Pete Seeger

The Essential Pete Seeger [Vanguard]

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The Essential Pete Seeger is an odd compilation. Pete Seeger usually recorded for Folkways and Columbia, but this collection, recorded between 1950 and 1974, comes from Vanguard's vaults. Many of the songs, including "The Bells of Rhymney," "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?," and "Wimoweh," have long been associated with either Seeger or his group, the Weavers. He's also frequently performed numbers like "Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies," "I Shall Not Be Moved," and "Oh What a Beautiful City." But other essentials like "The Hammer Song" and "Turn, Turn, Turn" -- perhaps his most essential songs -- haven't been included. It isn't that The Essential Pete Seeger is a bad collection. Its 23 selections and 65-minute running time are generous, and a number of tracks -- "Coal Creek March" and "The Bourgeois Blues" -- were recorded before vibrant live audiences (perhaps at the Newport Folk Festival). The overall selection, however, is lackluster. Milquetoast versions of "East Virginia," "Saint James Hospital," and "John Hardy" sound like outtakes from an overlong box set. For those unfamiliar with Seeger or searching for a more representative collection of his songs, either American Favorite Ballads, Vol. 1 or Pete Seeger's Greatest Hits will serve as solid choices.

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