Joan Baez

Brothers in Arms

  • AllMusic Rating
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

Gold Castle Records started up with quite a head of steam in the second half of the 1980s, signing veteran folkies like Joan Baez and Peter, Paul & Mary, but the steam largely seems to have run out by 1991, and so Baez departs with this compilation condensing her three-album stint on the label. It isn't a best-of so much as a thematically chosen consideration, and the theme is politics, which is not a bad idea, given Baez's proclivities. Returning to recording in 1987 after a considerable absence, she threw herself into contemporary issues via songs written by some of the major performers of the day, so here we have her takes on Dire Straits ("Brothers in Arms"), Peter Gabriel ("Biko"), and U2 ("MLK"). She duets with Jackson Browne on "El Salvador" and covers South African singer/songwriter Johnny Clegg's "Asimbonanga." New for this collection is a previously unreleased cover of Billy Joel's "Goodnight Saigon," while the included version of her own composition, "Warriors of the Sun," is presented in an extended edit that turns it into a medley with Tracy Chapman's "She's Got a Ticket." Baez also contributes a self-written observation on the 1989 Tiananmen Square rebellion in "China," and, looking back on her early days, she's heard singing the traditional songs "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around" in Bilbao, Spain, in 1988 and "Let Us Break Bread Together" with the L.A. Choir in Los Angeles, CA, in April 1987. The American Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam, troubles in Central America, environmentalism, apartheid, human rights violations in China -- it's quite a list of issues, and Baez never wavers in the fervency of her singing or her willingness to move from folk to spirituals to rock to reggae to mbaqanga in providing musical complements to her concerns. The 1987-1989 model Joan Baez may employ the occasional synthesizer line or programmed drum track to keep her music up to date, but it's all in the service of her political beliefs, which remain the same ones she was singing about in the early 1960s.