Holly Near / Ronnie Gilbert

Lifeline

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AllMusic Review by

In 1974, Holly Near dedicated her second album to Ronnie Gilbert. Nine years later, they went on tour together and recorded this live album. The pairing was as musically felicitous as it was philosophically appropriate. The 56-year-old Gilbert and the 33-year-old Near could have been mother and daughter in more ways than one, and the selections made for a virtual history of the music of leftist folk music, which Gilbert pioneered with the Weavers in the 1940s, '50s, and '60s, and which Near furthered in the '70s and '80s. The songs, more than half of them covers, treated such subjects as abolitionism, the Spanish Civil War, Sacco and Vanzetti, the dust bowl, apartheid, and the current troubles in Latin America. Among the originals, the new "Perfect Night" was Near's wittiest and most comfortable treatment of lesbianism yet. The singers were forceful and complementary, no surprise since Gilbert is a major vocal influence on Near. The album's only false note was sounded with Near's medley of five pop standards. Clearly, it was music she had grown up listening to, but she couldn't seem to make up her mind whether to have fun with it or make fun of it. The likes of Harold Arlen and Richard Rodgers deserved better. But that didn't mar the enjoyment of having Ronnie Gilbert back on records after 20 years.

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