Joan Baez

The Best of the Vanguard Years

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Fourteen songs may or may not represent the ideal introduction to Joan Baez's 12 years at the Vanguard label, but there is no arguing with their resonance. This is Baez 101, rounding up all her hits (bar, mercifully, "Little Drummer Boy"), while showcasing the sheer versatility that she packed into the first decade-plus of her career. Who else, after all, could take "Let It Be" and "Help Me Make It Through the Night" and render something new and beautiful from either? Likewise, she remains the most evocative interpreter Bob Dylan ever had, and the opening "It's All Over Now Baby Blue" is a true tour de force. Of course, the album's brevity ensures it will be of little interest to any but the most casual listener, but within those limitations, it does its job with effortless grace.

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