Folk

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Mahir Ali

75th Birth­day Cel­e­bra­tion Joan Baez Ra­zor & Tie/Planet Last Jan­uary, just weeks af­ter Joan Baez turned 75, a bunch of friends turned up at the Bea­con Theatre in New York to help her cel­e­brate. This dou­ble al­bum es­tab­lishes be­yond rea­son­able doubt that the evening was no trite ex­er­cise in nos­tal­gia, even though there is plenty here to rekin­dle all man­ner of me­mories. The guest list, rang­ing from David Bromberg, David Crosby, Em­my­lou Har­ris and Jack­son Browne to Richard Thomp­son, Judy Collins and Paul Si­mon, is pretty amaz­ing in it­self, but the per­for­mances are even more im­pres­sive. What’s more, al­though the set list is pep­pered with peren­nial Baez favourites, from Phil Ochs’s There But for For­tune to Bob Dy­lan’s For­ever Young, it also con­tains some songs she has never be­fore of­fi­cially recorded. Th­ese in­clude El­iz­a­beth Cot­ten’s Freight Train, with Bromberg pro­vid­ing ac­com­pa­ni­ment, a charm­ing duet with Crosby on the Len­non-McCart­ney gem Black­bird, and Thomp­son’s She Never Could Re­sist a Wind­ing Road, which Baez sug­gests will be in­cluded on her next stu­dio al­bum, with the English singer-song­writer en­dors­ing the choice by adding his voice and gui­tar. It’s hard to pick a stand­out among this se­lec­tion, but the ac­co­lade could go to the a cap­pella ren­di­tion of civil rights-era spir­i­tu­als Oh, Free­dom and Ain’t Gonna Let No­body Turn Me Around, fea­tur­ing the amaz­ing Mavis Sta­ples. Nor are all the guest per­form­ers of Baez’s vin­tage. She teams up with Mary Chapin Car­pen­ter to de­liver a de­light­ful ver­sion of Dono­van’s Catch the Wind, and Chapin Car­pen­ter is on hand again, along­side the Indigo Girls, for ex­quis­ite har­monies on The Wa­ter is Wide. Singer-song­writer Damien Rice turns up to add a dis­tinc­tively Ir­ish flavour to She Moved Through the Fair, while his Chilean equiv­a­lent Nano Stern is on hand to breathe new life into Vi­o­leta Parra’s gor­geously up­lift­ing Gracias a la Vida. Har­ris lends her vo­cals to Stephen Foster’s Hard Times Come Again No More and is joined by Browne for three-part har­monies on Woody Guthrie’s De­por­tee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos). Browne is again on hand for his Be­fore the Del­uge, in­tro­duced by Baez as a song ar­guably even more rel­e­vant to­day than when it was com­posed. Thomp­son and Bromberg are both on hand for House of the Ris­ing Sun, the only song that Baez’s and Dy­lan’s first of­fi­cial re­leases fea­tured in com­mon about 55 years ago. On Di­a­monds & Rust, Collins demon­strates she can lift a note higher and sus­tain it longer than her host and con­tem­po­rary. Baez saves the best — or at least the “truly leg­endary”, as she puts it — for last: a gra­cious-sound­ing Si­mon ev­i­dently takes plea­sure in har­mon­is­ing with her on The Boxer, which is fol­lowed by The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down. For­ever Young serves as a poignant, if pre­dictable, en­core, wrap­ping up a de­light­fully mov­ing live record­ing fans no doubt will be in­clined to re­visit from time to time for decades to come.

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