Joan Baez Song Reviews
Joan Baez (1960)
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Silver Dagger A
The first ever song review on this page is Joan Baez's signature song! How appropriate!! ...But before I actually get started with this page, I'm going to tell you that I can't wait to describe the intricate, musical details of each and every one of these songs, because they're all so diverse and use a wide array of instruments!!!! ...OK, I think I'll need to work on my sarcasm skills. Until then, I'll review these Joan Baez songs to the best of my ability. ...I can tell you that this is a very pleasant song featuring Baez quickly strumming her guitar and probably delivering her definitive "normal" vocal performance. This song dates back to the end of the 19th century, and it does have a nice melody. It is pleasant. That's all there is to say. :P
East Virginia A+
Very beautiful this time... I'm already forsaking Baez's signature tune, because I think this one's quite a bit nicer. It's slower, which gives her haunting voice a real chance to sink in as she plays her twinkly acoustic guitar! The melody is extremely pretty, which is what makes this endearing.
Fare Thee Well (Or Ten Thousand Miles) C+
And now here's the problem with Joan Baez's voice. Sometimes, she starts carrying her voice to such a volume and frequency that it begins hurting my ears. She does this a little bit with when she's singing "oh yoooooooooooooou!!" This is an alright source song, dating back to Ireland in the 1700s. It doesn't speak volumes to me, unfortunately... And that voice thing kind of throws a wrench in the ol' system.
House of the Rising Sun B
Wow, it's like everyone covered this song! I think it's understood that The Animals have the definitive version and Bob Dylan also had a very respectable version that's also more fast-paced. Joan gives a nice vocal performance, but somehow it's not as soul-wrenching as it might have been. She's only sparsely strumming the guitar, which means this isn't nearly as enjoyable as the Dylan version. But I guess this is more "contemplative." ... Well that didn't turn out so successful. I do enjoy the melody, and it's nice to hear her sing such a familiar song. (Never mind that the reason it's familiar is because of two later covers!!!)
All My Trials A+
It's stuff like this that makes reviewing this album so worthwhile! Apparently, this lullaby was a pretty popular '50s protest song covered by such artists as Pete Seeger and Peter Paul and Mary. Apparently, even Paul McCartney released a version of this in the '90s, but I haven't heard it. Well anyway, this is a gorgeous song, and Baez's voice is in absolute top form. It hits all the right notes without threatening the lives of my ear drums. Awesome. She strums the acoustic guitar in an especially hypnotizing way, which seems appropriate for a lullaby!! (Not that I'm anymore accurate than the All Music Guide, but they labeled this song as "All My Trails." Wikipedia got it right though. One more point for Wikipedia!)
Wildwood Flower B
This was written by the famed Carter family. I haven't listened to them much but to this song I say: Meh!!!! (Actually the Carter family reworked this from another composition written in 1860.) The melody is rather plain and too simple. The special thing Baez does to this is she apparently brings in another acoustic guitarist, so this is more "flooded" than the rest. Still, the melody is nice enough, and I do enjoy listening to this.
Donna Donna A-
This is another one of Baez's slow-paced "contemplative" songs --- this time it's an old Yiddish piece! The important thing to note is that the melody is very catchy, and Baez gives quite a lovely rendition of it. She's best when she's just sitting back and singing pretty songs; that much is clear.
John Riley C-
Here is an old English song with a nice melody. In later Baez albums, some of her best stuff was with English folk songs. Not this time, though. This is boring. It's tasteful and non-offensive, but I won't bother discussing these technical merits since it's the same thing on most of her tracks. The 'boring' factor is Baez's biggest enemy along with every other folk artist, and that's what kills this. Sorry.
Rake and Rambling Boy B-
She's really being faithful to the old classics to the point in which she's telling us she's going to marry a pretty little wife. (I guess Baez did have a lesbian encounter...... er, I won't go further.) I do like this song, and I think it has a fine melody. Its boring factor is much slighter than the previous song, thank goodness. Baez's vocal performance isn't especially good here... it's a little unrestrained.
Little Moses C
Again, the boring factor is setting in pretty strongly. I do like aspects of the melody, and this is still far from being a genuinely tedious experience. She's not doing anything especially interesting with this, and it's a strictly forgettable experience. Her voice is still very nice, but her guitar playing is standard and boring.
Mary Hamilton B+
This ballad dates back to the 16th Century. What it's about is unclear, but it deals with Mary Queen of Scots. Again, this is a song where Baez sits back and delivers a pretty and sad song, and she always comes off best doing that.
Henry Martin B-
This is OK. I don't know for sure, but this appears to be another Old English song. Baez is taking my advice and being reserved, but she's getting a little *too* reserved this time. The melody is nice, but it doesn't captivate me entirely though I can't say I find it boring. She does some nice things with the guitar but nothing too notable. Hm.
El Preso Numero Nueve B+
Well she can sing in other languages! It sounds like she's doing a pretty good job of it based on my experience taking Spanish in high school and listening to Marc Anthony albums. If you can think of any stereotypical Spanish song, you get the general idea of what this sounds like. Baez is getting a little too enthusiastic. It's funny I'd complain about that, but she's hitting those ear-drum-attacking notes again. Still, I endorse this song because it sounds nice and it's diverse.
Girl of Constant Sorrow B+
She told us earlier in the album that she was going to take a pretty wife, but she's not willing to say that she's a *man* of constant sorrow. There's a feminist for ya. This is a very popular folk cover that also appeared in Dylan's debut album (except he was a *man*) and also in that Coen Brothers' movie with a very reworked melody.
I Know You Rider A
I don't know where the heck this song came from, but it's very nice! You might recognize this one because The Byrds reworked it for their classic album Fifth Dimension. I like the acoustic guitar plucking here ... it even reminds me of The Byrds' jangly style! The melody is nice, but it's the guitar that's the main attraction here. Awesome bonus track!!!
John Riley C
I still don't *get* this one I guess. (Or maybe I just feel like putting the letter "C" next to John Riley.) Baez does come off as a *little* more confident here, and that plays a big part in me enjoying this more than the album version. It's still boring, though. THAT'S WHAT I SAID! JOAN BAEZ IS BORING!! HAHAHAHAHAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
Joan Baez, Vol. 2 (1961)
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Wagoner's Lad D+
Here's the lesson: Don't sing a cappella. I mean, it's enough to sing with only an acoustic guitar, but when there's no accompaniment whatso-freaking-ever, then ....... Geez, Joan Baez *is* out to get me. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't boring, but ... yeah, this is pure boredom. What's more, she makes this the opening track, which sets the tone for the rest of this ..... "album." (Plus, these are "feminist" lyrics. You know she chose this song for that exact reason, and she sings it a cappella so that it would sound "important." Bah!!!!)
The Trees They Do Grow High D+
She brings in the acoustic guitars, but amazingly the boring factor of it hasn't gotten any better. Her previous album was full of such pretty, hypnotizing covers. This is just BORING. Baez's vocals are OK but nothing special. The melody isn't that interesting and it seems like the same thing is just repeating over and over and over and over and over and .......................................... I don't like this very much.
Lily of the West C
Hey, Joan Baez can play the guitar! Do you now see what an involved acoustic guitar can do to a song?? The melody is nicer than the previous two tracks. Unfortunately, Baez's vocal performance is especially sloppy here --- she's trying to be "passionate," but she's hitting those awful high notes that attack my ear drums. So, I'm sitting through this wincing through much of it, but at least it has an acoustic guitar.
Those previous three songs took so much out of me that I had to pause this and take a deep breath. With my mind now fresh to take more of Joan Baez's deathblows of boringness, I can tell you that "Silkie" is pretty good. Baez is going for one of those pleasant, laid-back performances to an English tune, which she was always best at. She's not nearly as haunting as before, and this melody is only somewhat interesting to me. This is an OK listen, but it should have been much more than that.
Engine 143 C
This is just a regularly boring Baez cover. She's strumming the guitar and delivering not-special-whatsoever vocals. This is an American song, and I suppose the source material wasn't bad. I wish she would try actually being captivating. Zzz!
Once I Knew a Pretty Girl D
Once I knew an ugly girl who sang interesting folk songs!!! (OK, Baez isn't that ugly, but ....... come on, I was trying to make a joke! I want to make life of these miserable songs!!!) Baez's vocals are getting a little to rambunctious again. No, that doesn't help hearing this song; she sounds more piercing and irritating that way. Her guitar strumming is boring, too, just like the melody. I'm so irritated right now that I'm just going to type the lower case 'i' a bunch with as much force possible. i. i. i. i. i. OK good, the song's over.
Lonesome Road B
By all accounts is this a better song. I mean, this isn't just *tolerable*, it's actually enjoyable. Still not a big fan of Baez's vocal performances here... she's doesn't seem like she *should* be singing this song, actually. That soprano voice doesn't suit it. But heck, the guitar is more involved here, and the melody only gets boring when the song runs out. So, good!
Banks of the Ohio F
%&$%&*%(*#&$*(#*&$Y^&$! Now Baez is bringing in back-up singers "The Greenbriar Boys" who are also irritating, but differently than Baez. They sing more like genuine "hillbillies" with unremarkable and unrefined vocals, but surely they're capable of being spirited! If they weren't capable of being spirited then what's the point of forming a vocal hillbilly band? ... When I say that neither of them were in top vocal form when they recorded this, it's not an overstatement. NOBODY IS SINGING ON KEY, AND TO MAKE IT WORSE BAEZ'S SOPRANO VOCALS DO NOT MIX WITH THE HILLBILLY VOCALS WHATSOEVER AND HEARING THEM SING TOGETHER LIKE THAT IS JUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUST ABSOLUTELY %*$&*%*$*$*#*#$&$**($&. THIS IS THE MOTHER OF SCUM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AND FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON'T FOR ONE SECOND THINK I AM FAKING THIS. I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO *****PISSED****** OFF. THIS IS AS BAD AS IF GGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG! I CAN'T EVEN FINISH THAT SENTENCE I'M SO PISSED!! .............. OK, deep breath. This is absolutely as bad as it gets. It was enough listening to this song half-paying attention to it last night, but listening to it directly like I just did has the same effect to the brain as staring in the Sun has to the eyes. For the sake of the rest of these songs, I am taking a break. A long one. Like an hour.
Barbara Allen B+
OK, I really needed that break. I was dancing around the fire by replaying a segment of that song, and I was not exaggerating about it for one single bit. It really *is* that bad. Absolutely offensive to the ears. It's a good thing I took that break, because this isn't a bad song. Baez figured out how to sing again and she's generally engaging. The melody is nice and calming. It's a tad boring but I'm learning to count my blessings.
The Cherry Tree Carol A-
She must have been recording these in order and finally had an epiphany that she was absolutely sucking. Either that or the recording engineers all quit in a huff, and she had to clean up her act before she gets shot. Well, this is a song that's not just tolerable but actually *good*. It's a lullaby type of song, which was always her strength. She gave better vocal performances before (she gets a little passionate in the middle which is bad form for her). Those "ooohs" would have been better being left out. Just play your guitar, beatnik.
Old Blue C-
This is another song that Baez shouldn't be singing. Her voice isn't suited for it. When she sings old "bluuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuue" she hits the most annoying notes of her entire career. What a stupid, stupid vocal performance. But at least she's finally playing her acoustic guitar! It's rather involved... in fact, maybe it's too involved. I question her taste here strongly, but at least it's tolerable apart from the poor singing performance.
