Joan Baez

From Every Stage

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Listening to this album a quarter century after the fact is an eerie experience; as a Baez fan of the same period and of a politically similar orientation at the time, this reviewer was shocked by the vitriol of the opening number, "(Ain't Gonna Let Nobody) Turn Me Around," especially given that the shows where this album was recorded dated from 1975. Was anyone (except maybe the Reagan-ites) ever really that angry at the Ford administration? Otherwise, Baez's trembling falsetto is in beautiful shape on songs ranging from Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne" to "Oh, Happy Day." The album was recorded on the tour supporting the release of Diamonds & Rust, but nothing of that album except the title track is represented here; rather, Baez performs five Bob Dylan songs (which get the most rousing reception), three of her better originals, including "Blessed Are" and "Diamonds and Rust," and a brace of traditional songs and covers of a handful of other composers' work, including "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down." Apart from the opening outpouring of political venom, there's not too much controversy here -- a pair of songs, "Natalia" and "The Ballad of Sacco and Vanzett," dedicated to political prisoners and an ambitious but ultimately awkward adaptation of "Stewball" are as topical as most of the show gets. Baez is in superb voice and the backing septet, mostly heard on the second disc, has a surprisingly lean sound. Ultimately, From Every Stage is a good, albeit far slicker follow-up to Baez's two early-'60s live albums on Vanguard, though it says something about the nature of her history at A&M Records that five years into her contract with that label, all but a handful of the songs here were associated with her prior record label.

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