Saturday, 13 June 2015

"The Greenwich Village FOLK SCENE - Original Album Series" by VARIOUS ARTISTS (2015 Warners Music Group/Elektra 5CD Box) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Bleecker and MacDougal..." 

A genius release in many ways - with the big prize for Acoustic Folk Blues lovers and collectors being the first-time-on-CD reissue of the hugely influential "The Blues Project" album on Elektra Records from 1964 (and what a winner it is). There's a sea of goodies on offer here and many illustrious guests - so let's get to the gory details...

UK released Monday 23 February 2015 (March 2015 in the USA) - "The Greenwich Village FOLK SCENE" in the Original Album Series (by Various Artists) on Warner Music Group/Elektra 8122795661 (Barcode 081227956615) is a 5CD Mini Box Set with 5" Card Repro Sleeves and breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 (37:33 minutes):
1. Take Your Fingers Off Of It
2. Come On In
3. Mandolin King Rag
4. Overseas Stomp
5. Evolution Mama
6. The Even Dozens
7. I Don't Love Nobody
8. Rag Mama [Side 2]
9. France Blues
10. On The Road Again
11. Original Colossal Drag Rag
12. All Worn Out
13. Lonely One In This Town
14. Sadie Green
Tracks 1 to 14 are the album "The Even Dozen Jug Band" by THE EVEN DOZEN JUG BAND released 1964 in the USA on Elektra EKL 246 (Mono) and EKS 7246 (Stereo). It was also belatedly issued in the UK on Bounty BY 6023 in 1966 (Stereo only). The Stereo mix is used for the CD and the master is probably the 2001 Rhino/Collector's Choice Music remaster. Produced by Paul A Rothchild - the Americana group contained Pete Jacobson, John Sebastian (credited as John Benson) who formed The Loving Spoonful, Steve Katz who went on form Blood, Sweat & Tears with Al Kooper, virtuoso guitarist Stefan Grossman, keyboardist and conductor Joshua Rifkin and Maria Muldaur (then Maria D'Amato - she's visible on the album sleeve sat on the wall to the far left with a guitar).
Pete Jacobson plays Guitar on 3, 5, 10 and 13 and sings Lead Vocals on 5, 8 and 12
Pete Siegel plays Guitar on 1 and 14, Banjo on 1, 4 and 14 and sings Lead Vocals on 1, 7, 10 and 13
Stefan Grossman plays Guitar on 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9, 12 and 14, Banjo on 3, 5 and 11 and sings Lead Vocals with Bob Gurland on 1
John Sebastian plays Harmonica on 9, 10 and 13 and plays Kazoo on 11
Steve Katz sings on 2, 4, 9, 10 and 14 and plays Washboard on 1, 3 and 13
Josh Rifkin plays Piano on 5, 6, 8, 11 and 14 and sings backing Vocals on 5 and 12
Maria Muldaur (as Maria D'Amato) sings Backing Vocals on 2, 4 and 9
Bob Gurland plays Trumpet on 1, 5, 7, 8 and 11 and sings Lead Vocals on 1