Railroad Boy C-
This is absolutely ridiculous. I am bored to tears. Yes, it's better than some of the other miserable songs on here, but ................. GEEZ. I want to get this idiot album over with. I'm moving on.
Plasir D'Amour C
Well, at least she closes the album with something decent. It's like the moments after a particularly bad experience ....... Well, because that's what this IS. Unfortunately, it's still boring, but at least it's tolerable boringness. I hate Joan Baez.
I Once Loved a Boy A
Thank you for the bonus tracks!!! This one starts out with a pretty and sweet acoustic guitar loop, and Baez gives a likewise sweet vocal performance. She gets a little carried away here and there, but who the hell cares. I'm taking this song as a direct apology for making me sit through her atrocious second album. I'll have you know, Ms. Baez, that I can never be the same.
Poor Boy A
This is so uncanny that I don't think this has any parallels whatsoever in the history of the world. These bonus tracks are SIGNIFICANTLY better than the regular album. Surely, Baez must've felt bad about this album and decided to give us our money's worth on the CD reissue. The melody is absolutely sweet and pretty and so are Baez's vocals. Absolutely beautiful.
Longest Train I Ever Saw B+
Not as good, but still better than the vast majority of the album. The chorus is good. I think Baez should take it easy with those "ooohs." She has a good voice, but I don't have to hear it 24 hours of the day.
Joan Baez in Concert (1962)
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Babe, I’m Going to Leave You A-
Wow, she managed to get some applause after releasing the biggest piece of crap in 1961 and wasting all these suff'ring political beatnik's hard earned cash when she knows very well that they don't have any. Well, it's still no wonder that 95 percent of the human population can’t stand folk music! Luckily, Baez decided not to offend her audience, so she graced them with her pretty voice, and with a well chosen song. It's boring but likable. That's all I freaking ask for. This song is more famous for being covered by Led Zeppelin who was reportedly inspired to do so for listening to this. There; that's this album's one and only historical merit!
Yay! She’s singing English folk! My favorite! Plus, she's picking an excellent, tuneful song, which fits her voice to the letter. This is exactly what we're supposed to be hearing from her. This is sweet, tuneful and a complete treat to the ears. Wonderful!!
Copper Kettle A
I'm pretty sure that Bob Dylan sang this once, and it’s a mightily good song! I really like the melody, and she's singing it like her very life depended upon it. Well, why not? Sometimes when I want to make spaghetti, but someone weirdo unloaded the dishwasher, I try looking for the pots as if my life depended upon it. Because I love spaghetti. (Yeah, I'm distracted. You're welcome.)
In my first draft of this review, I went on a complete rant about how much I hated this song. Honestly, after sitting through Joan Baez, Vol. 2 this seems like such small potatoes. I stand by the fact that people make fun of this song for good reason: It's trite. The fact that she gets the audience to sing with it makes it utterly groan inducing. (Hear her try to make jokes at the beginning. Yeah, she's as humorless as I thought.)
What Have They Done to the Rain B-
She introduces this song with the most plain speaking voice imaginable. Her father and brother were both PhDs in physics. Sitting through many-a-physics lecture, I have to say that she talks like one, too. There; Joan Baez's boringness has a genetic basis. She says this is the gentlest protest song that she knows. But what she fails to mention is that protest songs are crap. (Ooo, there I go pissing in the pot again.) I suppose I should mention the song sometime. It's perfectly alright. This one's rather yawn-inducing, but it's tuneful enough to keep it from growing too horrible.
Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair C+
If I was alive in the '60s I would have been writing protest folk songs that protest protest folk songs. There work out that sentence. Well, I wish I could say that this song wasn't boring ....... But it's boring. She's picking at her guitar in a not-that-interesting manner, and the general tone of this is dark and depressing. Geez, Baez, are you trying to get me to hang myself??? Alternately, maybe she's doing the world a service by enticing folk audiences to hang themselves. Maybe she was actually an anti-Communist FBI agent. Oooo, clever!
Dangerous Waters B+
It's official. Folk fans are no better than rock fans. Folk fans only know the chorus of songs, too. That's right, snobs!! Anyway, this isn't a bad song. Even though the people in the audience have apparently heard this before, I can't say I was granted the same privilege. Baez is strumming her guitar in a surprisingly upbeat fashion. The melody is likable though rather simple, which explains why folk audiences like it .... OOoooo! PUNK'D!!!
Gospel Ship C
Oooo, this song is kind of sucky. The melody is boring, and Baez is giving a strictly ho-hum performance. I like her guitar picking, but ... geez. This sounds like she was tossing it off.
The House Carpenter B+
Hey, this English folk song is remarkably pretty! Baez doesn’t exactly perform this better than the other songs; she just chose to exploit a good song! English songs really fit with her sound... Frankly, I don't know why she even bothers with anything else. The major drawback here is that it's well past five minutes long, and it's just the same damn thing over and over and ....... Otherwise, this would have been a sheer highlight.
Pretty Boy Floyd B
Baez dedicates this song to Pete Seeger, which gains some enthusiastic applause from the crowd. It's a Woody Guthrie song, though. (Dedicating a folk singer's song to another folk singer --- Isn't that a little dirty?) Well, I actually like this song. After all, if I didn't, some old guy who overdosed on acid in the '60s might zap my Web site with a virus. You *have to* respect Woody Guthrie songs. It's the solemn law. Maybe Baez shouldn't be so serious about her dedications though. When she gets extra serious, her voice gets passionate, which means that it can get annoying and piercing. Nice tune though! (And that's my real thoughts. It's not just the fear of being hacked.)
Lady Mary B+
Luckily, she didn't dedicate this song to anybody, so the vocal performance is better --- calming and sweet; the way God made it. A nice choice of song selection, I must say. Seriously, I don't know why she can't do everything that you can just sit back and enjoy like this. She has to throw in the utter nonsense to suffer like ... the people of the world suffer. I took a few points off, because it slowly gets more boring as it moves along.
Ate Amanha A-
This is from Brazil! And an excellent choice, I do say. Not every song you sing in the world has to be stupid, boring and white after all. Have you ever heard the group Os Mutantes? They rule. The ultimate musical experience. Screw Joan Baez! I have to mention that one interesting thing about Baez is she does give convincing performances in other languages. She just does that to be annoying though.
Matty Groves C
This song is long (seven and a half minutes), which is kind of unusual for a folk song. (Maybe this is why Piero Scarufi says The Beatles suck.) Well, I wish I could say this was more exciting than The Beatles, but this is purely dull. That's no surprise considering that Joan Baez is the most boring human being on the planet Earth. At least she had the kindness to choose a laid-back English folk song, her greatest strength. She also changes the texture, which helps because she's singing the same boring song over and over and over and over..... Another nice thing about Joan Baez is that I doubt I'll have trouble falling asleep tonight! This even bores the memory of "Banks of the Ohio" out of my system!
Streets of Laredo B
Well at least Baez gives a nice vocal. This isn't the most interesting composition of her repertoire, but it's not bad. ...... Geez, I'm bored.
My Good Old Man C
This song is supposed to be ironic and funny. Apparently. The audience is laughing at something. Whatever the heck she's talking about, she's sure boring, though. She delivers these "funny lines" as playfully as if she was reading a shopping list. Yet, there the audience is laughing. They're like the dorks in the front of physics class who laugh at the professor's dumb jokes. Total losers.
My Lord What a Morning B-
I believe that this is a boring spiritual. (Well, I *know* that this song is boring ... it's the spiritual part I'm not sure about.) This is pretty good, and it’s a good tune. Baez’s voice is pretty. Well, this album is over, lucky me. I have a lot of patience.
Joan Baez in Concert, Vol. 2 (1963)
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Once I Had a Sweetheart B
Wow, this starts the exact same way as her previous with audience applause. Baez isn't one for diversity! (OK, I'm kidding!!!!) This song selection is certainly nice; I said once and I'll say it again, Baez comes off best when she sings old English ballads. I think this song has a good melody and Baez delivers a nice vocal performance. This isn't such a solid album opener as the previous album, but ... well, whatever.
She keeps covering them old English songs. Really, she should just make that her whole career. Seriously, their old haunting harmonies are exactly what suits her voice. You should absolutely not sing anymore hillbilly songs, Baez. This is your strength. Seriously. (Alternately I liked her Brazilian song in the previous album. More of those would be great!! ... Yeah, I'm expecting Baez to travel back in time and tell herself this.)
Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right A
Wait a minute-- Doesn't Joan Baez know that she'll have to pay royalties for covering a Bob Dylan song?? You know, covering Bob Dylan was one such a popular process in the '60s and I wonder if this is the very first one. I have no intention of actually looking that up, but ... well. Surely, Dylan has a better and more affecting voice that Baez, but her voice is prettier so maybe there's actually some dorks out there who like this version better. At least Baez doesn't screw this excellent song up, and that's all I asked for.
We Shall Overcome B+
YEAH, I WOULD LIKE TO SING "WE SHALL OVERCOME" WITH YOU, JOAN BAEZ!!!!!!!!!! (...hey, she asked me, so I thought I’d respond...). The very beginning of this song is extremely easy to sing, too. It goes like this: "Ooooooo Ooooooo Oooooo." She sounds like one of those goofy Halloween ghosts from the supermarkets. Well, this is Baez’s version of that one Pete Seeger song that all the oppressed peoples sang in the '60s. The melody is alright, actually. All Seeger did was write a few bars of melody and just repeated it a bunch of times, but I guess that's how people did things back then.
Portland Town A-
Screw the protest songs! Give me more of this! Yes, this is another one of her subdued English folk songs with a hypnotizing acoustic guitar and a rather pretty melody. I think she's learning, I do!!
Queen of Hearts A-
Ditto about the previous song. It's just about the same thing. This is perhaps a little more boring, but at least I like the style. (Much apologies for my lack of words, but ... geez, what do you expect?)
Manha De Carnaval/Te Ador B
I'm not so sure what language this is ... 'scuse me, I'm no linguist! This is a nicely performed song except I wish it was more exciting! You know, she should let The Troggs guest star! The second song is a little better; the pace is increased and the melody is better, in my opinion. So a B- for the first song, an A- for the second, and then round it down to a B because Joan Baez is a pretentious bore.
Long Black Veil A-
I like this one. She chose an old American song this time, and she did choose well! It's melodic and she strums that old guitar well. She's singing like a country-western singer here (and not using that soprano range), and it's not bad actually. That said, it's not particularly good either.
Baez says to the audience "If nobody objects, I’m going to take off my shoes." She gets a hearty laugh from the audience for that hilarious crack. When I hear the shoes plopping on the stage, I must say I struggle to keep my sides from splitting! But what she should have said is "If nobody objects, I'm going to play a folk song." That would be some priceless antics! Ah no, she would never say that. Joan Baez is SERIOUS about her folk, and so let's listen to this cold-hard singer give it all she's got. (This is a nicely chosen Scottish folk song with a nice melody and ... everything.)
‘Nu Bello Cardillo A-
She starts this track by talking again, delivering these lines as if she were giving a physics lecture. She says something that incites audience laughter, but I'm completely clueless to what it was. Maybe there was a flashing light indicating people to laugh like a horrible sit-com. It'd be kind of neat if I could get into the whole folk scene, but obviously me and the target audience work on entirely different levels. I will say that this is a better chosen song than usual. The melody is very pretty, and Baez makes it sound even prettier with her voice.
