Starting off this twin cd set of work comprising of 49 tracks we have the little heard demo-like recordings prior to her official Vanguard debut albums, Joan Baez Vol, 1 and Vol2 from 1960 and 1961, respectively when as a teenager she went to California to record in San Francisco a dozen songs of traditional fare and record covers of hits of the day. Interesting enough but other than stand up and sing there was little effort put into the recordings other than her own. As for those of 1959 (Folksingers ‘Round Harvard Square) little better, her duets with Bill Wood no more than modest. It is of little wonder she had the release of the former work in 1963 soon withdrawn. For not only had the label, Fantasy jumped on the coat tail of the young Baez’s Vanguard success but put out material damaging to her reputation. Hence, I would cite the work as interesting and largely for fans of longstanding though promise is present for the world to see!
After getting the above out of the way Baez’s beautiful soprano gets into full stride for her Vanguard debut, and though still only 19 the poise and understated beauty of her work 50 years on it is still held in the highest possible regard. The benchmark for budding folk acts if you like. Such is her composure and purity of her voice. Aided by the second guitar of Fred Hellerman, founder member of The Weavers she eases through traditional songs of English and Scottish origin that made it over to the Appalachians plus a couple of Negro spirituals to go with her Spanish version of ‘The Ninth Prisoner’. As for highlights the working of Carter Family favourite ‘Wildwood Flower’ and ‘Rake And Rambling Boy’ aren’t as stiff as most hence more are more entertaining. Vol, 2 is pretty much as before only the material is more fluent as Baez rattles off fantastic versions of ‘Pal Of Mine’, ‘Banks of The Ohio’ (both feature New York’s folk trio, The Greenbriar Boys; John Herald, Ralph Rinzler and Bob Yellin), ‘Lily Of The West’ and arguably her finest of the era, ‘Engine 143’ (a song that speaks of a tragic train wreck) and a dashing version of ‘Old Blue’. The self same song The Dillards would later record and give mention to Baez whenever they performed it live and pass comment concerning she wasn’t brought up in the country where they used to have no indoor plumbing! To close she performs a version of ‘Plaisir D’Amour’ pure enough to make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. So serene and amazingly beautiful is the piece.
After this releases will we be seeing more of Baez and those of her era?
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