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The Best of Broadside 1962-1988
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Broadside magazine was sort of the literary equivalent of the proverbial '60s coffeehouse, where folk and protest singers would come together and share their latest songs coming out of the peace, civil rights and labor movements. Over 26 years, the magazine published literally thousands of compositions, and here, collected for the first time, are 89 of the most notable songs that debuted in its hallowed pages, all thoroughly annotated inside a 100-page spiral-bound book. Just a cursory look at the lineup of artists and tunes will give you an idea of how large a role this periodical played: Links on the Chain Broadside Singers with Phil Ochs; The Ballad of Ira Hayes Peter LaFarge; Train for Auschwitz Tom Paxton; John Brown; Ballad of Donald White (rare!) Bob Dylan; Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall Pete Seeger; Kill for Peace Fugs; Shady Acres Janis Ian; Long Time Troubled Road Eric Andersen, and more from Buffy Sainte-Marie, Happy Traum, Nina Simone, Arlo Guthrie, Lucinda Williams and more. Indispensable to understanding the '60s.
Historically, a broadside was a song (without music) or poem printed on one side of paper, dealing with a topical issue that usually was of a political nature. Itinerant writers peddled broadsides for a few cents, and their message served to spread the news or perhaps create a controversy about a current event.
In 1962 Sis Cunningham and Gordon Friesen began publication of Broadside, a topical song magazine that quickly would help to start a national movement. After the cold war '50s, a social, cultural, and political revolution was in the air. Broadside began publishing hundreds of songs of social dissatisfaction by musicians who later became the leading lights of the folk and protest movements. Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton, Pete Seeger, and dozens more all had their songs first published in Broadside.
This five-CD set is a marvelously comprehensive document of the magazine's songs and songwriters, all of whom were recorded by Folkways Records. The lyrics of each song are printed and extensive information is given about the context in which the song was created. Background material is provided on all of the songwriters, too.
The discs are compiled primarily around the main topics: labor, nuclear weapons, social injustice, Vietnam, civil rights. Eighty-nine songs in all are featured, most of which loosely could be termed "folk music" in style: basic rhythms, acoustic instruments, spirited singers. Listening to the songs and following the annotations serve to remind one of an era of potent protest in this country when music really mattered, and the songs themselves were the primary means of expressing dissatisfaction and disillusionment.
Broadside was a small publication, primarily a labor of love, but its historic legacy looms large when all of its material is brought together in such a well-researched, well-presented compilation as this one. --Wally Shoup
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Included are five discs-89 songs-and a 158 page, 9" x 11" spiral bound (almost 3/4" thick) book. The sound is very good throughout-crisp yet warm and clean. The book fits into a very substantial, cloth covered, slip case. The discs slip (bare) inside full page cardboard pockets in the book. I suggest you put the discs in a single and two double jewel cases for protection. And while the music is what's important here, fully it's equal is the book itself. Inside you'll find a pertinent essay on each track in order of appearance, something about the particular artist, the lyrics, photographs, and reproductions from Broadside. This is a very well done release (one of the best I've ever seen), and can easily sit alongside any other similar package in any musical genre.
The music mostly concerns period issues-some still very relevant today-war, ethnic strife, nuclear threats, various social injustices, and ecological worries among other topics. Artists include Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Malvina Reynolds, Eric Andersen, The Fugs, Lucinda Williams, Janis Ian, Bob Dylan, Sis Cunningham, Phil Ochs, Buffy Saint-Marie, and a number of other relatively well known singers. But also included are a number of unknown artists who, besides adding depth to this set, and being fine performers in their own right, also bring to light important points of view. And even if you don't agree with some of the lyrics/political stands heard in many/most of these songs, you have to agree that voicing various opinions, and bringing to light the plights of the "voiceless" workers/the downtrodden is important, and is one of the things that makes this country what it is.
Of interest is the first recording of Dylan's "Blowing In The Wind", by The New World Singers, a quartet of singers and banjo/guitarists, who bring this song to life. And Pete Seeger sings a parody version of "Mack The Knife", here titled "Mack The Bomb", with lyrics that are still pertinent today. Also here is "The Civil Defense Sign", by Mark Spoelstra on vocal and guitar, and also about nuclear war. Dylan's "Let Me Die In My Footsteps" is here too, a tune originally slated for his "Freewheelin'" album. Happy Traum (whom Dylan requested sing this song) sings lead and plays guitar, and in the background you can hear Dylan singing and playing guitar. "John Brown" is here too, sung by Blind Boy Grunt-an early name used by Dylan. And The Fugs' classic tune "Kill For Peace" is also here in all it's glory. Also of note is "Plastic Jesus", sung and played by Ernie Marrs and his family. Of all the many songs printed in Broadside, this was one of the most hotly debated songs-labeled blasphemous by many. And similar to all the songs in this collection, the essay on this particular tune is very interesting. But trying not to get bogged down in any one disc-all five discs contain important, (still) relevant, enlightening, thought provoking, and (yes) entertaining songs.
This music was to radical for the general public, and to far out creatively for the "folkies" of the day. This music, and to a large extent, the performers were considered to be, what we now call American "underground" artists, bringing into the clear light of day many issues that people tried to avoid or were not aware of. And while some of this music is trapped in it's time, there are still many issues that we grapple with today. This set is never less than entertaining, and the best of these songs are thought provoking. As it proclaims on the book cover, "A handful of songs about our times".