With God On Our Side B
Another Dylan cover! Hey, this album was released even before the Bob Dylan album was released. Geez!!! Well, that definitely wasn't Bob Dylan's best album, but ... Hey, write your own freaking songs, you freaking leach!! (On second thought, don't write your own songs; I'd probably dismal.) Anyway, she's singing this song like she sings any boring old song, and it drags on for six minutes. Yeah, that's a minute shorter than the Dylan version.
Three Fishers C
All the songs in this have been pretty good until now. She had a solid 3.6 GPA and absolutely no Cs. And then there was this boring piece of work. She's lightly strumming her guitar and delivering her "touching" vocal performances and ....... I'm falling...... asleepppppppppp.
Hush Little Baby D
A bad choice of covers. Like "Kumbaya" on the previous album, this is trite and has been grossly overplayed. I wish I could say "Baez gives this song a new dimension, and I will never look at it the same again," but she doesn't. She sings it with a cold-stone face and a voice to match. Giving this song a low rating might be an exaggeration. After all it's less than a minute (if you don't count the applause), and it's nearly over by the time you realize that it sucks. But this embodies everything that's bad about Joan Baez. No personality and no desire to do anything even vaguely interesting. Yawn!
Battle Hymn of the Republic B+
She sounds kind of smug as she introduces this song!! Well, for once she sings an overplayed that actually seems to have deserved it. She doesn't exactly give an inspired rendition of it, but I guess that's no surprise.
Rambler Gambler B
Not bad, I say, not bad. The melody is nice, and the vocal performance is OK. Excuse me if I'm not impressed with Ms. Plain Unflavored Yogurt!
Railroad Bill C+
This is OK. It's just more boring than usual. At this point, I get antsy for this freaking album to be over with!!! I'm trying not to fall into the trap of scoring songs higher on the first half because I'm not bored with it yet, but no. This song is legitimately boring.
Death of Emmet Till B
This is a song about one of the major events leading to the Civil Rights movement. Emmet Till was the black kid who whistled at a white woman and was brutally murdered. The melody and performance is what I'm listening to and it ...... OK.
Tomorrow is a Long Time B-
I just read something by Joan Baez’s cousin called the "Crackpot Index," and concluded that he is pretty interesting. But I'm a nerd. Geez, this album is taking forever, though. Would it kill Joan Baez to refrain from being a boring robot? That's right--- I said that Joan Baez is a boring robot!!! And she's not the cool kind of robot like in Short Circuit.
When First Unto This Country B
She doesn't pick anything particularly special to end this with. The good news is that it is indeed over, and I can move onto other things in my life. ... Er, which is to review the next Joan Baez album. (I have a whole summer without anything to do, and this is how I spend it. I'm more of a loser than the dorks who laugh at her jokes!!) For my next loser act, I decree these track reviews to be over and the next track reviews to commence! Specifically, the songs from her 1965 studio album called Joan Baez/5. More like Reason #5 To Be Bored. Luckily, I wrote those reviews a couple years ago, and they need much less editing than these ones... The 2005 version of Don Ignacio RULES!
Joan Baez/5 (1964)
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There But For Fortune A+
Joan Baez might be the devil, but this is a very pretty song. She didn't write it of course. Phil Ochs did, but at least Baez gives such a solid rendition of it that this is clearly one of the best songs she's ever done. This is an extremely pretty folk song with an alluring chord progression and hypnotic guitar picking. The melody is catchy Joan Baez gives a wonderful vocal rendition. For once, she's proving that she's not a boring robot, and I was exaggerating in previous instances! To get the full Joan Baez experience, hear this song ......... and maybe one or two others.
A less compelling song this time. The melody is the typical repetitive, simplistic boring stuff. Baez's vocal rendition is alright but nothing that elevates this song beyond its original potential. This is Baez on her default-mode. Hitting moments as magical as "There But For Fortune" unfortunately seem to be happy accidents.
It Ain't Me Babe A-
Reverting back to the Dylan covers. Of course Dylan was the biggest thing in folk music, obviously, because he's AWESOME. It was probably beginning to be a poor financial decision to not cover Dylan... So, here it is!! Bob Dylan is awesome, and so is this rendition by default. Does she actually do anything that the original didn't do? Absolutely not. Yeah, it's worth hearing out of curiosity. Dylan fans ought to appreciate it.
The Death of Queen Jane C-
I don't know if I mentioned this before, but Joan Baez is BORING!! This is a so-so cover written by Baez's favorite folk composer, Hans Traditional. That's what folk revival was all about, by the way. Not having to write any of the songs but still collecting the royalties! This is probably another 16th century song (too lazy to research), but it's boring.
Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 B+
WHAT THE CRAP????!!!! What's this ... a cello and pizzicato strings?? Also, this song contains lyrics that express what's easily considered the most compelling political message of her entire discography. (It's just "Aaaaahs." She's singing opera in the latter half.) It's interesting, because this is classical music (from Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos), and her music is usually extremely boring folk music. What a nice change of pace! Out of place, yes, but anything out of place on a Joan Baez album is great. This track also features extended moments where she's not singing at all. Those are the most priceless moments! (Ooo, sarcasm.) This track is a little bit overextended (past six minutes) and it overstays its welcome ... but I don't mind considering its context.
Go 'Way From My Window A-
Go 'way from my speakers, Ms. Plain Unflavored Yogurt. It's only 10:13 in the morning and I'm not ready for bed! Actually, this song isn't so bad. It's sleepy but in the good way this time. She's playing that guitar hypnotically and delivering a vocal performance that's about as sweet as it ever gets.
I Still Miss Someone C+
Just to prove to you that Joan Baez is essentially useless, this Johnny Cash cover makes me wonder WHY I JUST DON'T LISTEN TO JOHNNY CASH. Heck, that wouldn't be such a bad idea! Why do I even have a Joan Baez page??? ... But still, this is a good composition. It's definitely missing the required spunk and my senses are getting extremely dulled. Geez, she really has the knack of taking the life out of some songs.
When You Hear Them Cuckoos Hollerin' B
The cuckoos are hollerin': "Quit messin' up my song!" OK, Baez isn't really messing up this song. She might be evil, but at least she can be regular-boring if she wants to be. This melody seems pretty derivative to me, but whatever. I like the guitar pickin' on this one and Baez's voice is fine.
Birmingham Sunday B+
A topical folk cover. Yeah. It's about the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. It's all a history lesson to me, but it was a current event for her. So... Her is Joan Baez in all her self-important political glory!! Alright, I'll be nice. It's OK to protest against social injustices. It's OK to sing a song about it as long as it's a good one..... and this is a pretty good one. Not phenomenally interesting, in the musical sense, but it's alright.
So We'll Go No More A-Roving A-
The song's title makes me scratch my head. So We'll Go ... no more ... a-roving. So, this might be an old English song when people didn't know how to talk properly! The chord progression is definitely alluring and Baez gives an impressionable vocal performance. Her acoustic guitar work is also nicely hypnotic. She should find more songs like this instead of ... stuff like the next song.
So, I'm really impressed that Joan Baez can sing stuff in another language. She's not even singing that well, but at least it isn't annoying. I have no idea if she's fluent or not, so there might be some extra value here that a linguist might pick up. The melody is fine, but it's not intriguing. Those overdubs were a bad idea. One Joan Baez voice is enough. (If that's another singer, then two Baez-like singers were enough.) Technically speaking, I should be happy about the overdubs. Imagine... Overdubs in a Joan Baez album.
The Unquiet Grave (Child No. 78) B-
Joan Baez is covering Gryphon now! ... OK, Gryphon didn't exist in 1964, but that crazy Medieval cover band showed this song no mercy. That's what I'm talking about --- they're doing something interesting with the old classics. Compared to Gryphon, Baez sounds like a dead potato. Sorry, but it's true. Baez always comes out worse when I have something vastly superior to compare it to!! But generally speaking, I like this song... "Like" in the sense that I respect it but call it names when it has its back turned.
The Tramp on the Street B+
Isn't this freaking album over with already? ... Actually this is a pretty interesting song for Joan Baez. I think that's the faint hint of a banjo I hear plucking away quietly in the background. So, this isn't just Baez and her guitar, completely, but it almost is! I like this song overall. It's not extremely compelling, but I'm eating up that extra banjo like a hungry cow!!
Long Black Veil A
Apparently, Joan Baez liked that extra guitar so much on the previous track that she decided to give herself a pat on the back and do another song with the second guitar. And I heartily endorse that idea! Apparently, all the songs in the world have run out, because she covered this already on In Concert Vol. 2. This version is slightly better thanks to the extra instrumentation. She also has back-up singers that bring back painful memories of "Banks of the Ohio." These guys don't add anything other than useless noise, but they're not offensive.
Farewell, Angelina (1965)
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Farewell Angelina A
SING IT, JOAN!!!!!! SING THE SONG!!!!!!!!! SINISNSISNNNGNGNGNNNGNN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You might already be aware of this but here I go: Folk is boring. Boring. Boring. Boring. Boring. Boring. This song is so not-embarrassing that it is ... um ... respectable. That's probably because this is a BOB DYLAN song. As we might already know, Bob Dylan recognized the potential of folk music and decided to write good songs. Yup, this is folk music. Folk. Folk. Folk. Folk. Folk....... Er, what the hell is that, a bass???? Holy crap, this album has a bass player!!!!!!!! Oh my god, these are actual arrangements. Er, I don't know what to say.
Daddy, You Been on My Mind A+
Well, this is an excellent rendition of (ahem) yet another Bob Dylan song. The melody does manage to suits Baez's voice nicely. She's not sounding that blank, either, suggesting she actually wanted to sound nice here. Based on my knowledge, Dylan didn't sing this song. The folky instrumentation is enchanting this time and that electric bass is the most beautiful thing I ever heard. To make matters even better you can hear an ELECTRIC GUITAR. It's a very subtle one. BUT LOOK. I'M SERIOUS. LOOK. 1) A catchy Bob Dylan song. 2) Joan Baez giving a nice vocal performance. 3) Arrangements. Now, who let a good song slip through the cracks? Huh?
It's All Over Now, Baby Blue A-
Baez gives a much more passionate performance in this rendition of (ahem, ahem) another Bob Dylan song, but ... I much prefer the simplicity of "Daddy" than this ... which, honestly, I don't think it's much better than Dylan's version, but ... this is fine. Baez seems to try to be moving with her voice (which would fit the lyrical matter) and she's generally more effective than she has been in the past. The electric guitar player is actually trying to give this song real, honest-to-goodness texture. He's a tad sloppy, but ... wow, thanks for the effort. It did actually work somewhat.
The Wild Mountain Thyme B
Here is an old timey song written by Joan Baez's favorite composer, Hans Traditional. Why is it her favorite composer? Because you don't have to pay royalties. Oh, you can hear that bass player in all his glory. The most glorious thing ever to happen to a Joan Baez album. I mean, this song surely would have been boring, but there's an actual arrangement here. I'm reviewing these albums back to back, so..... It's like my mind is being fed for the first time in weeks. I like this song alright even though it probably shouldn't have gone on for four and a half minutes, because it gets boring after three.
