November 10, 2009
Appleseed Records
Folk, Political Folk, Traditional Folk

Album Review

Pete Seeger was 90 years old when this newly discovered archival concert recording was released; he had been half that age when he performed the show at the Carnegie Music Hall in Pittsburgh, PA, on February 20, 1965. At that time, the 45-year-old Seeger was enjoying a renewed era of approbation after more than a decade of partial suppression that was not yet over (it would be another two and a half years before he'd be allowed on network television again). His 1963 concert album We Shall Overcome had reached the charts, its title song becoming such a catch phrase that even President Johnson used it; he had undertaken a world tour in 1963-1964; and his songs were being tapped for hits. Among them, "Turn! Turn! Turn!," which he performed at this concert, would be recorded in a folk-rock arrangement by the Byrds that became a number one hit by the end of the year. The Pittsburgh show, running more than an hour and three-quarters, is a typical one for him, albeit that, typically, he made several gestures toward the local audience for which he was performing, including songs with references to the area or that had been written by songwriters from around the area, starting with "Oh Susanna" by Stephen Foster. Seeger never worked from a set list, and his performance style was anything but polished, but there was a definite form to his show, and he was never less than engaged with his audience. Generally, as here, he began with the local references, then went into a clutch of folk songs, some of them serious and politically oriented ("He Lies in an American Land"), some humorous (the risqué "Uh, Uh, Uh" and "Never Wed an Old Man"). Then, he moved on to an international section, again mixing the political (the plaintive lament of an imagined child killed at Hiroshima, "I Come and Stand at Every Door") and the comic (Scottish Matt McGinn's ode to horse excrement, "Manyura Manya"). Anthemic singalongs like "This Little Light of Mine" led to a final section of some of the singer's best-known material, such as his own "If I Had a Hammer" and his mentor Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land." And the final encore was a children's song, "Abiyoyo." The song selections could vary, but this was the general structure of Seeger's shows in the ‘60s. Often, here, he stumbles over his words, trying to remember all the lyrics of one of the hundreds of songs in his repertoire. He does not hesitate to interrupt a song to tell a story or provide some annotation, and he frequently asks his audience to sing with him, sometimes instructing them in different harmony parts. He was, arguably, at one of the peaks of his career in early 1965, after the harshest experiences of the blacklist, before the anguish of the escalating Vietnam War and the unwelcome (to him) transformation of folk music into folk-rock. No wonder he sounded so confident in Pittsburgh.
William Ruhlmann, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Oh Susanna [#]
  2. He Lies in an American Land [#]
  3. Oleanna [#]
  4. Uh, Uh, Uh [#]
  5. Never Wed an Old Man [#]
  6. When I First Came to This Land [#]
  7. All Mixed Up [#]
  8. I Come and Stand at Every Door [#]
  9. Malaika [#]
  10. May There Always Be Sunshine [Poose Vsegda Boodyet Sontse] [#]
  11. Manyuar Manya [#]
  12. The Freedom Come-All-Ye [#]
  13. Peat Bog Soldiers [#]
  14. Los Cuatro Generales [#]
  15. Turn! Turn! Turn! [#]
  16. Healing River [#]
  17. This Little Light of Mine [#]
  18. Old Joe Clark [#]
  19. Going Across the Mountain [#]
  20. Praties Grow Small [#]
  21. Step by Step [#]
  22. Greensleeves [#]
  23. I Once Loved a Lass [#]
  24. Queen Anne Front [#]
  25. A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall [#]
  26. The Bells of Rhymney [#]
  27. If I Had a Hammer [#]
  28. Guantanamera [#]
  29. This Land Is Your Land [#]
  30. Where Have All the Flowers Gone [#]
  31. Abiyoyo [#]
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