Woody Guthrie

The Ultimate Collection [Prism Leisure]

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This budget-priced British compilation benefits from the 50-year copyright cut-off in Europe that allows anyone to print up copies of old music and sell them. Prism Leisure takes advantage of that to cull 51 Woody Guthrie performances from the recordings Guthrie made for Moses Asch in the 1940s, recordings previously issued on such labels as Folkways and Stinson. Much of that material now belongs to Smithsonian Folkways, at least as far as the U.S. is concerned, and it wouldn't be surprising to find out that Prism Leisure simply transferred these tracks from the Smithsonian Folkways reissues, since the sound is quite clear, for the most part, only suffering from the rudimentary nature of the recordings themselves. Guthrie, sometimes joined by such friends as Cisco Houston and Sonny Terry, runs through casual performances of a lot of traditional folk material, most of it adapted to his own purposes to one extent or another, as well as Guthrie originals that usually consist of his lyrics married to existing melodies. With a running time well over two hours, the double-disc set represents a big chunk of Guthrie's recordings, but length and price are all it has going for it. There are no annotations to speak of, only a brief biographical essay by Tony Watts that contains factual errors. (For example, Arlo Guthrie is not the progeny of Woody Guthrie's first marriage, contrary to Watts' contention.) This is hardly the ideal way to encounter Woody Guthrie, but the collection does provide value - in terms of sheer bulk - for money if purchased at the modest price at which it was being offered in mail-order catalogs in the U.S. upon release. Of course, it does not justify its title.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:27
2 2:59
3 3:23
4 2:34
5 2:59
6 2:45
7 3:27
8 2:45
9 2:20
10 3:01
11 2:12
12 2:51
13 2:16
14
3:06
15 3:10
16 2:37
17 3:04
18 2:27
19 2:33
20 2:14
21 2:41
22 2:20
23 2:30
24 3:30
25 3:06
26 2:26

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 1:51
2 2:34
3 2:34
4 2:34
5 2:39
6 3:19
7 3:26
8 2:57
9 2:38
10 2:49
11 2:34
12 2:53
13 2:51
14 3:17
15 2:13
16 2:13
17 2:31
18 2:24
19 2:13
20 3:47
21 3:08
22 3:28
23 2:34
24 2:07
25
3:09
blue highlight denotes track pick