Ranger's Command B-
Woody Guthrie. I think I was afraid to tell you that I didn't care much for this song in my original review. Well, It's important that we honor the hero of all folk music! The lyrics are just fine, but the music this time is rather plodding. The instrumentation is unfortunately more bare here, and it would have been nice to hear more textures from the guitar.
JOAN BAEZ SPELLED 'COLORS' WRONG!!!! ... Or maybe the song was written by Scottish musician Donovan, who I'd actually MUCH rather listen to than Joan Baez. Why maybe I'll go review Donovan right now! (Er, after I'm done with Baez, I'm probably not going to listen to folk again for months.) Anyway, Baez heeded my advice and let the guitar textures shine. You can actually hear that electric guitar clearly. So that makes it three guitars in all. Baez's general acoustic, Bruce Langhorne's electric and Russ Savakus's bass. BRILLIANCE!!! Donovan's version is still better, though, and Baez doesn't actually add much to it. Well, that's no surprise. At least she's being pleasant.
Satisfied Mind C+
What's this? A mandolin? Aren't you going to spoil your audience? I'm not a big fan of this song. The novelty of hearing a bass guitar isn't extending to make these usual melodies anymore interesting. Yeah, that's right. I'm trying to tell you that I find this boring. That said, it's a solid composition. It's just an uninspired rendition.
The River in the Pines B
Now that you have a bass guitarist, why not think about bringing in other instrumentalists? I can imagine a violinist doing some beautiful things here. ... Geez, don't play the budget-card on me, missy. You can find a violinist on the street if you're just wiling to put a quarter in their jar. This is a subdued song with a nice flavor and melody. I can try to guess that this is an old English song, but I could be wrong.
Pauvre Rutebauf C
Much less interesting than the others, although I do find it funny to hear Baez sing in so many different languages. This one's in French. Baez's vocals have a bit of a tendency to get loud, and the guitars are a little too quiet this time unless you're listening to headphones. And then the voice has a tendency to deafen me. Yeah, I'm not a major fan.
Sagt Mir Wo Die Blumen Sind B+
Even Captain Von Trapp had the courtesy to sing his folk songs in English. What's strange is that this Pete Seeger song was ... um ... recorded in English as "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" I suppose that it's possible that the folk-heads have listened to this song so much that Baez wanted to do something starkly different and sing it in German. Maybe she's trying to bring Seeger's message to Germany, because that's where the Nazis are from. Yeah, Nazis suck. What she does do differently here is provide instrumentation ... Pete Seeger, arguably an even bigger dork than Joan Baez, sang this one a cappella. Anyway, I like this song a lot. Folk composers have a bad tendency to just repeat the same melody over and over and over... Well, surely that was more of the "style." Eh, screw the style.
Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall A
YET ANOTHER BOB DYLAN SONG!!!!!!!!!!!! ... Errr, yay!!! Why is she singing so much Dylan? Well, this is an exceptional song, and Baez does a rather nice job with it. Even though the song keeps on going past seven minutes, it's still good. I guess it's useless to ask the question: Why don't you just listen to Dylan? But I guess if you've played the original song out, then this is a perfectly pleasant rendition of it. Baez is turning out to be a good singer, because this features one of the more exceptional vocal performances of her career so far. She's just singing like a regular person ... that wobbly soprano is replaced with more of a wobbly alto. Well that's just OK with me!
One Too Many Mornings B-
This is a relatively short (and pretty boring) old song with ... acoustic guitar and singing ... not too exciting. Solidly performed? Yes. There's really not a whole lot to mess up here.
Rock, Salt and Nails A-
I kind of like this song ... It's another oldie tune with a simple melody and it's still as boring as folk music normally is. Nevertheless, this is enjoyable to me. Baez does a lot of things right here for once! (...I'm only kidding ... Baez does a lot of right things a lot. She's not corny for a start! Man, if I ever try reviewing Peter, Paul and Mary, I'll probably go mental. If I ever review an album called Peter, Paul & Mommy, Too, then please shoot me. For the love of god, shoot me.)
The Water is Wide B+
The water ... is wide ........... I guess this old folk song was written by someone who must've been an LSD pioneer. This song is very slow and very pretty. It's just Baez singing this mesmerizing and slow song ... her voice flutters away like it always does ... and it's boring ... naturally.
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O Come, O Come, Emmanuel B
Now that Joan Baez took all the life out of folk music, she thought the time was fit to take the life out of Christmas. Remember that Dr. Seuss story about The Grinch. Yes, that's Joan Baez. (KIDDING!!!!) No, this song isn't boring, but it's not beautiful and superb either. Yup. This is stuck right in the middle of the road. The instrumentation consists of a subdued organ and very slight cellos playing that Medieval chord progression as Baez sings with her disciplined soprano voice.
Coventry Carol B+
Well you can't tell us that Baez wasn't trying to revive these old songs that nobody ever hears anymore. This one is also Medieval, and very subdued. I always like hearing Medieval chord progressions! This one starts out nicely with those Medieval flutes and twinkly bell, but then it becomes clear that they're just going to be complete bores and not do anything interesting after that. The instrumentation in the middle just consists of a one-fingered clavinet player playing scales. Geez!! This is a nice song, and very pleasant to the ears. I put on a choral version of it, which is probably closer to the original intent. Geez, Joan, that's nicer to hear than your version.
Good King Wenceslas (Instrumental) B-
Just to prove there was a lighter side to things, they include this 43-second snippet. It's played somewhat rapidly like a little medieval band. Hmm hmm...
The Little Drummer Boy A-
If you're going to put together a tasteful Christmas album, I suppose it would be amiss without this song. This is one of those rare, frequently played tracks that I don't mind hearing all the time. Again, the instrumentation is very subdued but it's nice to hear that the harpsichord player finally grew extra fingers... and even a second arm. As expected, there's the military drummer in the background. Ah, the poor little drummer boy is falling asleep....... Oh well, the song is still pleasant and tasteful. I'm only moaning.
I Wonder as I Wander B+
This is another song that I like. The melody is absorbing and I like the instrumentation. I don't like that bit in the middle when Baez deliver those "ooohs." That does nothing.
Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella B-
A short string quartet song. Er. Well I can't say that it's offensive. Inessential and forgettable, yes.
Down in Yon Forest A-
This is rather involving at first, but even for something that's so short, it does seem to run out of energy. It's a rare song meaning that it actually was a nice idea for her to revive it. It's one of the album's better songs, surely.
The Carol of the Birds B
The orchestration is thicker here, which was an excellent idea, and Baez's wobbly soprano is in nice form, as usual. This is tastefully done, but not excellent. Why she has to go off on those "oohs" is a mystery to me. Develop the orchestration!!
Angels We Have Heard on High (Instrumental) B-
Here is another traditional instrumental. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!!! OK, it's June 25 right now, but I can pretend. ...Oh geez, I should shut my window!
Ave Maria A
Here is an oft-performed song by Schubert that Baez sings in German. The instrumentals consist of a subdued cello and a harp playing. The instrumental upwelling in the middle was a nice idea. This is the sort of operatic song that Baez seemed especially suited to sing.
Mary's Wanderings B
Another nicely done song with simple and nicely done arrangements. Baez's vocal performance is pretty as usual... Yes, everything is as usual. I like that organ sound they used.
Deck the Halls (Instrumental) B-
A "lively" little band takes on this old classic. I put that word in quotation marks, because they're serious about being lively.
Away in a Manger B-
This is another old Christmas written by my favorite Protestant Martin Luther! I like the melody of course. I just think the twinkly orchestration is boring. Those tastefully fruity bells and harpsichords are ho-hum!!
Adeste Fidelis (instrumental) C+
OK, "O Come All Ye Faithful" is also known as "Adeste Fidelis." Thanks. Oh, and 50 seconds of it. Wonderful.
Cantique De Noël B+
This is also called "O Holy Night," but Baez sings it in French 'cos she thinks she's being impressive. ...OK, I'm just jealous because I'm not multi-lingual. Taking French in college didn't even help; I only remember the word "Misseur" and I don't think I'm even spelling it right. ... Oh, back to the song. This is another one of those songs that I don't mind hearing it played every time. It's my favorite Christmas Carol ever. I've certainly heard more inspired renditions of it than this, but this is tasteful and Baez does her operatic thing with class. Yay.
What Child is This A-
The ultimate Medieval melody "Greensleeves" was put to this popular Christmas tune, and this is another melody that's always nice to hear. (I used to play this on the piano ALL THE TIME.) The instrumentation continues to be pleasant. I like those scaling flutes especially. (I can't believe the lyricist calls Jesus a "babe"... OK, that wasn't funny. If nobody objects, I’m going to take off my shoes.)
Silent Night C+
And the album is brought to a close with this nice rendition of Silent Night. Those violins are creeping me out, which constitutes one of the more questionable instrumental decisions here. Are they supposed to sound this creepy? Well give them credit for trying something unusual I guess.
The First Noel B-
If you thought I skimped out on the regular album track reviews, you ain't seen nothing yet! I like the pretty violins.
We Three Kings (instrumental) C
They're in bed.
Virgin Mary D+
Acoustic guitar, singing, about 12 hits of a bell. So-so melody. Zzzz.
Good Christian Kings (Instrumental) C+
They're also in bed.
Burgundian Carol B+
Nice color. Nice carol.
Away in a Manger C+
Same as last time but in French. You're boring.
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Be Not Too Hard B-
Before you go too far on your speaking voice ambitions, Joan, I'm going to tell you that you don't have a compelling speaking voice. You sound like one of those untalented art-freaks that you can find one or two of in every high school. (I have a feeling that she's not going to heed my advice! Yeah, I already listened to Baptism.) This is an alright rendition of a Donovan song. Baez has me swinging my head back and forth with much glee up until that part when she decides to talk the lyrics and overdub herself singing "Oooooooooooo" in the background. Luckily she does take her instrumentals a step further than she did in Farewell Angelina. There's DRUMS!!! Granted, they're so light that you might miss them.
Eleanor Rigby B+
Behold!!! Joan Baez covering The Beatles!!! (Wasn't there some sort of major anti-Beatles faction led by folkies? Or is that just something that's exaggerated for jokes?) OK, I'm beginning to understand this Peter Schickele fellow even though I don't necessarily like what he does. His arrangements consist of a rapidly playing harp at first, and then when she gets to the chorus, a rhythm section comes in with a simple horn section. A bit in the middle just consists of Baez singing with a one-fingered piano player playing a rapid, three-note loop. Very modern! I'll admit that it took me a few listens to like this, but I'm still hesitant about it because it's overtly pretentious. They tried to out-art The Beatles, after all.
This is nice. It's another Donovan cover. I like the instrumentation, which tends to *gasp* almost get a little posh sometimes! Wow, this guy actually created an interesting texture!! I also like that simple french horn sound. This helps keep the song engaging, and that's more than what Baez probably would have done with it otherwise.
La Columb A+
I'm a bit surprised that Baez isn't signing this in French since she likes to show off. This is a wonderful Jacques Brel composition. As a matter of fact I know his work pretty well, because I went to see a Brel covers band (to write a report on it for my college newspaper), and that got me interested in him. Baez's rendition isn't flawless, but it's overwhelmingly the highlight of the album. Baez, singing in her unrefined alto voice and manages to give a remarkably dramatic and dynamic performance. It perfectly fits the tone of most of Brel's work. The arrangements are a minor complaint ... that transition to the chorus takes a little getting used to.
