As you might suspect, after 40 years the Philadelphia Folk Festival has some fine performances in their archives. For those of us not fortunate or hardy enough to attend over the years they have decided to release this musically rich four-CD deluxe box set. These discs span the period from 1962 to 2000, but instead of putting the music in chronological order, the cuts are arranged so the CD's are musically cohesive rather than historically sequenced.
Almost every major folk performer from the last 40 years is represented by at least one cut in this Box, with only Dylan (who never played on stage) absent. You'll find Dave Van Ronk, Doc and Merle Watson, Rev. Gary Davis, Bonnie Raitt, Ramblin Jack Elliot, Tom Paxton, Mississippi Jon Hurt, Pete Seeger, Tom Rush, Steve Goodman, David Bromberg, John Hartford, Odetta, Janis Ian, John Prine, John Gorka, Beausoleil, Taj Mahal, Nickel Creek, Ricky Skaggs, Judy Collins, Arlo Guthrie, Phil Oachs, Steve Forbert, and Richard Thompson here. A majority of the cuts are from the late 90's as opposed to the 60's, 70's, or 80's, but recent improvements in live recording equipment make this bias understandable.
A 58-page booklet features essays by Jonathan Takiff, music critic for the Philadelphia Daily News, Michael Coony, performer and master of ceremonies for the festival, and Mark Moss, editor of
Sing Out. The booklet also has detailed liner notes about each performance, which include a most welcome listing of accompanists (a feature that is all too often missing from live box sets). Sound quality, even on the early selections, is quite good. With seven different live recording engineers over the years, producer Gene Shay, executive producer Carl Apter, and associate producer Chris Thomas should be commended for the sonic consistency of this set. While the sound is not as stellar as some live recordings, like "Telluride - Alive at 25", it's still more than acceptable.
Big bodacious box sets like Philadelphia Folk Festival - 40th Anniversary make ideal gifts, so perhaps you better start hinting at those near and dear that this is just the thing you want to find yourself unwrapping sometime in the very near future.
Sound Quality: 85