Featuring work recorded in the 1960s and early '70s, this collection presents many of folk singer Joan Baez's finest moments, including socially conscious songs ("I Pity the Poor Immigrant") and cover tunes (Bob Dylan's "It's All Over Now Baby Blue," Kris Kristofferson's "Help Me Make It Through the Night").
Fourteen songs may or may not represent the ideal introduction to Joan Baez's 12 years at the Vanguard label, but there is no arguing with their resonance. This is Baez 101, rounding up all her hits (bar, mercifully, "Little Drummer Boy"), while showcasing the sheer versatility that she packed into the first decade-plus of her career. Who else, after all, could take "Let It Be" and "Help Me Make It Through the Night" and render something new and beautiful from either? Likewise, she remains the most evocative interpreter Bob Dylan ever had, and the opening "It's All Over Now Baby Blue" is a true tour de force. Of course, the album's brevity ensures it will be of little interest to any but the most casual listener, but within those limitations, it does its job with effortless grace. ~ Dave Thompson
Amazing how Ian and Sylvia's music, which some purists once foolishly dissed as too slick and commercial-sounding to pass the authenticity test, holds up more than three decades after the passing of the folk revival that brought them out of Canada and onto the international stage. Ian Tyson, once again a significant figure on the folk scene, is today the undisputed king of the new cowboy music. Probably he has fans who've never heard, or even heard of, the songs he and partner, subsequent wife, and finally ex-wife Sylvia Fricker Tyson recorded in the 1960s. This generally well-chosen set, taken from their classic Vanguard recordings, is a chance to hear the duo, depending on where you're coming from, for the first or yet one more time. There's a good mix of the couple's originals, including hits such as "You Were on My Mind," "Four Strong Winds," and "Some Day Soon," covers of Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Johnny Cash, Phil Ochs (whose "Changes" is a highlight here), and Bob Dylan, and traditional songs and ballads. Among these last are the gorgeous French-Canadian "Un Canadien Errant" and an affecting rendition of the Caribbean sailor's lament "Mary Ann," plus solid readings of Anglo-Celtic-American standards "Nancy Whiskey," "Katy Dear," and "The Greenwood Sidie." On the other hand, "Rocks and Gravel," from the African-American prison-song tradition, needs more vocal heft than the Tysons are able to bring to it. Among the newer material David Rea's pretentious "Ninety Degrees by Ninety Degrees" makes an unwelcome reappearance. Ian's "Play One More," surely his most uninspired composition (hobbled, moreover, with a clumsy arrangement), comes inexplicably out of moth balls, leaving the listener to wonder why a neglected masterpiece like "Four Rode by" was left hanging in the closet. On the other hand, another overlooked jewel, "The Renegade," among the finest of the many splendid songs Ian has composed, is here in all its tragic glory. All in all, with the exceptions noted, this is music built to last.
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