Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A MUSICAL EDUCATION IN 1001 STEPS - PT 24

Joan Baez - Joan Baez (1960)

Only 23 albums and we're already switching decades! That means the 50's only got... let's see... 23 out of 1001... carry the three... 2.39 percent of the slots available! Oh well. Time marches on, and so must we, if we're expecting to finish this exercise. That means no quibbling over minor details like the one I just spent five minutes quibbling over.

Now, on to Joan Baez. I recently mentioned how Joan, Willie Nelson, Jim Croce and Ray Charles were erstwhile companions on a couple of family cross-country driving trips, thanks to their "Best Of" tapes being the only listening material in the car other than the radio. So I do harbor a certain fondness for her peculiar, warbling, high-pitched vocal stylings, occasionally in spite of my own better judgement. Of course, at the time I had no idea about her relationship with Bob Dylan (which spawned one of the most bitter breakup songs ever in "Diamonds and Rust") or the fact that she borrowed her falsetto/vibrato/rubato technique wholesale from Cambridge folkie Debbie Green. But that hardly seems to matter at this point, especially considering many of these songs were centuries old by the time they were recorded.

Fifty years later, is this material still worth a listen? I would say yes. It's definitely not as vital or immanent as it used to be - its time, politically speaking, having come, gone and left a whole lotta ugly t-shirts (not to mention busted bongs and a scattering of syringes). But there is artistry worth considering, here, and some of the selections are deeply moving. Give it a listen and see for yourself.

Had I heard it before? Most of it.
Did I like it then? Yes.
Do I like it now? Slightly less so.
Am I keeping it? Only the Standout Tracks.
Standout Tracks? "Silver Dagger", "All My Trials", "Wildwood Flower", "John Riley", "Girl of Constant Sorrow" (yes, the O! Brother Where Art Thou? song)

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