A time when music changed the world

Remember when records came with an emblem encouraging Give the Gift of Music? This Christmas, consider dropping some concert tickets or a roots music CD into your special someone’s stocking.

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Remember when records came with an emblem encouraging Give the Gift of Music? This Christmas, consider dropping some concert tickets or a roots music CD into your special someone’s stocking.

The Shaman — comprised of Calgary guitarists Mauricio Moreno and Manuel Jara — perform music with its roots in El Salvadorian and Chilean traditions — lively and upbeat. Tickets for this Matchbox Theatre Jan. 15 concert are available at Ticketmaster and The Matchbox box office.

Tickets for Ian Tyson’s Feb. 26 Memorial Centre appearance are available at the Black Knight Inn outlet.

Finally, for the gift of bluegrass, tickets for the Lonesome River Band — coming to Festival Hall on Feb. 28 — are just a phone call away: Gale at 403-347-1363.

This week’s disc reviews:

Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Phil Ochs

Amchitka

Greenpeace

A double-set documenting the 1970 Vancouver event ($3 a ticket!) that launched the endeavours of Greenpeace, those of a certain age are sure to find Amchitka fascinating.

Looking back, it’s a very impressive lineup: Joni Mitchell at the peak of her powers, prior to going arty; James Taylor having just released his breakthrough Sweet Baby James album; and Phil Ochs, the poet prince of the Greenwich Village set.

Mitchell is more lighthearted than one might expect, cracking wise, dropping a snippet of Bonie Maronie into Big Yellow Taxi, asking forgiveness to ‘putter around here a minute’ when she loses her way during For Free.

Mitchell features a number of tunes from Ladies of the Canyon, and performs on guitar, piano and dulcimer. Mr. Tambourine Man is just one of the delightful surprises within her 35-minute set, made more so when Taylor ambles in to bring it home.

Taylor sings from his first three albums, including tunes from the then-unreleased Mud Slide Slim.

Songs that would become standards — Carolina in My Mind, Something in the Way She Moves, Fire and Rain — resonate brightly almost 40 years later.

At the time, Ochs was as big a name within folk circles as Mitchell, lacking populist appeal perhaps but unrepentant in his convictions.

A seven-minute rendition of Joe Hill is masterful, while I Ain’t Marching Anymore and Rhythms of Revolution remind one of a time when it appeared music just may change the world. Throughout the set, Ochs demonstrates that earnestness need not defeat entertainment.

As a sliver of folk-rock history, Amchitka (named for the Aleutian Island where U.S. nuclear bomb tests were protested by Greenpeace) captures a seminal moment in the development of the folk-rock, singer-songwriter era.

Devoid of the planned spontaneity such a benefit now requires, this set highlights a time when the music world seemed less like business and more like community.

Pete Seeger

Live in 65

Appleseed recordings

To be valued as true ‘folk music,’ there needs to be more than an acoustic guitar or banjo and slightly off-key singing.

An attempt to encourage social upheaval through a revolution inspired by music is at the core of folk music — whether challenging the structures of 18th century Britain or the constraints of 20th century America, the singer encouraged change.

Recorded in Pittsburgh in 1965, this set captures Pete Seeger at his storytelling and entertaining finest.

His manner seems quite quaint more than 40 years later; it is hard to imagine that politics and activism made him a target of government scrutiny. Yet his influence on those who would follow — from Bruce Springsteen (who rewrote He Lies in an American Land, included here) to Billy Bragg and Ani DiFranco — is obvious.

Among the 31 cuts included in this previously unreleased concert recording are Seeger standards including Turn! Turn! Turn!, Guantanamera, This Little Light of Mine, Where Have All the Flowers Gone and Old Joe Clark.

Less familiar and as such a little more interesting may be Peat Bog Soldiers with its roots in a Nazi concentration camp, Going Across the Mountain and When I First Came to This Land. Lovely.

Also in rotation this week: Guy Clark — Somedays the Song Writes You; Dave Rawlings Machine — A Friend of a Friend; Del McCoury Band — Family Circle; Danny Barnes — Pizza Box; Sam Bush — Circles Around Me.

Donald Teplyske is a local freelance writer who contributes a twice-monthly column on roots music; visit fervorcoulee.wordpress.com for additional reviews. If you know a roots music event of which he should be aware, contact him at fervorcoulee@shaw.ca

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