Disc 2 (48:08 minutes):
1. Fixin' To Die - DAVE RAY (Bukka White cover)
2. Blow Whistle Blow - ERIC VON SCHMIDT (Margaret Johnson cover)
3. My Little Woman - (SPIDER) JOHN KOERNER (Koerner song)
4. Ginger Man - GEOFF MULDAUR (Geoff Muldaur song)
5. Bad Dream Blues - DAVE VAN RONK (Van Ronk song)
6. Winding Boy - IAN BUCHANAN (Jelly Roll Morton cover)
7. I'm Troubled - DANNY KALB (a Muddy Waters cover)
8. France Blues - MARK SPOELSTRA (Spoelstra song)
9. Don't You Leave Me - DAVE VAN RONK (Jelly Roll Morton cover) [Side 2]
10. Devil Got My Woman - GEOFF MULDAUR (Skip James cover)
11. Southbound Train - (SPIDER) JOHN KOERNER (Big Bill Broonzy cover)
12. Downtown Blues - GEOFF MULDAUR (Vera Hall Ward cover)
13. Leavin' Here Blues - DAVE RAY (Dave Ray song)
14. Hello Baby Blues - DANNY KALB (Kalb song)
15. She's Gone - MARK SPOELSTRA (Jim Jackson cover)
16. Slappin' On My Black Cat Bone - DAVE RAY (John Koerner song)
Tracks 1 to 16 are the LP "The Blues Project - A Compendium Of The Very Best On The Urban Blues Scene" by VARIOUS ARTISTS released 1964 in the USA on Elektra EKL 264 (mono) and EKS 7264 (Stereo). John Sebastian of The Lovin' Spoonful plays Harmonica on "Blow Whistle Blow", "I'm Troubled" and "Downtown Blues". Eric Von Schmidt plays Mandolin on "Devil Got My Woman" and Piano on "Downtown Blues". BOB DYLAN is credited as the fictitious Bob Landy and plays Treble Piano on "Downtown Blues". "Blow Whistle Blow" is a re-working of Margaret Johnson's "When A Gator Holler, Folks Say It's A Sign Of Rain". First time on CD for this rare and influential album (Stereo mix used) - the master from the disc is dated 2014 and is definitely remastered to a very high quality.

Disc 3 (50:47 minutes):
1. I Ain't Marching Anymore
2. In The Heat Of The Summer
3. Draft Dodger Rag
4. That's What I want To Hear
5. That Was The President
6. Iron Lady
7. The Highwayman
8. Links On The Chain [Side 2]
9. Hills Of West Virginia
10. The Men Behind The Guns
11. Talking Birmingham Jam
12. Ballad Of The Carpenter
13. Days Of Decision
14. Here's To The State Of Mississippi
Tracks 1 to 14 are the album "I Ain't Marching Anymore" by PHIL OCHS released 1965 in the USA on Elektra EKL 287 (Mono) and EKS 7287 (Stereo). Originally Produced by JAC HOLZMAN - all songs are written by Ochs except "The Highwayman" (a co-write with Alfred Noyce), "The Men Behind The Guns" (uses the words of John Rooney) and "Ballad Of The Carpenter" (a Ewan MacColl cover). The CD uses the 2001 Rhino/Elektra Bill Inglot/Dan Hersch Remaster of the Stereo mix and sounds beautiful.

Disc 4 (34:12 minutes):
1. Bleecker And MacDougal
2. Blues On The Ceiling
3. Sweet Mama
4. Little Bit Of Rain
5. Country Boy
6. Other Side To This Life
7. Mississippi Train
8. Travelin' Shoes [Side 2]
9. The Water Is Wide
10. Yonder Comes The Blues
11. Candy Man
12. Handful of Gimme
13. Gone Again
Tracks 1 to 13 are the album "Bleecker And MacDougal" by FRED NEIL  - released 1965 in the USA on Elektra EKL 293 (Mono) and EKS 7293 (Stereo). It was reissued Stateside in 1970 as "Little Bit Of Rain" on Elektra EKS 74073 in Stereo only and with a different cover. Originally Produced by PAUL A. ROTHCHILD - all songs are Fred Neil originals except the Traditional "The Water is Wide" and "Candy Man" which is a co-write with Beverley Ross and was made famous by Roy Orbison. John Sebastian of The Lovin' Spoonful plays Harmonica and Felix Pappalardi (later with Mountain and Joe Walsh's Barnstorm) plays Bass on many tracks. The CD uses the 2001 Rhino/Elektra Bill Inglot/Dan Hersch Remaster of the Stereo mix and sounds beautiful.

Disc 5 (37:18 minutes):
1. Ain't That News
2. The Willing Conscript
3. Lyndon Johnson Told The Nation
4. Hold On To Me Babe
5. The Name Of The Game Is Stud
6. Bottle Of Wine
7. The Natural Girl For Me
8. Goodman, Schwerner And Chaney [Side 2]
9. We Didn't Know
10. Buy A Gun For Your Son
11. Every Time
12. Georgie On The Freeways
13. Sully's Pail
14. I'm The Man Who Built The Bridges
Tracks 1 to 14 are the album "Ain't That News" by TOM PAXTON - released 1965 in the USA on Elektra Records EKL 298 (Mono) and EKS 7298 (Stereo). Produced by JAC HOLZMAN - all songs are written by Tom Paxton. Barry Kornfeld (of The Artie Kornfeld Tree) plays 2nd Guitar and Banjo with Felix Pappalardi on Bass. The CD uses the 2001 Rhino/Elektra Bill Inglot/Dan Hersch Remaster of the Stereo mix and sounds beautiful.

