LP Number: Cisco (Vanguard VSD-79200)
Joan Baez is one of the greatest interpreters of the folk idiom who ever committed words to vinyl. Put this album on your turntable, sit back, turn the lights off, and you'll understand why. Her pure voice conveys a combination of depth of feeling and wistfulness that is impossible to duplicate. Play this album and you'll begin to understand, if you didn't already, why there was such a resurgence in the popularity of folk music in the sixties. Joan does interpretations of songs by Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, and Donovan, plus traditional ballads and more. If you've had a hard day and want to be transported back to another, more innocent time, this album will work that magic.
Farewell Angelina is musically compelling, and it's also a real ear-opener sonically. It far outshines the Vanguard reissue that I have for comparison. This Cisco reissue has startling clarity and transparency, coupled with outstanding vocal and instrumental timbre. Joan's subtle acoustic guitar lines and her instrumental accompanists are distinctly reproduced. But the real stunner is Joan's voice, which is captured in all its subtle shadings and range of expressiveness. When she sings in French and German, you don't need to strain to catch the words. Someone (uncredited) has done a great job with the mastering of this LP. And the surfaces are flat and mostly dead quiet. Bravo.
The album opens with a string of three Bob Dylan tunes: the evocative and haunting "Farewell, Angelina," the uptempo "Daddy, You Been on My Mind," and the lilting "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue." These three quite different pieces highlight the range of expression of which Joan is capable. Her version of the second tune is especially poignant, and it's a perfect vehicle for Joan's nimble, emotive, perfectly enunciated vocals. Her vocal and instrumental skills really shine on "The Wild Mountain Thyme," a traditional song on which the only instrumental work is Joan on guitar and Richard Romoff on string bass. Her vocal purity, control, and expressiveness come across in spades on this song about the Scottish highlands, my favorite cut on the album. Joan is capable of high, sustained notes that are absolutely captivating. Side one closes with "Colours," originally penned and performed by Donovan, but here Joan makes it her own. Bruce Langhorne's subtle electric guitar accompaniment blends in perfectly with Joan's deft acoustic guitar work. (The words "mellow" and "yellow" appear in this song's verses, but thankfully not in the same verse.) This upbeat tune is a perfect close to a perfect album side.
What about side two, you say? Well, you'll just have to buy the album and find out for yourself. And there's more. Cisco's physical reproduction of the originals is very professional; the original record jacket art and record label here are expertly produced. The 180 gram pressing, mercifully not true to the original thinner pressing, is most welcome. And for those of you who know your celebrity photographers, this album's cover photo was shot by Richard Avedon.
Cisco has been doing a great job of branching out and selecting outstanding folk and blues albums to reissue. More great folk music can be found in Cisco's reissues of Ian and Sylvia's two albums Four Strong Winds and Northern Journey. This Canadian couple, allegedly the model for the former-husband-and-wife duo in the movie A Mighty Wind, began performing in 1960, and are phenomenal musicians. Both of these wonderful Cisco reissues should be purchased by any lover of folk music.
Please support Cisco by buying Farewell Angelina. This release is very highly recommended, and a company that is producing products such as this in 2004 deserves your enthusiastic support. They most definitely have mine. All I can say is, keep up the great work, Robert!