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  • Songs of Free Men / A Paul Robeson Recital
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Songs of Free Men / A Paul Robeson Recital Original recording remastered


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Audio CD, Original recording remastered, December 9, 1997
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Songs of Free Men / A Paul Robeson Recital + Ballad for Americans + Paul Robeson Live at Carnegie Hall
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (December 9, 1997)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Original recording remastered
  • Label: Sony
  • ASIN: B0000029YJ
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,759 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Balm in Gilead
2. Chassidic Chant
3. Quiet Flows The Don: From Border To Border
4. Quiet Flows The Don: Oh, How Proud Our Quiet Don
5. Elijah, Op. 70: The Lord God Of Abraham
6. The Purest Kind Of Guy
7. Joe Hill
8. The Peat-Bog Soldiers
9. The Four Insurgent Generals
10. Native Land
11. Song Of The Plains
12. Cradle Song
13. Within Four Walls
14. By An' By
15. Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child
16. John Henry
17. Water Boy
18. My Curly Headed Baby
19. Mah Lindy Lou
20. Wagon Wheels
See all 25 tracks on this disc

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Amazon.com

There was nothing like the Robeson sound, ever. To describe his deep, rich, perfectly equalized instrument is futile. Go instead to "Balm in Gilead," the opening track, and see if you can listen to the last pianissimo phrase without falling to pieces. Robeson was at his best when the music was slow and the words contained spiritual or social messages. Faster, lighter fare like Kern's "I Still Suits Me" or Gershwin's "It Ain't Necessarily So" find the serious-minded singer out of his element, lacking irony and swing. "Old Man River," though, gets a simple, dignified treatment. It's Songs of Free Men, though, that will just keep Robeson's artistry rolling along, especially in Sony's astonishing transfers. --Jed Distler

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 11, 2000
Format: Audio CD
It's hard to believe that most of these recordings pre-date the advent of magnetic tape: the CD transfer is superlative. The songs and performance are beyond reproach. Notable is the imaginative packaging in miniature 'record album' format, complete with the original cover art by Alex Steinweiss, and a replica of the original Columbia record label applied to the CD.

In response to a previous question: Robeson's performance of Danny Boy (Londonderry Air) can be found on the Vanguard LP entitled "Robeson" (VRS-9037).
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By xntric@chorus.net on August 13, 1999
Format: Audio CD
During World War II Robeson recorded the original Songs of Freemen. I believe there were eight songs in this album. I well remember them from my early childhood, and they inspired attitudes which have lasted more than fifty years. I suppose they can't have the same meaning for the present generation, but they are certainly worth a listen.
Some of these are very different from what you may have come to expect from Robeson. The spirituals and more usual Robeson pieces have been added to fill out the CD. Even so, they are some of his best. But, if you haven't heard Peat Bog Soldiers (written in a Nazi Concentration Camp), or Song of the Plains (Meadowlands), you're in for a real treat. And for you older foldks, especially you "Red Diaper Babies", a real emotional high!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By R. Moonilall on September 24, 2004
Format: Audio CD
Put this on your stereo and if it is good enough the depth and richness of Robeson's voice will make your fillings rattle and your chest rumble. The power of his voice is awesome. This CD is superbly recorded with no audible noise at normal listening levels.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful By T. Bekken on May 4, 2000
Format: Audio CD
In the 1940s, before rabid McCarthyism and racism had taken its toll on him, Robeson made these wonderful recordings of spirituals, classics and pop tunes. Accompanied by the solo piano of the incomparable Lawrence Brown, or by an orchestra, the songs ring out with pride, dignity, skill and unmatched integrity. The shameful treatment that Robeson was subject to from American authorities certainly seem grotesquely absurd to a modern listener. The wonderful version of "The House I Live In" included on this cd should forever kill off any suspicion that Robeson did not love his country deeply. This album ought to be heard by millions of people, world wide. Robeson's voice is nothing less than a glorious high point in 20th century music, and it's hard to think of any recording capturing it to greater advantage.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Hiram Gomez Pardo HALL OF FAME on November 15, 2010
Format: Audio CD
Recorded during the 1940s, this album captures with all its splendor the radian vocal majesty of this unequalled bass : Paul Robeson the indomitable, the supreme nightingale of a selected repertoire.

The first seventeen tracks were recorded with the piano accompaniment of Lawrence Brown and the last eight with the Columbia Concert Orchestra conducted by Emanuel Balaban. They convey indeed arguably the excitement and visceral expression around every song.

This album was a fortunate release for all of those who were aware about him but that never had the chance to appreciate his craftsmanship. Particularly effective are to my mind, the following tracks: Ol' man river (His everlasting personal hymn), Water boy, My curly headed baby, Balm in Gilead, From border to border, The purest kid of Guy, Song of the plains and Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.

Believe me all the album is pure gold. One of these albums that you definitively will not be able to do without.

Don't miss it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By James Walsh on September 5, 2007
Format: Audio CD
Really enjoyable set of songs. I never tire of hearing Robeson sing. These songs are my constant delight while on the road.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Victoria C. Wood on January 23, 2013
Format: Audio CD
Although Karl Marx had written Das Kapital in the 1800s, many of the less humanitarian ideas - and certainly the realities - of communism were still unknown to many people in the U.S. by the 1930s. Black people were especially attracted to its promise of social, educational, professional, and economic equality for all races and genders - everything African American people had dreamed of for centuries.

But blacks were by no means the only people in the U.S. who became infatuated with communism during that time. It became fashionable among certain segments of white society to embrace Marxism as well.

As always in politics and foreign affairs, Stalin's atrocities were accompanied by propaganda. When Stalin came under attack, he defended his actions by stating he had never done a thing our own Abraham Lincoln hadn't done. He questioned why Americans would esteem Lincoln and villify him for doing the same things. Then as today, issues were not always clear.

For an educated, accomplished, refined man and noted celebrity like Paul Robeson, the degradation of being excluded from hotels, restaurants, and the use of certain drinking fountains and restrooms because of his color must have been so offensive to him. Perhaps we can forgive him a certain naivete - common to many people of his day - for casting about in search of something he hoped (however mistakenly) might better serve the rights and needs of all people.
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