As is mostly the norm with this series - none of these discs have any extras and are straightforward transfers of the original vinyl LPs (with repro artwork front and rear). Each CD label lists the tracks along with Writer and Producer credits - a good idea because the 5" Repro Sleeves (although they look nice) are hard if not impossible to read. The Fred Neil, Phil Ochs and Tom Paxton albums turned up in October 2001 on the Rhino/Elektra "2 Elektra Classics" series of CD reissues with gorgeous Bill Inglot/Dan Hersch Remasters from original tapes - and to my ears those lovely transfers of the Stereo mixes have been used here. The Even Dozen Jug Band is probably the 2001 Rhino/Collector's Choice Music remaster and the Various Artists compilation "The Blues Project" is new - both of which are perfectly complimentary to the other three and both boasting wonderfully clear and full audio too.

Happy-wappy Jug Band Music arrives in the shape The Even Dozen Jug Band - all washboards, kazoos, banjos, mandolins and plucked acoustic guitars telling us tales of Tennessee Mamas talking about Evolution and "...gals after my money..." in "I Don't Love Nobody". It's blindingly great fun and sounds incredible given its vintage. But it gets quickly set aside for the real prize on here - "The Blues Project" album from 1964. This is sensational stuff - clued-up white singers keeping black Blues alive with a passion and a real sense of history changing. Each track features voices and acoustic guitars that have become legend in Folk Blues circles - Eric Von Schmidt, "Spider" John Koerner, Geoff Muldaur and Dave Von Ronk. None other than Bob Dylan hides behind the moniker of Bob Landy as he enters a piano duet with Eric Von Schmidt on "Downtown Blues" (the song also features John Sebastian of The Lovin' Spoonful on harmonica). Brilliant stuff. "The Blues Project" is the kind of CD that gives Americana a good name and will be a huge draw for enthusiasts.

"I must have killed a million they want me back again..." - Phil Ochs sings on the brilliant "I Ain't Marching Anymore" where he documents with just his voice, his guitar and his acidic words the senseless waste of war, the US military and the hated draft in a fractured Sixties America. Every track is simple and while he doesn't possess the most powerful of voices - his conviction and wit hammers through each tale of disillusioned youth riling against the man.

I can't be rational about Fred Neil (who can) - his "Bleecker & MacDougal" album is a masterpiece and the remaster on tracks like "Gone Again", "Handful Of Gimme" and "Travellin' Shoes" is just stupendous (each features John Sebastian on Harmonica and Felix Pappalardi of Mountain and Joe Walsh's Barnstorm on Bass). His cover of the Traditional "The Water Is Wide" is about as lovely as Sixties US Folk gets - again with Sebastian warbling so beautifully in the background on his Harmonica lending the song a genuine beauty.

The politically loaded Tom Paxton album tells us about "...people opening up their eyes..." as the US President sends him a letter telling him it's "...time to put your khaki trousers on...we are sending you to Vietnam..." Relationships come into play on the lovely "Hold On To Me Babe" and the pure Folk of "Ev'ry Time (When We Are Gone)" both sounding like early Leonard Cohen. He ends it with the banjo dance of "I'm The Man That Builds Bridges" where he talks of the men who cut timber, laid track and built America - a proud song that counters the hurt of the anti-war songs that preceded it.

"...I'll never get out of these blues alive..." Fred Neil sang in 1965 - and he wasn't just singing about a state of mind but the State of the USA - as each of these superb snippets of Americana inform. A fantastic addition to an increasingly impressive it and I envy you the journey...

PS: see also 2015 reviews for 5CD Mini Box sets from Terry Reid, Jimmy Webb and Brinsley Schwarz in the "Original Album Series"

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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