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Politics and staying power - a rare combination!
David A. Bede | Singapore | 08/16/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Live albums don't usually stay in my rotation for too long, and only the best overtly political material stays fresh in my experience. So I'm surprised at how much I still like "Live For the Record" after nearly four years. As you know if you've been to a Tom Paxton concert in recent years, he starts off his concerts with what he calls "short shelf-life" songs - brief songs about current events that are, in his own words, "of diminishing interest to us all." This disc opens with a clutch of such songs on mid-1990s people and events such as Lorena Bobbitt, Bob Packwood and the 104th Congress; they do sound dated now, but they're still good for a laugh. More seriously, "On the Road to Sribinica" is the most positively haunting of the few Bosnia songs I've heard; this alone is worth the price of the disc. From there, Paxton switches back and forth with remarkable ease from the serious to the sentimental to the hilarious, a skill which has always been his strongest point as a songwriter and performer. His band is in fine form throughout the show; it's often hard to believe this was a live recording! There are great renditions of most of his classics ("The Last Thing on my Mind," "Can't Help But Wonder Where I'm Bound," "Ramblin' Boy") as well as his trademark lovesongs ("Dance in the Kitchen," "You Are Love") and satire ("Modern Maturity" and an updating of "What Did You Learn in School?" that never fails to make my Republican friends angry!) If I have one criticism of this collection, it is that Paxton seems to draw only from his earliest works and his most recent ones for his concerts. He made an awful lot of great music in the midst of his career that is not in evidence at all here, but that doesn't take away from the first rate job he does on the songs he has chosen. Along with the Elektra Years compilation, this is probably the most essential single Paxton album."