Dangling Conversation A-
Wow, she's picking nice songs to cover! I prefer the Simon & Garfunkel original, but this is quite nice. Baez is continuing to deliver nice vocal renditions. The arrangements are "artistic" again... A simple drum beat, a lightly pounding piano and some twinkly bell sounds. The french horns, again, are a very nice sound.
The Lady Came From Baltimore B
Tasteful as always! It does have a nice straight-ahead rhythm section meaning that they weren't especially trying to impress us with the art. The melody is catchy and Baez gives nice vocals! This is very good, but somehow not great.
SHE'S WRITING HER OWN SONGS NOW???? This is about as new and revolutionary as ever. Being at the beginning of the singer-songwriter era, it was a pretty good idea. And honestly, it's not that bad. I would love to find something bad to say about it, because I'm still sore because of "Banks of the Ohio," but I can't think of much other than the general complaint that it's boring. I mean, it's not very melodically advanced (it's mostly just one simple line of melody being repeated, but it's a nice line) and Schickele deserves credit for changing up the textures. The hypnotic acoustic guitar is great, but I can't say no to his mild orchestral build-ups. She doesn't write the lyrics ... apparently the lyricist wasn't notable enough to deserve a Wikipedia page!
Children of Darkness B-
This Richard Fariña cover doesn't do the world for me. The military beat in the background isn't the best idea they could have had, but I do like the instrumentation otherwise. The horn arrangements are especially nice. Fariña (Baez's brother-in-law) had died recently to this, and it was fitting for Baez to cover him. This is good and tasteful but it doesn't captivate me.
The Greenwood Slide B+
Back to the old covers courtesy of Hans Traditional. So, it's back to her roots! Largely speaking the instrumentation is similar to her old style except there's a minor electric guitar twinkling around in the background and there's a bass that's mixed even more quietly than the ones in Farewell Angelina. The song has a hypnotizing quality that I like, which helps immensely because this is nearly eight minutes long!!!! Baez delivers a very pleasant vocal performance, though, and somehow I never get tired of it. Cool!
If You Were a Carpenter B-
Before this goes on too far. No, Joan Baez, I will not marry you and I will not have your baby. (Can't be too safe considering I find myself in the middle of weird sci-fi plots all the time. I also wonder how she expects someone else to have her baby.) Here is her second Hardin cover, and ....... er, it's not bad. The Hardin songs seem to be the more middle-of-the-road ones. The arrangements are nice. I like the shuffly drum beat and that artsy piano piddling around back there.
Annabell Lee A+
Oh man, here come all the fruity twinkly sounds! Why couldn't the Christmas album have sounded more like this? It's along the same vein except the texture is actually excellent and rather unusual. I'm liking this Peter Schickele guy the more I think about it!!! This song is credited to Edgar Allen Poe. Did he write music, too?? I have no idea. Well, this is an especially wonderful song and one of the album's most masterful works.
Saigon Bride C+
Hey, look! Joan Baez wrote more than one song!! Er... Not a great start. A bunch of slowly played trumpet chords. I liked the lyrics at first, but then it reverts to some pretentious protest thing that reminds me that it's best not to listen directly to Baez lyrics. So, let's talk about the melody. Er... It's OK. I'm not entirely sure what Baez will amount to as a songwriter other than I like "Diamonds and Rust," but at this point she's not especially inspired. The chords are simple and the melody is simpler. The instrumentation keeps it from going under. Strip those simple horn arrangements away and this song would be dead ... just like the people in the song lyrics.
Baptism: A Journey Through Our Time (1968)
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Old Welsh Song A
Have you ever heard Philip Glass' Einstein on the Beach? I have, and I'm getting flashbacks. This song features an overly plain organ playing overly plain chords, and there's a dulcimer that sounds even more bored than the organ. Meanwhile, Baez sings a Henry Treece poem. .........Er.... I like it.
I Saw the Vision of Armies C
I listened to this album for the first time yesterday, and if you were there, you would have heard me groan profusely. It was the biggest profuse groan in the history of the world. This is the very first bit of spoken-word poetry. As I already expressed, Baez has no spoken-word talent, and this is where she comes off as a pretentious, talentless art-kid from high school. So, what is to this song, then? It's just Baez reading off some Walter Whitman and with Peter Schickele's timpani drum arrangements. This arrangement, while making Baez look even more pretentious, is OK. I liked his minimal thing better, though...
Minister of War C
Baez goes Zappa!! This starts out with electric guitars and funny noises. And then it all stops and Baez reads an Aurthur Wasley poem. SHUT UP! Give me the Zappa guitars!! ... OK, thanks. ........ Hey! You're talking again! ...
Song in the Blood C
Now she's reading anti-war poetry from our favorite beatniks Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Jacques Prévert. Nothing against either of these two, but this album of poetry readings would have been better off without the poetry. Baez reads with a dark and arty cello playing either half notes or whole notes. After awhile, it's joined by instruments playing up the octave. It creates quite a creepy atmosphere!! Especially at the end, the sounds turn really dissonant. Wonderful work!! Littering that cello, there's Baez making her ultimate statement of groan-inducing pretentiousness. A for the cello; F for Baez; C average. Seriously, this would have been 100 times better without Baez talking. I went through an artsy classical music phase about six months ago, and this is like Arvo Part-lite.
Casidia of the Lament D+
The music is also creepy. This is more quiet creepiness, which is unfortunate, because we can hear Joan Baez more clearly.
Of the Dark Past B
This song begins with a twinkly atmosphere, and ... hey, hear Baez sing! Yeah, she's a better singer than a talker. At least she has some sort of natural singing ability. This isn't the most exciting song ever... It would have been nice if there were chord changes.
Another one of Baez's poetry readings pieces of crap. I'm beginning to be able to filter out Baez's voice and just pay attention to the music, and I like this one. Creepy chords and time signatures with violins and organs. Ooooooo!! If you want to pay attention to the poetry, I'd suggest you go to the library, check out the "Big Book of Poetry" and read them yourselves. Hey, maybe you can make your own arrangements!!
In Guernica D+
Well this evens it out. The music in the background isn't that interesting to me, so what's left??? ........ Er..... Joan.
Who Murdered the Minutes B
I don't know who murdered the minutes, but I know who murdered the MUSIC. ... Yeah, that was YOU, Ms. BAEZ. Hey, this is a pop song!! Why can't Schickele's arrangements here be as thoroughly nice as the one's previously? He's doing the whole minimalism shtick again with simple organ chords and an electric piano, which seems to be pretending that it's pop. There's some nice cello at the last half.
Oh Little Child C
Hey, another singing song! I like the turn this album is taking already. OK, I know these are supposed to be "art songs," which apparently gives Baez an excuse not to sing a melody. That would have been nice though. The instrumentation mostly consists of a harp. Sometimes, there is a cello that plays one note and ... a bell.
No Man is an Island C-
I am an island. I am bloody Ibiza! ... So, here's John Donne's famous poem with some twinkly minimalism noises. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay.
From Portrait of the Young Man C+
DOESN'T JOAN BAEZ KNOW TO SHUT UP AT THE RECITAL???? ... OK, I haven't been able to successfully filter out. This was a rather involved arrangement from Schickele, and it would have been especially nice if Baez would have quit ruining the performance. It's one thing to turn your cell phone on at the concert, but it's a completely different thing to read poetry during it. She's ruining the whole experience.
All the Pretty Little Horses B-
Wow, Baez is some hypocrite. The only pretty horses are little, which must mean that the big horses are ugly. What a jerk!!! Big horses are pretty, too!!! ... Oh hey, axe the jokes for now. Baez is singing! The instrumentations aren't very involved... She's singing a lullaby, which would explain why this song is so boring.
Childhood III C+
Here is an artsy flute that seems like it wants to start playing the theme song from The Good the Bad and the Ugly. But then there's a creepy orchestral build-up that puts a new face on the word ART. They also tend to drown out the poetry, which is nice. If she won't shut up during the performance, I guess playing louder is a good idea.
The Magic Wood A
Now here's a song that, for once, features Baez actually sounding like a constructive force on this album. She lends a pretty vocal performance to an especially involved and expert orchestral section. This is definitely still minimalism, but the pacing is fast, and there's some especially nice orchestral build-ups. More songs like this!!
Poems from the Japanese D+
Next Baez went after the Japanese, and I bet they were pissed.
She's not covering Donovan again! She's just reading another poem. The Schickele arrangements are alright, but this one (as well as the previous) don't engage me much. (I'm automatically demoting these songs a full letter grade because Baez is talking through them... Thought you should know.)
All in Green My Love Went Riding C
Yeah, for some reason when Baez decides to actually sing, the arrangements are less interesting than the ones she talks through. Maybe Schickele should have just went solo and broke away from the mean pretentious lady.
Gracela of the Dark Death C-
Shut up, Joan Baez! I want to listen to the creepy violin music!!
Parable of the Old Man and the Young C-
Alright, I'll be the first to admit that I'm being a bit inconsistent with these track scores. This song doesn't feature any arrangements at all; it's just Baez reading off a grocery lis---I mean a poem by W. Owen (whoever the hell that is). If Baez shut up during this performance, then it'd be 50 seconds worth of dead air. So, shutting up wasn't exactly an option this time.
Joan Baez reads a poem about Joan Baez. Schickele makes some especially artistic arrangements that don't even seem much like arrangements. I'm confused, but that's not necessarily a bad thing... I'm confused all the time.
Epitaph for a Poet C
Geez, at least Baez is willing to do this considering how many poets she put to death.
Old Welsh Song N/A
OK, I'm getting Einstein on the Beach flashbacks. Er, I'm also getting the beginning-of-the-album flashbacks. HOLY CRAP, I'M NOT LISTENING TO THIS ALBUM AGAIN, AM I?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!!??!?!?!?!?!?! ... Oh, OK. I thought I was in some sort of Groundhog Day-esque loop where I had to listen to this album again and again and again until I wrote a glowing review of it. Thank goodness it ended. Baez was just being a dork and made the first song the same thing as the last one to mess with my mind.
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If I Knew B+
Hey! I knew that this is a mightily decent Joan Baez song. That's right, she actually recorded a decent song. This is apparently country-western, which surprises me since it isn't annoying. It's a mid-tempo song with a chugga-chugga drum beat, and a nice guitarists delivers some minimal fills. The melody is rather nice though nothing memorable.
Rock Salt and Nails C+
If Baez ever gets any clue on how to make an interesting song, then please call me. She brings in slide guitars but even they're boring and cliche. The mandolin was a nice idea, but I don't actually care. Oh, and the melody is bland.
Glad Bluebird of Happiness C+
..."Glad Bluebird of Happiness"... I just thought I should repeat the song title. I do actually like the fact that Baez hasn't resorted to her folkie phase, but I guess she hadn't forgotten how to be boring!! This song is only interesting in the sense that it's usually in a 4/4 time signature but it occasionally breaks into a waltz. Where does she find this stuff??
Green, Green Grass of Home B
At home, the grass is so green that the green is green! Somehow giving the usual cliche country-western vocal performance ended up being a good idea for Baez. Someone plays a honky tonk, and the slide guitar guy comes in. Er... This song is pretty good except for all the cliche pandering going on.
