of “I Will Never Let You Go,” written for Jackie Greene, Still01is tough and tender. Santaolalla’s cues, like the best of Ry Cooder’s film scores, touch the film’s scenery, move its narrative, and pricelessly frame it in time. Teddy Thompson and Rufus Wainwright team for a throwaway country-swing version of Roger Miller’s “King of the Road,” but Thompson does a fine job on the Santaolalla and Taupin tune “I Don’t Want to Say Goodbye,” which is as heartbroken a ballad as one is likely to hear. This is an utterly wonderful soundtrack that could have done without Linda Ronstadt’s version of Buddy Holly’s “It’s So Easy,” Steve Earle’s “The Devil’s Right Hand,” or even Wainwright’s “The Maker Makes,” but this is a small complaint. (by Thom Jurek)

Still02Tracklist:
01. Gustavo Santaolalla: Opening (Santaolalla) 1.31
02. Willie Nelson: He Was A Friend Of Mine (Dylan) 4.39
03. Gustavo Santaolalla: Brokeback Mountain 1 (Santaolalla) 2.32
04. Emmylou Harris: A Love That Will Never Grow Old (Santaolalla/Taupin) 3.20
05. Teddy Thompson & Rufus Wainwright: King Of The Road (Miller) 2.52
06. Gustavo Santaolalla: Snow (Santaolalla) 1.18
07. Steve Earle: The Devil’s Right Hand (Santaolalla(Earle) 2.34
08. Mary McBride: No One’s Gonna Love You Like Me (Santaolalla) 3.06
09. Gustavo Santaolalla: Brokeback Mountain 2 (Santaolalla) 1.59
10. Teddy Thompson: I Don’t Want To Say Goodbye (Santaolalla/Taupin) 3.12
11. Jackie Greene: I Will Never Let You Go (Santaolalla/Spillman) 1.55
12. Gustavo Santaolalla: Riding Horses (Santaolalla) 1.24
13. Gas Band: An Angel Went Up in Flames (Santaolalla) 2.36
14. Linda Ronstadt: It’s So Easy (Holly/Petty) 2.27
15. Gustavo Santaolalla: Brokeback Mountain 3 (Santaolalla) 2.14
16. Rufus Wainwright: The Maker Makes (Santaolalla/Wainwright) 3.50
17. Gustavo Santaolalla: The Wings (Santaolalla) 1.52

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