I came to listen to Joan Baez somewhat later than this first ablum, I had a double vinyl titled "The Ballad Book" that included some of the songs from this album. I still listen to and love her interpretations of Bob Dylan's songs(Any Day Now)and really didn't care much for Dylan's early stylizing, but Joan brought "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" and others to become lifelong favorites. Here in this first album are songs that still find there way into my AOR MP3 compilations. Her recordings of "Silver Dagger", "East Virginia","All my Trials", "John Riley", "Mary Hamilton" and "Henry Martin" are standards in folk music that I've never heard equaled. Her voice both beautiful and powerful. I had transferred the vinyl to CD, filtering with noise reduction, but here were crystal clear recordings of songs I have never tired of and couldn't resist...
This too, is precious. This is the cd of the vinyl I borrowed when I was in college. It taught me that I did have a singing voice! I was considered by my family as a really "non" singer. The problem was, think, due to the fact that my mother, my grandmother (contralto) were all altos. I shall always be grateful to the upperclassman who loaned me the record and to Joan for her voice!
I am so glad that these early albums have been re-released as CDs. I didn't have them, I appreciate Joan's interpretation of folk music and ballads, and now I can hear them in their original purity of voice. I enjoyed East Virginia, Donna Donna, and Girl of Constant Sorrow the best, althought there wasn't a bad one on the CD.
The original release date for this album was October, 1960, but no-one has since surpassed Joan Baez as a singer of Anglo-American ballads, most especially (in my opinion) those collected by Francis J. Child in his five volume work, "The English and Scottish Popular Ballads"(1882-1898). If you've never heard her sing, this album would be a good place to start. "Joan Baez Vol. 2" and "Joan Baez 5" also have some great ballads.
Joan Baez is a very admirable person. Her life and voice have been inseparable from the public events that have shaped the last four decades. However, I wish she could have sung more ballads and less soft pop (is that anything like soft porn?) and political ephemera. That's why I can't recommend any of her other, more recent albums (except "Noel"). She was gifted with a lyrical soprano that pierces like a flute and trembles like moonlit water. It is the perfect instrument to express the pathos and unrequited love of the minor keys. When she attempts a more robust C Major or G Major, she sounds jokey rather than robust--like someone in the manic phase of her bipolar disorder. I tend to disagree with the liner notes that suggest Joan has an effective snarl in her lower register in the song "Silver Dagger". She sings this Appalachian ballad in a way that will haunt you for decades, until you break down and purchase a CD remastering of the old vinyl recording that got loved to death. No snarl, though.
This CD contains two new songs that weren't on the original issue: "Girl of Constant Sorrow"; and "I know You Rider." You also get to hear Joan singing "John Riley" on two different tracks, the second time with an added verse. Note to Vanguard: that's a rather clunky way to fill an extra track.
My favorite song is from Child, "Vol. 6, Border Minstrelsy (Ballad #173)," more commonly known as "Mary Hamilton" or "The Four Marys." This ballad has almost the largest number of variants on record, an indication of its antiquity. Joan's arrangement is mercifully purged of most of the original Gaelic, and tells the story of Mary Hamilton, a lady-in-waiting at the Queen's court, who dies on the gallows because she killed her 'own wee babe' nine months after a tryst with the King.
Child relates the tune to the execution of Mary Hamilton in Russia on March 14, 1719. She was a maid of honor to Empress Catherine and was hung for the murder of her child. However, according to the "Viking Book of Folk Ballads," the song existed before the tragedy in Russia and therefore could not be related to it.
Another possibility for the scandal occurred in Mary Stewart's court in Scotland (which is the location mentioned in Joan's version of the song). A French maid had an affair with the Queen's apothecary and was hung for the murder of her child. There is speculation that the "apothecary" was actually Lord Darnley (the Queen's husband) in disguise. Legend has it that David Rizzio, the Queen's Chamberlain and close confidante found out about the affair and composed the tune and wrote the words. Lord Darnley's anger at Rizzio over the tune then contributed to his decision to murder Rizzio.
In Joan's rendition, the King attempts to rescue Mary Hamilton from the gallows, but she will have none of his belated sympathy. And so "Yestreen the queen had four Maries/, The night she'll hae but three/; There was Marie Seaton, and Marie Beaten/, And Marie Carmichael, and me." (the text from Scott's edition of 1833).
This is a great ballad, beautifully sung, and well worth the price of this CD even if it didn't also have "Silver Dagger," "East Virginia," "House of the Rising Sun (Joan recorded this lament before Bob Dylan)," and "All My Trials."
I have the vinyl for this album that I acquired during the '60s and get after going to the Smokey Mountains and hearing about the folk music I found that some of that music was on Joan's first album. So I ordered it. It hasn't lost it's flavor.
As a "child of the 60's", I loved the music of Joan Baez, even at age 13. I have this recording in vinyl, but one can hardly listen to vinyl while driving. I purchased this copy specifically for traveling music. Of course, I love it; I have listened to these great folk songs for years.
This album and Volume 2 are Joan Baez at her best. The cool soprano voice and the clearly understood verse are evident here. Great emotion is achieved with her ability to balance the timbre of her voice to the story of the ballad. The accompaning guitar is fitting. The choice of the songs and the order of their presentation are perfect. The quality of the re-engineering is very good considering the original is over forty years old. All in all a masterpiece.
Words Baez hated when first used to describe her voice, but nowhere more fitting than this CD. From the heart rending consolation of "All My Trials" to the foot tapping "Wildwood Flowers", her voice is the instrument used to reach her listeners. In "Mary Hamilton" she clearly takes on the job of storyteller as her voice becomes the channel for many of the characters telling the story of a young servant girl abused by her King. And of the defiance she displayed, just before her death. Baez' so vividly portrays the events as to bring them to life.