Will the Circle Be Unbroken C+
Baez brings in some back-up singers for this one. Completely unnecessary but mind you that I still have the pain of her second album still ringing through my ears! Well Baez opens her bag of cliches for this one, again. She delivers an old tune that wasn't so good to begin with. The instrumentation is OK, but nothing spectacular. She wasn't exactly surrounding herself with crackerjack musicians ... or if they were, they weren't allowed to do anything unique. Other than the general fact that I like orchestrated songs as opposed to just acoustic guitar folkie stuff, I'm just disappointed that it ends at that.
The Tramp On The Street C
More uninspired hokiness. The melody is another bit of cliche pandering that sounds like every country-western song ever written. The instrumentation is boringly playing it safe again.
Poor Wayfaring Stranger A-
A nice song for once! Joan Baez stepped out of her usualness and found an old song, and the instrumentalists do a nicer job than usual. The instrumentation is more rock-oriented, and she left the boring cliches out. Subjectively, this is an A+, but I can't help but feeling that this needed some added umph and creativity. Yeah, I know. If I want umph and creativity I shouldn't be reviewing Joan Baez. GOOD POINT.
Just a Walk Closer to Thee D+
Here is Baez trying to sound like Arethra Franklin with this soul performance. Granted, she's probably better at singing spirituals better than any of my neighbors, but that doesn't mean she should actually do it. The second half brings in some boring instrumentation.
Hickory Wind C
This was a Graham Parsons song that comes fully equipped with slide guitars, honky tonk and cliched melody, and it's all brought together produce something that's boring. This middle-of-the-road stuff is boring. BORING. BOOOORINGGGGG.
My Home's Across the Blue Ridge Mountains C
Here is a cutesy country-western song with a boring melody that doesn't go anywhere. Yeah, yeah, yeah, that's the nature of country-western music. That doesn't mean you have the excuse to make boring music. So, your home is across the Blue Ridge Mountains? ... Shouldn't you get going? ... G'on now. Git.
One Day at a Time
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Sweet Sir Galahad A-
Who ever would have known Joan Baez would have been capable of something as wonderful as this! What an excellent song! Its far from perfect; the melody is rather simple and extremely repetitive, but its pleasant and lucid, which is all it really needed. The instrumentation is simple and bare (more of a throwback to her old standards, methinks), but there were a few missed opportunities surely a violin line or something would have made the experience spicier. This is only the third Baez original in her illustrious discography, and this is proving that she might just have something.
No Expectations B
This isnt a bad cover of the Rolling Stones song, and shes at least deciding to refrain from the cliched instrumentation. Its hardly inspiring, though, and Baez doesnt actually add anything to the original (and, youd also understand, that this was a hugely unnecessary cover).
Long Black Veil B+
She must like this song; its the third time that Baez covered it. Its not nearly as good as the hillbilly version that appeared on Joan Baez/5, and this version somehow seems faker. The melody, while still excellent, is played more slowly, and I hate the slide guitars.
Not too bad. For the record, I dont care that Baez has severe political reasons for singing this, but I choose not to listen to the lyrics! (Of course, by saying that, I had to listen to the lyrics, but Im defiantly ignoring them.) I like Baezs convincing, soulful performance, and the instrumentation is just about the best the album has to offer. It comes fully equipped with some twangy guitar and jazzy piano! (This is all I ask for in your instrumentation, Joan Baez.)
Carry It On C+
Problem: You really do need to find a new slide guitarist. I get tired of hearing that horrible thing. Plus: You actually bring in a violin that I wish you would have also brought in for Sweet Sir Gallahad. Problem: The melody and textures remain pretty much the same throughout this composition, which gives the work the tendency to grow tiresome. Plus: Its only two and a half minutes.
Take Me Back to the Sweet Sunny South B-
Baez duets with somebody named Jeffrey Shurtleff, and nobody has any idea who that is. Hm. Hes OK I guess. The instrumentation works fine. Its rather involved, though Baez seems pretty satisfied adhering to the usual substandard instrumentalists. The harmonica solo is just a tad bit unnecessary though appreciated.
Seven Bridges Road A-
This is a very pretty song! Baezs duetting with Shurtleff provides something excellent for the ears --- and it even saves the fact that the instrumentation is rather lackluster! In this case, however, the thickly textured quality of the banjos and acoustic guitars manage to make a rather engaging experience.
Jolie Blonde C+
Given my relationship with the instrumentation has been underwhelming, to say the least, youd have to wonder what Id think of a *gasp* instrumental! Baezs one gift has been her voice (which we do hear singing a few prolonged notes) and her most major weakness has been her instrumental taste. This song isnt bad, but its just pointless.
Joe Hill B+
Nicely done! This isnt so phenomenally different than the other songs, and I continue to take issue with the mediocre session instrumentalists, but the song is very easy on the ears and even has a nice melody. I like the idea to bring in a pizzicato violin at the beginning.
Davids Song B-
Baezs second original composition is nowhere near as compelling as Sweet Sir Galahad even though its pretty much the same song! The songwriting is simple and the melody is overly repetitive (not to mention, it outstays its welcome by three whole minutes), but it works because of its laid-back quality.
One Day At a Time B
Not bad This neither bores me nor excites me, so Ill slap a B on it This time, Baez duets with someone Meh.
Carry It On
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Oh Happy Day B
It still strikes me as unusual that it was once fashionable for lefties to sing Christian spirituals! That sort of thing doesn’t happen too often today. Anyway, this is a happy little tune. Baez returned to her folkie roots already… this is just her singing with her acoustic guitar. Her vocal performance is a little more spritey than usual, which lends the song a benefit overall. On the one hand, it helps the song seem brighter and more energetic! On the other hand, she goes a little bit too far and the voice hits a few bad tones.
Carry It On C-
It sounds like she’s singing about carrion! That would be better in my opinion. This song is very boring, and Baez seems to play her acoustic guitar as if she were chopping wood or something. The vocals are alright… but I’ve wasted too much of my young life listening to her, and she’s doing nothing new.
In Forty Days F-
Sound-bytes from this alleged movie. Joan Baez sounds boring, but she’s small potatoes compared to her boorish, pseudo-intellectual boyfriend (who likes to impress people with his vocabulary and “philosophy”) explains using why he dodged the draft. He’s such a pig head that he claims to have invented the draft-dodge movement (no joke). His mini-lectures are so mind-numbing that it’s easy to ignore what Baez is saying in other spots… how she doesn’t want be merely an “entertainer.” The fact that she’s not that entertaining is beside the point; she wants to brainwash her audience to take up some important causes! I have a message for you, Ms. Baez: SHUT UP AND SING.
Hickory Wind B-
OK, let me rephrase that previous statement. Shut up and sing something interesting! How about some pop rock? Nobody likes folk music!!! … Actually this one isn’t the worst I heard her do, which is saying something. Her guitar strumming is nicely done and her vocal performance doesn't break my eardrums. The melody is way too repetitive, but folk music is supposed to be idiotic.
The Last Thing on My Mind C
Baez sings another folk song. Excuse my lack of details.
Life is Sacred F-
Baez’s bedmate preaches against the evil American society who is corrupt enough to call a draft, wage a war and send him to jail for three years. I genuinely like listening to lectures, but there’s no actual original content to this one. It’s more like an abstraction of every basic theme in philosophy. Either this guy is stupid or he’s trying to up muster up blind support for his “crusade.” He’s such a snotty turd that I feel bad for anyone who took him seriously.
Joe Hill D+
The beginning of it features Baez discussing her boy toy’s ‘successful infiltration of the prison system.’ Of course, she gets a hearty applause from all the would-be intellectuals in the crowd! Eventually she shuts her face and sings “Joe Hill,” apparently one of his favorite songs. It’s not a bad one, actually!
I Shall Be Released B+
One of the better ones… It’s delivered with convincing dramatics from Baez and she strums the guitar vivaciously. The tune’s not bad, either.
Do Right Woman, Do Right Man D+
Just another normal boring folk song. It starts out alright, but then Baez decides to try to be passionate in the latter half and hits a few ugly notes. Geez, woman.
Love is Just a Four-Letter Word A
It’s no coincidence that Baez is always at her best when she leeches off of Bob Dylan. The melody is catchy, the atmosphere is haunting and it’s much better developed than these other songs. It’s a great song. Frankly, the only drawback is that Baez is singing it.
Not bad! It’s a little boring, though. This is one of the more haunting varieties of folk music. It’s way too long.
Idols and Heroes F-
David Harris is neither smart nor interesting. Shut up, you stupefying beatnik.
We Shall Overcome F
Joan Baez is famous for singing this song, and here it is! Before she begins with the festivities, she informs us that her rendition of it will be beautiful. I’d like to make my own mind up about that, thank you very much! But Baez can’t help it because she’s pretentious. The source material was alright, but her vocal performance is very bad. And I’m the guy who says that Baez has a pretty voice! WHAT THE HECK DOES SHE THINK SHE’S DOING?? DID SHE FORGET HOW TO SING???? WHAT ARE YOU SCREAMING IN THE MICROPHONE FOR??? Way to butcher the iconic Civil Rights song!
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Blessed Are… A
Joan Baez wrote this very pretty song! It is severely better than her previous minor original hit, “Sweet Sir Galahad.” The melody is nice, though a bit too repetitive, but the development is certainly more advanced. She doesn’t pull any tricks as far as the instrumentation is concern… very straight-laced used of an acoustic guitar and orchestra. It’s very professional and tasteful. Nice that Baez finally wrote something to be very proud of.
The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down B+
This cover of The Band’s song proved to be a hit with the public! It’s quite a bit more lighthearted than the original … and quite a bit worse. Nonetheless, the melody is fantastic and Baez doesn’t give a bad performance. An extra point off for that choir she brings in… It’s very cheap sounding. Honestly, she would have been much better off just singing the thing by herself.
The Salt of the Earth A-
Pretty good! A cover of the Rolling Stones song, and the choir is better used (kept more in the background). It’s still much cheaper than the original, and Baez doesn’t have any interesting new ideas for it. However, speaking as someone who’s forcing himself to review these albums, it’s fantastic to hear something that’s enjoyable from her!
Three Horses C
A surprisingly pretty folk song penned by Baez. It’s just Baez singing with an acoustic guitar, but its effect turns out to be very haunting and lucid. The major and fatally severe kink is that Baez felt the unfortunate need to drag it on for seven minutes and deliver some horribly pretentious lyrics. This would have easily been an “A” if she lopped off the last four minutes of it. It grows utterly tedious by the end. Such a shame! No surprise that Baez would have such a lapse of taste.
The Brand New Tennessee Waltz D-
Yucky. This is some boring and derivative country-western song that’s worthy of some cut-rate Branson show. The choir is cheaper than ever. Sorry to throw this word at you again, Joan, but this is rubbish.
Last, Lonely and Wretched C+
Another Baez original! She’s able to tap into a very pretty vibe, and I guess it helps that she gives these originals her best vocal performances imaginable. Unfortunately, this pretty vibe quickly fades out when it becomes apparent that Baez didn’t have too many interesting ideas for it. An acoustic guitar and a bass are the only instruments, and they keep the same texture going throughout. Sorry if this puts me to sleep!
Lincoln Freed Me Today B
Baez sings this with a southern drawl that humorously reminds me of that one incident involving Hillary Clinton. Anyway, this is a cover about a slave that was freed! Musically, this track isn’t bad. The melody is fine and the instrumentation is a bit more interesting. It helps that she brings in a drummer, a piano player and even a harmonica for an actual ensemble work. She should do this more often even if they’re merely average session musicians.
