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Pete Seeger at 89

4.7 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

On At 89, iconic folk musician and activist Pete Seeger's first CD since the Grammy-nominated 2003 Seeds: The Songs of Pete Seeger, Vol. 3 2-CD set, the peaceful warrior for human dignity surveys the progress that's been made in his lifetime and what still needs to be done to create a society of equals and to assure continued world survival.

Lovingly sequenced by producer/musician David Bernz, At 89 segues similarly themed songs into organic suites, using brief solo instrumentals and spoken introductions by Pete as links. Of the CD's 32 tracks, 26 have never been previously recorded by Pete. After the opening amble of Pete's "Nameless Banjo Riff," 89-year-old Seeger acknowledges on "False From True" that he's now of an age when it's time to reassess what's left to do - separating false from true, more important now than ever in this age of misinformation. He is joined on the next few songs of welcome and fellowship by the voices of his fellow Hudson River Valley, New York, musicians and friends, who are also heard singing and making music throughout the CD, adding to its sense of community. Among the contributing musicians are the members of Work o' the Weavers, a quartet (which includes Bernz) devoted to the repertoire and spirit of Pete's long gone but much-loved group; the Walkabout Clearwater Chorus; the After Hours Quartet; the Hudson River Sloop Singers, and other guests.

"The Water is Wide," a soothing duet between recorder and 12-string guitar, both played by Pete, provides the transition to the next set of songs ("It's a Long Haul," "Throw Away That Shad Net," "Song of the World's Last Whale," "If It Can't Be Reduced," "The First Settlers"), which address two of Pete's leading concerns - ecology and peaceful coexistence. The tragic uselessness of war ("When I Was Most Beautiful," "Bach at Treblinka") is lightened by a version of The Weavers' old favorite, "Tzena, Tzena, Tzena," that adds a hopeful mingling of recently added Arabic lyrics to the existing verses in Hebrew and English. The last segment of the CD circles back to the dangers of blind obedience (a new rendition of the Vietnam, and now Iraq, War parable, "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy"), and the need for personal involvement to save our planet from ourselves ("Or Else!" "Arrange and Re-arrange," "If This World Survives"). There's a particularly poignant moment on "Little Fat Baby" when Pete confronts his own mortality: "Some day, we'll be saying so long/Some day, it'll be time for me to move on").

But that day hasn't yet arrived. Pete is still sowing the seeds of peace and justice, whether inspiring Bruce Springsteen to carry on his legacy of musical tradition and personal activism or getting a classroom of school kids to sing songs in other languages. Like Tom Joad or Joe Hill, when there are wrongs to be righted or victories, however small, to be celebrated in the war between good and evil, that's where we'll always find Pete Seeger: in the flesh - leading a singalong - or in our hearts.

Review

"As you might expect from a Seeger album, the songs on "At 89" take on some of the problems faced by America in 2008, and while the music is sometimes touched by melancholy, Seeger's faith in his fellow humans shines through clearly." -- j. poet, AllMusic.com

"At an age where most men are struggling for breath, Pete Seeger has made a vibrant, full-bodied album that encompasses all his magnificent talents. . . Seeger is buoyed by guest vocalists, children's choirs, etc., but stays center stage throughout on this masterful outing by an American folk music giant heading into his 10th decade on Earth." -- Joel Selvin, San Francisco Chronicle, September 28, 2008

". . . something of a treasure for longtime fans and packs at least a dozen treats for relative newbies." -- Jeff Vrabel, Billboard, Sept. 26, 2008

"...Spunkier here than he even gives himself credit for, Seeger loves being in front of a mic again and delivers a commensurate performance. Certainly a late in life valentine to his fans, he has earned the right to deliver any material in any way he sees fit. The real fans are sure to respond accordingly. This is the kind of set that defies both category and criticism." -- Chris Spector, Midwest Record, August 29, 2008

