Gene Bluestein

Retrospective: 1956-1986

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Gene Bluestein was something of a renaissance person within folk music circles, working as a folklorist, activist, English professor, and even as a musician. A number of his musical exploits have been captured on Retrospective: 1956-1986. His specialty, as might make sense for a folklorist, is traditional folk music, and a number of well-known traditional songs -- "I Once Loved a Lass," "Oleanna," and "Jonah" -- appear on this collection. Bluestein, however, was an eclectic performer, and his wide knowledge of folk music also allowed him to draw from French Canadian ("Ah Si Moine Voulait Danser") and Puerto Rican ("Maquinolandela") sources. He also enjoyed performing for children, which meant that his repertoire naturally carried children's songs like "Plant a Tree." With such a broad range of material and performance styles, Bluestein reminds one of Pete Seeger. Unfortunately, a number of the recordings that make up Retrospective were recorded poorly or live, giving the disc a thrown-together quality. It also doesn't help that Bluestein, like Seeger, isn't a strong vocalist. While these drawbacks diminish the recording as a listening experience, Retrospective nonetheless works well as a historical document, reminding listeners of one person's commitment to folk music in all its aspects.

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