Outside the Nashville City Limits A
I’ll tell you what: this song grows on you. It’s not anything spectacular, and the melody is especially derivative, but it’s all decent enough to keep my ears happy. Some nice guitar plucking in the background gives the song some nice texture. The bass player sounds like he/she is sleepwalking! Nonetheless, the lyrics are as unpretentious as it gets for a Baez song (simply about a farmer showing us around the countryside), and it’s very charming.
San Francisco Mabel Joy A
This is good, and showcases why it’s important to have actual song development. There’s a push to make it more dramatic and instrumentally involved toward the end. It doesn’t merely keep the same texture and mood from beginning to end. KEEP WITH THAT. PLEASE. (I should get it through my mind that trying to tell someone in 1971 to do something is more futile than resisting the Borg.)
When Time is Stolen B-
BORING! Sorry Joan, but you didn’t follow my advice, so I can’t give you an A. The melody is OK, but she does this weird repeating thing that’s hopelessly awkward. Overdubbing her vocals to sound like a cheesy Halloween ghost also wasn’t a good idea. The one thing she got completely right was the general mood of it, which is so good that I’ll be willing to give it a mild thumbs up. Just know that it probably would have been an A if a better producer and arranger was brought in.
Heaven Help Us All B
Not the worst song Baez has been associated with. It’s a cover with very base-level transparent things to say about various social injustices. The cheesy choir she brings in makes the lyrics sound even worse and more like a joke or something. Nonetheless, the melody is very catchy making this track rank as “good” in the end.
Not to be confused with “Farewell, Angelina!” … Not that you would. That was a very good song, and this is utterly boring. The melody is poor and, appropriately enough, the lyrics seem centered around weather forecasts. Bringing in heavy violins for the instrumentation was a great idea, though, which resulted in raising the song score, but the problem is they’re not playing anything that’s more interesting than the vocal melody.
Help Me Make it Through the Night B+
Put on a Baez album, and you’ll go right to sleep! (Oh, that was too funny!!) Esteemed star of the 1989 film Millennium Kris Kristofferson wrote this pleasant tune. The instrumentation is very country-westernish, but it turned out to be well played and just right. Unfortunately, Baez’s voice hits a horrible squeaky sound that I can’t seem to get over.
Let it Be B+
Geez, Baez manages to make even The Beatles sound boring! What’s with that hopelessly dull introduction? Bringing in that horrible chorus earns more ire. Still, it’s a Beatles song, so it gets big points! This just proves that Paul McCartney’s songwriting skills own everybody. Baez compositions don’t even compare… it just makes her look bad.
Put Your Hand in My Hand B
Originally sung by Anne Murray whose voice probably suited it much better, but Baez gives a better “husky” vocal performance than I would have guessed. The song itself is an average upbeat country-pop song. Nothing special. The back-up singers are horrible.
Gabriel and Me C-
The beginning of the five-in-a-row set of original Baez compositions… a notion that I met with extreme distaste when I first read about them! Surprisingly, they’re all pretty good… except for this song. It is rather pretty in an understated way, but it’s very dull. The melody is nice (meaning that it’s uninteresting) and the instrumentation is a sluggish bit involving a twinkly acoustic guitar that never changes its mood, texture or tone throughout the duration of the piece. Zzzzzz.
Milanese Waltz / Marie Flore B+
Well this one has its moments! For the first section, Baez tries out an orchestral piece. It’s nothing spectacular, but she finds an OK melody and, more importantly, changes the texture throughout. The “Marie Flore” part is less interesting. The melody is fine for awhile, but it gets blander every time she repeats it. Bringing in the accordion for the last minute was cute, though.
The Hitchhiker’s Song A
Interestingly, the song starts out to be more boring than anything, but then she gracefully changes the accompaniment as it progresses, which follows all these “development” demands that I’m always barking at her. Instead of getting tedious by the end, it’s actually subtly gorgeous and something that’s very easy to take to heart. If only Baez could come out with an album full of songs like these.
The 33rd of August B
Like the last tune, I’m not crazy about the beginning, but Baez gives it a mood shift with some tastefully arranged violins and pianos and stuff. This doesn’t develop nearly as well as the previous track, but it’s quite a pleasant listen all the same.
Fifteen Months A+
Whoah! The texture with that twinkly piano is marvelous! Must’ve been an accident or Baez had a surprising lapse of good taste for once. Otherwise, the instrumentation is surprisingly advanced for Baez… something that I do hope she would dare to do more in the future. The development is well-done and *gasp* even a bit creative. Her skills in development have come an awful long way from the days of “Sweet Sir Galahad,” that’s for sure. The one gripe is the melody, which is merely OK… It’s lesser than this song seemed to deserve. Obviously melodies are one of the most significant issues that Baez the singer/songwriter would have done well to work on. I give the song an A+ because it’s a surprise Baez would manage to come out with something this good.
She brings some old song that she sings in Spanish. The melody is alright… it sounds just like something I’d hear in a Mexican restaurant! (I don’t know much about this sort of music, unfortunately, so I’m a musical racist in these matters.)
Plane Wreck at Los Gatos
A Woody Guthrie song dealing with racism. I think Woody Guthrie is boring, but I guess that goes to show that I shouldn’t try to like folk music! … This actual song is melodic, though, and Baez was nice enough to Guthrie’s spirit to refrain from butchering it. Quite professional.
Warm and Tender Love
A boring folk ditty where Baez tries to be “soulful.” As she demonstrated with “We Shall Overcome” in the previous album, she shouldn’t even try.
Come From the Shadows
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Prison Trilogy B+
I reinstate my claim that I don’t give a crap about Joan Baez lyrics. …I mean, they’re not bad, but hardly adequate for anyone who ever listened Bob Dylan. This song is a rather bland portrayal of three prison-related tragedies. Many of the lines sound written specifically for the rhyme (“Billy fought the sergeant for some milk that he demanded / Knowing they'd remain the boss / Knowing he would pay the cost / They saw he was severely reprimanded”). But lyrics were never the reason I listened to music, anyway. I will tell you that Baez’s melody is very nice and flowing. Breezy and pleasant. Thanks to the big new studio, the instrumentation is also well done. The evolving guitar strumming gives it nice texture, with is accented by the drumbeat, which also occasionally changes its pattern. A light slide guitar in the background is appropriately subtle, as opposed to ugly and intrusive on her previous albums. Harmonica at the end was a great idea. Even though the lyrics might not be poetry, the arrangements make it seem a shame that they weren’t. Well, this is nice!
Rainbow Roads A
A very very good song. It wasn’t written by Baez, of course. This is where she really started benefiting by the big studio treatment. The gospel back-up singers would have, otherwise, sounded horrible since she tends to recruit back-up singers who sound like crap. Here, they sound polished with tons of reverb, and the mix is fantastic. Acoustic guitars, strings, rock organs and pianos are also in the mix. All of that, plus the melody is great. Love Baez’s vocal performance, too… She sounds like she’s a real singer. This is too charming for Baez. Scarily charming for someone who’s usually an insufferable snob.
Love Song to a Stranger A-
Somehow, Baez figured out how to be charming… Just a melodic and sentimental ballad with pretty instrumentation. I still can’t claim that Baez is a great songwriter… she seems awfully content with keeping the same patterns and chord progressions throughout the whole thing. But it almost doesn’t seem to matter… it’s very free flowing and pretty, and it seems to be firmly established that this is her new “style.” Of course, the lyrics are hokey nonsense (“And I gave you only my dark eyes that melted your soul down / To a place where it longs to be”), but I shouldn’t pay attention to the lyrics.
Another Baez original, and I’m certain that I heard this melody (or part of it at least) somewhere else. Well, it’s not nearly as good as the previous originals anyway. It continues in her habit of creating these free-flowing, pleasant things without much melodic invention. …So it’s OK. The instrumentation is very polished and well mixed. You don’t even know how glad I am that Baez finally worked with a professional producer. It’s like a miracle, or something.
In the Quiet Morning A
Written by Joan Baez’s sister Mimi Farina, and it’s certainly more advanced than most of the Baez tunes. Very similar sounding to a Neil Diamond song and just as melodically as any of his hits. The instrumental development is very good as well. It gets more dramatic as it goes, and that transition to the “lah-lah-lah” chorus was utterly nailed. Very good.
Weary Mothers (People Union #1) B-
Another Baez original… this one starts out like it’s still her old folky days, but soon some drums come in… and eventually violins and stuff. Melodically, the song isn’t bad… nothing special. Thanks to the professional instrumentation it’s kept from growing tedious, which it undoubtedly would have otherwise. This is a very pleasant listen albeit entirely forgettable.
To Bobby C+
Another original… It starts out sounding exactly like “Love Song to a Stranger” and “Prison Trilogy” with its smooth flow and repetitive melody, but then she actually conforms to my desire and inserts these different sections. Well, they sound awful!!! She completely strips away the instrumentation and sings basically two notes with what I guess is some keyboard. Horrible. The song would’ve been better if it was the pleasant drone like the rest of ‘em.
Song of Bangladesh A+
VERY GOOD. And an original, even! She takes a very forlorn attitude this time and has well-written lyrics to match. Even the melody is lovely. Nothing too inventive or revolutionary, but for once she isn’t being overly repetitive. Heck this is even pretty moving. Cool.
A Stranger in My Place D+
It seems that whenever the name “Kenny Rogers” pops up, it can’t be good news. It’s not a hidden fact that I don’t like country music, but I can appreciate it sometimes. Unfortunately, I can’t appreciate this song, because it’s generic tripe. The slide guitar is vomitous. It ruins the perfect mood the previous song left. Sorry. Best if this were left off the album.
Geez, this was a perfect follow-up to “Song of Bangladesh.” It keeps the same sort of mood except it’s a bit more hopeful and beautiful. This even probably qualifies as country music, which even further exposes the previous track to be an utter sham. The chord progressions are enticing and the melody is gorgeous. Not a Baez original, though! I have no clue who this “Douglas Van Arsdale” is, and the Internet doesn’t seem to know much either, but I’m interested.
The Partisan C+
It’s not nearly as bad as “A Stranger in My Place.” The melody is very repetitive though the instrumentalists seem to do all they can to make it seem fresh… They might be going a bit too far, actually, with those huge orchestral hits. Awkward though interesting.
Leave it to Joan Baez to cover that John Lennon song that everybody in the world already knows by heart. It adds nothing to the original, but who cares? That’s such a petty thing to complain about here.
Where Are You Now, My Son?
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Only Heaven Knows A
A pretty mid-tempo song… Basically another rewrite of “Sweet Sir Gallahad,” but I guess if you can consistently write likable songs with it, then more the power to you! More of those big studio benefits are here… a lightly strummed acoustic guitar, violins, electric pianos. The instrumentals are all well mixed and attractive. Cool.
Less Than the Song B-
A country singer with a name as interesting as “Hoyt Axton” wrote this… Well, it’s fine. The instrumentalists were kind enough to actually keep it from sounding country making it seem more like a pop-rock tune. (There’s a slide guitar sounding it isn’t supposed to… it’s more forlorn and sad.) I like the instrumentation but find the melody to be underwhelming.
A Young Gypsy A
Not bad, Baez… An original that revisits some of those minor-scale English ballads that she used to do. With the exception of some strings in the final half, Baez even sings with only an acoustic guitar. You can tell this big studio production even improved the acoustic guitar tracks… it sounds much fuller than they did in her earlier albums. The melody is actually quite accomplished and unlike most of her other melodies… You might even like it after repeated listens.
