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Greatest Songs of
Genres: Country, Blues, Folk, Pop, Rock
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Woody Guthrie's colleagues make a tribute album in 1972
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 08/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are two reasons why calling this album "The Greatest Songs of Woody Guthrie" rather than some variation on the greatest hits idea makes sense. First, Guthrie was out singing these songs before there ever were any Billboard charts to help defiine exactly what constituted a hit. Second, although this album starts with Guthrie himself singing "This Land Is Your Land," clearly his most famous and most popular song, the track shifts to the song being sung by the Weavers. Guthrie sings a few songs and few duets, but mostly his songs are sung by other artists. So what we have here is a tribute album, originally a double-album now on a single CD, that represents some of the best first and second generation folk singers who followed in the path blazed by America's troubadour.
The first generation would be those artists that actually got to play with Guthrie, which would be not only the Weavers with Pete Seeger (the artist who most closely followed in Guthrie's footsteps), but also Cisco Houston, Sonny Terry and Ramblin' Jack Elliott. The next generation is represented on the album by Odetta, Joan Baez, and Country Joe McDonald. Yes, there is an authenticity to hearing Guthrie sing his songs that nobody else can touch, but there is something to be said for other artists replacing his rawness with more of the inherent beauty of his songs (the same way Peter, Paul & Mary did for Bob Dylan). The track information above is incomplete, so here is who sings what on "The Greatest Songs of Woody Guthrie":
1. "This Land Is Your Land" by Woody Guthrie/The Weavers
2. "Do Re Mi" by Cisco Houston
3. "So Long, It's Been Good To Know Yuh" by The Weavers
4. "Pastures Of Plenty" by Odetta
5. "Deportee (Plane Wreck At Los Gatos)" by Cisco Houston
6. "900 Miles" by Cisco Houston
7. "Roll On Columbia" by Country Joe McDonald
8. "Hard, Ain't It Hard" by Woody Guthrie & Cisco Houston
9. "Dirty Overhalls" by Woody Guthrie
10. "Riding In My Car (Take Me)" by Woody Guthrie
11. "Ship In The Sky" by Cisco Houston
12. "The Sinking Of The Reuben James" by The Weavers
13. "Rambling Round Your City" by Odetta
14. "Jesus Christ" by Cisco Houston
15. "When The Curfew Blows" by Country Joe McDonald
16. "1913 Massacre" by Ramblin' Jack Elliott
17. "Talking Fishing Blues" by Ramblin' Jack Elliott
18. "Curly Headed Baby" by Cisco Houston
19. "Jackhammer John" by The Weavers
20. "The Great Historical Bum" by Odetta
21. "Pretty Boy Floyd" by Joan Baez
22. "Buffalo Skinners" by Jim Kweskin
23. "Hard Travelin'" by Woody Guthrie, Cisco Houston & Sonny Terry
My favorite track is Odetta's "Pastures of Plenty," simply because it best represents how far you can go with Guthrie's music from its folk roots and make it work. When you listen to Cisco Houston do "Do-Re-Mi" you are moving a notch up on the authenticity level, and with the Weavers singing "So Long (It's Been Good to Know You)" and "Jackhammer John" you get a real sense of how these songs were popularized. Of course, everytime you actually get to hear Guthrie sing on one of these tracks, such as the duet with Houston on "Hard, Ain't It Hard" you want to go listen to one of Guthrie's own albums, so those tracks tend to be a bit intrusive given the overall theme of the album.
Not everything will sit just right with you. The tempo of Country Joe McDonald's "Roll On Columbia" is just too slow for me, and I have to admit I was surprised that Joan Baez is not the one singing "Deportee," because her cover of that song is one of her better ones. But you look over the play list and it becomes clear that the old vanguard is not letting the new kids have many bites of the apple here (strange to think that in 1972 when this album first came out that Baez would be restricted to the second tier on an album like this). But whatever faults you might find with some of the tracks, the overall idea and execution and exactly what you would want to find on an album like this. There are several solid Woody Guthrie tribute albums, and this would have to be considered one of them."
John Charman | Houston Texas | 04/11/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I was very dissappointed with this CD.
It is only the "songs of" - very few sung by Woody himself.
Not what I was seeking - a CD by Woody alone.
Buyers should check this CD out very carefully first, make sure the artists and songs are what you want."