- Audio CD
- Original Release Date: 2006
- Number of Discs: 1
- Format: Compilation
- Label: Shout Factory
- ASIN: B000RZJBX0
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,467,537 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
The Harry Smith Project: Anthology of American Folk Music Revisited Compilation
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Top customer reviews
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As Hal Willner says, there are pieces you will love and pieces you might not like. But in truth, this is how the artists in this collection interpreted the originals. And even in the ones I was less than enthusiastic about, I saw something, and went back with a greater appreciation of the original. As a result I developed more enthusiasm for the new performance. This is something to be savored over and over.
I had been listening to Folkways LPs and subscribing to Singout! since the early '60s, and aquired the anthology in the early '70s. I had no previous knowledge of many performers in this set. So this was an eye-opener for me. I even read a review of a person, although generally positive, who wondered why "The Folksman" were in this. My answer is, "we perhaps should not take anything too seriously, and what if the gift of life itself is just a joke?"
Some of the performances here are a lot less impressive that my memory of them, while others (David Johansen, Richard Thompson and Elvis Costello, among others) hold up very well. Willner should be commended for showcasing criminally underrated artists like Robin Holcomb and Van Dyke Parks, as well as for pushing some people (like Beck and Beth Orton) out of their comfort zone material-wise, resulting in some very memorable performances. Some of my other favorites here: Sonic Youth (with trombonist Roswell Rudd) burn up the stage on "Dry Bones", David Thomas is an insane genius, Bob Neuwirth, Geoff Muldaur and Steve Earle all individually show they are up to the task.
There were some classic moments from the night I attended that didn't make it to this release, including Garth Hudson's bizarre and amazing "Recessional Music" on the Royce Hall pipe organ, and Daniel Lanois' mini-set of the Anthology's Cajun songs (accompanied by his super-loud electric guitar). The pre-Mighty Wind Folksmen, introducing some much needed perspective, are rightfully represented here. However, not included was their version of "Flashdance," which somehow said it all (the audience were larfing). Also, not to be forgotten was Mary Margaret O'Hara's train wreck version of "Better Things" (which is represented here by a less chaotic version from a different night). It caused a mass exodus - as it was about midnight at that point, a lot of people were probably suddenly remembering they had babysitters or jobs to go to in the morning!
Being a lot more familiar with the original Anthology recordings now than I was prior to the concert, I am probably a lot more critical of these interpretations, some of which are frankly a bit superficial. Also, it is a bit more noticeable, especially on the DVD, which performers hadn't done their homework and learned the songs thoroughly before the show! On the other hand, some of the versions here caused me to have new appreciation for the songs themselves and really focus on the brilliance and bizarreness of the lyrics. A lot of contemporary songwriters could stand to check them out..
On the technical end, the camera work on the DVD is a bit "on the fly" but not too bad considering there was probably very little rehearsal/blocking. Audio-wise, the recording quality is much better than expected (I'm guessing there was a litlle bit of post-production repair, including fixing some fluffed lyrics). The second DVD ("Old Weird America") that delves a bit more into Harry Smith and the origins of the Anthology, has been shown a bit in art house theaters around the country and is almost worth the price of the set by itself.
Without going into details and whys - suffice it to say that before buying this set, you need to take a close look at the playlist so that you will not wind up buying something that is appreciably different than what you were hoping it would be.