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.