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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Richard Thompson – Amnesia (1988)

FrontCover1Amnesia is the fifth studio album by Richard Thompson, recorded and released in 1988.

After Across a Crowded Room and Daring Adventures had not troubled the compilers of hit parades, Polydor declined their option to renew their contract with Thompson. Thompson’s then manager Gary Stamler negotiated a deal with Capitol Records and Thompson cut his first album for his new label in 1988.

This was a good time for Thompson to be at Capitol. The label was managed by Hale Milgrim at the time and Milgrim was a fan of Thompson and his work. Thus Capitol invested more money and effort into promoting Thompson than had been the case in the past and with other labels.

Mitchell Froom was retained as producer, and the album was again recorded in Los Angeles with American session musicians providing most of the backing. Thompson still used British players to lend specifically British touches to some songs. In particular long-time collaborators John Kirkpatrick, Aly Bain and Philip Pickett are used, and members of the Fairey Engineering Band provide a brass backing to I Still Dream that owes more to the Salvation Army than it does to Memphis or any other American centre of music.

The album was well received by the music press, and sales, whilst not stellar, were boosted by Capitol’s commitment to promoting artist and album. (by wikipedia)

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Ho-hum, another first-rate Richard Thompson album. Since he left the pioneer folk-rock unit Fairport Convention in the early Seventies, the British guitarist, songwriter and singer has released record after record of emotionally explosive music featuring powerful deliberations on love, death and tradition.

On Amnesia, Thompson has the difficult task of following up 1986’s Daring Adventures, his strongest record since Shoot Out the Lights, his 1982 swan song with ex-wife Linda. Yet this is a worthy successor. On the album’s ten tracks, Thompson continues to wrestle with his usual obsessions, with the occasional new target thrown in (televangelists and Shirley MacLaine on the welcome, agitated “Jerusalem on the Jukebox,” American imperialists on “Yankee, Go Home”), allowing him to grapple in new ways. On almost every tune Thompson takes a deep breath, turns his amp up and spits out guitar flourishes that underline what he’s singing about without distracting from the song.

Thompson is that rare guitar hero: if he goes on sharp flights, it’s because the song gives him reason to do so. He’s not nonchalant about each new triumph — nor should we be. (by Jimmy Guterman)

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Personnel:
Alex Acuña (percussion)
Alistair Anderson (northumbrian pipes)
Aly Bain (fiddle)
Christine Collister (background vocals)
Mickey Curry (drums on 02., 03., 06. – 08.)
Mitchell Froom (organ, harp)
Tony Goddard (cornet)
Clive Gregson (background vocals)
David Horn (tenor horn)
Frances Kelly (baroque harp)
Jim Keltner (drums on 01., 04., 05. + 10.)
John Kirkpatrick (accordion, anglo-concertina, vocals)
Tony Levin (bass on 03., 06. + 08.)
Ian Peters (euphonium)
Philip Pickett (shawm, recorder)
Jerry Scheff (bass on 01., 02., 04., 05., 07. + 10.)
Fred Tackett (guitar)
Brian Taylor (cornet)
Danny Thompson (bass)
Richard Thompson (guitar, vocals, mandolin, hammer dulcimer)

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Tracklist:
01. Turning Of The Tide 2.55
02. Gypsy Love Songs 6.14
03. Reckless Kind 4.23
04. Jerusalem On The Jukebox 4.08
05. I Still Dream 5.09
06. Don’t Tempt Me 3.35
07. Yankee, Go Home 3.05
08. Can’t Win 5.28
09. Waltzing’s For Dreamers 4.06
10. Pharaoh 4.24

All songs written by Richard Thompson

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