Mary Call C
Following up with “In the Quiet Morning” from her previous album, Baez covers her sister again. Mimi Farina definitely seem to have a more pop mentality than Baez… the chord progression sounds like a Beatles song (er… “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” actually). It’s not the world’s best melody, and it does get boring. I really don’t like the choir sound they bring in… it’s emotionally empty though audibly deafening.
Rider Pass By A-
Not bad at all! This Baez original sounds like it would be a decent church hymn or something. The accompaniment is just a piano further accenting that notion… It’s not as boring as I think it would be. The melody is very well written, and Baez’s dramatic vocals suit the material perfectly. Can’t say I resent her for always being so self-serious with this one. Just a small complaint about the running length… the hook started to get stale after three minutes. The last minute wasn’t needed.
Best of Friends A+
Another Farina song… she definitely has a nice handle on harmonies... better than her sister, anyway. There’s something about her songs that seem like they’re going to be magical before they start (“Mary Call” had that similar feeling, but the arrangements screwed it up). This one was done just right, though. The melody is just about the prettiest thing ever to come out of Baez’s voice and the instrumentation is lovely. This is a fantastic soft-rock pick if you like that sort of thing!
Wind Rose C
A classical music instrumental credited to Joan Baez? As I hinted at earlier, Baez was never one to impress me with her chord progressions and she doesn’t start here. Good chord progressions are an absolute essential for such instrumentals. Without them, your music will be bland, which describes “Wind Rose” exactly. She only uses a handful of chords, they’re extremely predictable and she doesn’t change them often enough. I will admit that the instrumentation is well done … a variety of strings, flutes and whatever else… The biggest instrumental complaint I have is that piano that never changes its texture.
Where Are You My Son? F
Probably staying away from Carnegie Hall just in case you were thinking about releasing your first symphony. (Sorry… that wasn’t funny at all…) … And this song isn’t funny at all. In fact, it’s not even music. I sat through it once successfully though nearly lost my will to live. I described everything you need to know about this 21-minute train-wreck in the main body of this review.
Gracias a la Vida
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Gracias La Vida B
Not bad, Baez, not bad at all. An upbeat tune with a title that translates to “Thanks for the Videos” with a moderately catchy melody. Baez’s vocal delivery is fairly straight-laced, though based on my knowledge from high school Spanish, she’s pronouncing everything spot-on! (Well… because it was high school, I didn’t learn anything… in fact I’m not even sure that my translation was right.) The instrumentation is simply acoustic guitar and some sort of other guitar playing Latin cliches. It’s sort of bouncy and fun. Perfect for light, throwaway entertainment. Not bad, Baez, not bad.
Llego Con Tres Heridas C
A slow, boring Latin ballad. I realize that we shouldn’t blame Baez for these songs since she didn’t write them, and they understandably could have carried some sort of value to Chileans … I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. BUT it’s up to Baez to make it interesting, which she doesn’t do. A simple, quiet guitar loop plays as she sings over it… Slowly some subtle acoustic guitar comes up, but it’s too little too late. Zzzzz.
La Llorena B-
Guess what this is. Why, another Latin tune, of course! This one’s mid-tempo, and she gives it another straight-laced performance. Such typical Latin percussion! Joan Baez is always one for cliches! The source material is pretty good, though, and the strings she brings in after a bit were a nice touch. Not bad, Baez, not bad.
El Preso Numero Nueve D+
Not too good… This sounds like it came from a cheap CDs that people buy if they want to open a Mexican restaurant. (The overpowering temptation of a burrito lets me bear it through, though! But I’m not getting a burrito for my efforts here!) Very cliched horns, strumming Spanish guitar, maracas… the works. Baez’s voice even sounds streamlined here… Zzzz!
I actually remember singing this in middle school Spanish (oh there was a traumatic experience… my middle school teacher was out for my blood… Seriously, she was a vampire. I also remember that I wrote a poem in Spanish about a gorilla and a librarian… And she hated it…). Well, the guitar is twinkly, which sets it apart from the rest, but the song itself is very trite and without much energy. Just another thing for me to fall asleep to.
Te Recuerdo Amanda B
Manuel?? … er … Hey, this song doesn’t adhere to Latin cliches! Apart from the language, you wouldn’t think it would be a Latin song… Sounds like a regular Joan Baez song, in fact. The melody is OK, but nothing great. It’s also nicely atmospheric… though it’s admittedly pretty dang dull. Needed more life.
Joan Baez wrote this, but apparently she didn’t know how to write lyrics in Spanish… Basically just repeats “Dida” over and over again. Seriously, I would’ve given her my librarian and gorilla poem if she wanted it… This one’s like elevator music, but it’s not unpleasant. The vocal overdubbing at the end was very nice… It would have been nicer with a bolder melody.
Cucurrucucu Paloma F
Didn’t I hear that on a Rick Moranis movie????… Baez opens this track by making Speedy Gonzalez noises… Geez!!!! You know that there was some serious reason for her to do this, although I can’t imagine what it was (trying to be “homely” is my best guess). That only accounts for part of this song’s low score… It’s also plodding and dull as a dead duck. The back up singers sound horrible… Too loud in the mix. The acoustic guitar strumming is too slow and consists of too many pauses. No way in hell this is going to be good to the ears. Yup, here is Joan Baez sucking the way God intended.
Paso Rio D
An a cappella track except for some cheesy flutes and cello at the end. At least it’s less than a minute long.
El Rossinyol C-
I can breath a sigh of relief, because we’re back to the more inoffensively boring Joan Baez. …Though she’s BORING. This is Baez singing a very slow ballad with long-spaced-out chords and a cheesy flute. The melody isn’t interesting… So what good is it?? (And I still give it a C-… I’m taking it as bribery. As long as she doesn’t annoy me, I’ll reward her.)
De Colores D+
That nice twinkly guitar is back. Can’t say I like this song, though. The source material is boring, and she gives it a markedly straight-faced performance… I don’t know why she would even bother. …But I suppose I should know better than to expect creativity of any sort from her more than just occasionally.
Las Madres Cansadas C-
I hate to consistently hammer the point home, but this is hopelessly BORING. Just an average melody treat like nothing by Baez & friends. A bit of a choir brought in, but that’s it. I wish I could say there was anything worth listening about this.
No Nos Moveran D-
The first half consists of a hymn-like backing music and Baez recites poetry over this. When is she going to grow out of this sort of nonsense? After that, it’s another completely boring, cliché ridden Latin song. I’m sick of this.
Esquinazo Del Guerrillero C
Just like all good things must come to an end, so must all bad things. Thank God.
Diamonds & Rust
Read the full review:
Diamonds & Rust A
This is one of Joan Baez's most celebrated songs and certainly her most celebrated original composition, and it's easy to see why. It's gorgeous! The melody is sweet and hummable, and its mood sounds deep and terribly forlorn. The lyrics don't match that sentimentality necessarily, but they don't really have to! I heard about a billion times that this is about her relationship with Bob Dylan in the previous decade, but it's really about the relationship with her husband David. The lyrics seem muddled in places, but that seems like an extremely insignificant complaint. Melodically, this is rather memorable, but I'd hope you notice its rambly melody sounds very similar to her earlier originals. Baez is an extremely limited songwriter, but she managed to hit something nice here. Speaking of the instrumentation, it consists of the typical acoustic guitar, but extremely polished additions from various synthesizers lends it a fantastically thick atmosphere! Especially notable is a tiny contribution from a “Baba O'Reilly”-like synthesizer twinkling around occasionally. Whoever arranged this should be congratulated! (A point off for the lyrics, which are distractingly muddled. I know Baez likes telling her stories, but she could come up with words that fit the rhythm.)
Fountain of Sorrow B
Jackson Browne? ... Er, OK. Browne and Baez are probably in the same category of singer-songwriters... Both entirely pleasant, but don't for one moment expect to be moved. This is a fun and snappy upbeat rock tune that's good for tapping your feet to. Don't expect it to do anything more for you!
Never Dreamed You'd Leave for Summer A
This Stevie Wonder cover was hugely unexpected though ultimately one of the most inspired cover choices of her career. (Naturally, I'm biased since I love Stevie Wonder!) Wonder's original version seemed a bit over-the-edge, and Baez lends a more sane voice to such a pretty melody. Her vocals are strong and soaring ... what a wonderful song!
Children all that Jazz B-
This original tune seems to embrace the '70s funk/pop trends that were exploding at the time, but it's also weird. The melody is extremely simple and the chord progression is very clunky. Her vocals are squeaky and nearly ugly... But the reason this song is worthwhile is because she lets a jazz pianist have his way with the instrument all over the track. Other than that, this song is pretty silly.
Simple Twist of Fate A
Somehow Baez gained access to this Dylan song before Dylan actually released it! (She must be in the privileged class!) This is quite a bit more upbeat and rockin' than Dylan's version, and it has a carefree vibe going for it. As you might expect, the melody is the album's best making this pretty much the highlight of the album for most listeners. But what's with Baez's horrible Dylan impersonation in the middle of this? Puh-lease.
Blue Sky C+
This is a likable track. It's the sort of thing that I can listen to pleasantly, but I don't remember it even a little bit after it's finished playing! It's a cover from a country-western artist I never heard of... The song doesn't really sound like country-western... It sounds like a blander version of the Eagles, if that was even possible.
Hello in There B+
A John Prine cover? I suppose one day in the distant future I might enjoy listening to him! But not yet... Anyway, he borrows a lot from the old folksters, but there's something likable about the melody and the chorus. (Mostly I'm impressed that he wrote a song with a chorus much less a catchy one.) It's no great composition, though (all the talk that Prine was going to be the next Dylan was obviously a lot of unfounded media hype).
Beautifu1! This song was written by Janis Ian, a folk singer with tons of reputation but I've never had a chance to hear. Of course, the song sounds deadly serious and overly dramatic! Well, we expect that, right? The melody is beautiful. The instrumentation consisting of a lightly strummed acoustic guitar and light piano were just right. This would make a typical and good song for a romantic film montage or something.
Winds of the Old Days D+
Sheesh! You'd hope that all those covers she was doing would mean the originals would be better (barring the title track of course). I believe this the song about Bob Dylan, and it's painfully mediocre. The hooks are dead dull! I mean, this wouldn't even sound good coming from an amateur. And what the hell's with the dumb chords she's using??
Holy hell. She decided to re-record this song (that originally appeared on Gracias A La Vida) probably because nobody liked that album! (OK, I got a few notices from some people allegedly from Chile, none of whom have a sense of humor, informing me that they liked the Baez album... Hey, there's something for everyone.) This sounds quite a bit different than the original... this time taking more of a Vegasy show tune vibe and importing some Joni Mitchell for backing vocals. I don't think these dated, corny instrumentals did it many favors, though, and I actually like the original quite a bit better.
I Dream of Jeannie / Danny Boy A-
Baez definitely isn't a stranger to performing straight-forward renditions of 19th century tunes, but very occasionally I'm known to enjoy them. These two ditties were (and are) far more popular than usual, but I suppose the reason those old tunes still stick around today is because they're so good! The instrumentation consists simply of Baez singing with a piano... Again, sometimes resorting to the roots is all you need (especially when it's not the whole album).
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