Arlo Guthrie / Pete Seeger

Precious Friend

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Recorded in late summer of 1981, Precious Friend, the second of Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger's live collaborations, is pretty much what you would expect. Seeger is his usual folksy self, leading the crowd through a series of folk tunes ranging from the traditional African chant "Wimoweh (Mbube)" to Harry Chapin's "Circles," while Guthrie mixes his warm counterculture storytelling with selections of old ragtime, gospel, and folk. And while Seeger's singalongs and Guthrie's raps can wear a bit thin after a while, there are some genuine moments of both energy and hominess that are quite nice. Listening to Pete Seeger is kind of like hearing a museum piece, which in his case is fine. On the other hand, tracks such as Guthrie's cover of Tom Paxton's "I'm Changing My Name to Chrysler" and especially "Neutron Bomb" have lost much of their initial charm with time. He's more successful with time-tested material such as the 1920s ragtime of "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone," as well as Blind Blake's "Run, Come See Jerusalem" and a trio of tunes by his father. Still, it's Seeger's homage to his friend and fellow Weaver, Lee Hays, who had recently passed away, that is the album's true highlight. Included along with the Weavers hits "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine" and "If I Had a Hammer" (co-written by Seeger and Hays) are a couple of wonderful Hays originals -- the old union number "Raggedy, Raggedy" and the morbidly funny "In Dead Earnest," written shortly before his death. Seeger and Guthrie's sense of tradition may be warm and inviting in a live setting, but mixing a little more of what made Guthrie's late-'70s work special with the folksier material would have made for a better recording.

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