"Here's a record by a folk singer who is the opposite of an unhappy, delicate creature, who has no concern at all for the concept of the beautiful loser, who carries no loftiness or obscurantism about his own talent, who speaks to adults with the same clarity and care that one might speak to children, who believes that everything is done better in groups and yet puts enormous faith in the value of his individual effort. . . [a] sweet, antivirtuosic record . . . This is an artful gesture, but it's not just for art's sake." -- Ben Ratliff, New York Times "Critics Pick," Sept. 29, 2008
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 30, 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Appleseed Records
  • ASIN: B001CW7LPM
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #34,199 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John A. Gregorio VINE VOICE on October 1, 2008
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Pete as 89 is as powerful as Pete at 50. The music he sings, with lyrics that matter, empowers him . My only criticism is the use of singers, but I have always like Pete to sing alone, or with an audience or with protest marchers. Choirs and such seem to dilute the power of his performance.
I have listened to Pete in all the "ages" of my life, and wish he has many more although he is 89!
One warning: Some of the songs are without Pete, and our songs he has done over the years. I would have preferred to use some earlier recorded songs of Pete, but these songs are very, very good.
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We can only hope Pete will be around long enough to see a positive result in next week's elections! He is an inspiration to us all, a testament to the power of positive, dedicated, optimistic, conscientious, committed people to make this world a better place. Fans who enjoy this CD may also want to check out Pete's spoken recollections of playing the great Spanish Civil War songs on another Appleseed release, "Spain In My Heart: Songs of the Spanish Civil War". He shares some poignant memories and also plays some great banjo!Spain in My Heart: Songs of the Spanish Civil War
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I think it is great that Pete can still perform at his age. I am 84 myself and cannot sing anymore. Of course, the reason is my chemo 24 years age. I and my sons consider that a small price to pay for my life. I love Pete's songs. They are very, very down to earth and beautiful. Thank you, Pete, and keep on singing. Ginny Evert
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By G. Woolever on November 23, 2008
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I suppose there are folks who can resist, but it's hard to imagine a life and a talent that is any more authentic, and dedicated to bringing healing transformation to life, human and otherwise. Whether it's nurturing future generations, or the heroic nature of an elder living to the hilt beyond the traditional retirement formula, I dare you to encounter the tear that will likely appear - not of sadness, but joy.
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"Pete Seeger At 89" has won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album. Congratulations to Pete Seeger and to Jim Musselman of Appleseed Records for all of his work in getting Pete to record again.

A truly wonderful recording recommended to all.
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Pete Seeger has always been such a strong force for social justice, equality and protecting the environment; especially the waters. His voice is a little scratchy at 89 but he's still that amazing, strong and influential person! Irene
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Pete Seeger at 89..........this is moving, meaningful and one of a kind. True, he doesn't sing all the songs, but his heart and soul are clearly there. The quality of sings is perhaps uneven and every song won't please every person. But the spirit is so strong and so real. The message is as it's always been. Well worth the money and a CD you'll value.
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I think it's his good heart that keeps him so young. Pete Seeger hardly sounds 60 on this recording, let alone 89. With his typical generosity, Seeger's shared his birthday with us and we get the hour-long present to enjoy. You can't help but feel better after listening to the stories and songs here. I refuse to call this a coda, but perhaps just a pause to reflect on a life very well lived and causes very well served.

The CD starts out on an upbeat note with "Nameless Banjo Riff." From there, we shift to a bluesy "False from True." While the second song refers to Governor Wallace, no truer notes were sounded even today.

The songs here are definitely a history of the progressive movements Seeger's supported, including "Visions of Children", an anthem written for the Green Guerillas who protested New York's Mayor Guiliani's selling of some of the city's public gardens. "The Long Haul" talks about Clearwater, a group which takes kids out on a sailboat teaching kids music, history, and political activism.

Of course, there's Seeger's continuing efforts to unify diverse peoples through song. "Tzena, Tzena, Tzena" was a popular World War II song originally written by a man in an Israeli regiment. This CD has the song not only in Hebrew, but English and Arabic as well.

What's great about this CD is the more you listen, the more you learn. Each new iteration gives you a different look at both the man and the history he influenced. What a lovely tribute to a life well lived and a heart open and well-used.

Rebecca Kyle, September 2009
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