As one of the main folk labels of the 1960s folk revival, Vanguard Records extensively recorded performances at the Newport Folk Festivals of 1963, 1964, and 1965, but released the results only sparingly on a series of various-artists LPs at the time, in part because many of the performers captured on tape had exclusive recording contracts with other companies. One of those artists was Pete Seeger, and 30 years later Vanguard is able to issue an album assembled from Seeger's 1963-1965 Newport appearances, all of it previously unreleased. In some ways, it's a fairly typical Seeger live album, on which he covers then-contemporary material by other folksingers (Matt McGinn's humorous "Manyura Manyah"); sings in a foreign language ("Malaika"); tells a children's story ("The Foolish Frog"); plays banjo tunes ("Old Joe Clark"); revives the work of his influences (Leadbelly's "Midnight Special," performed with Lafayette Leake and Willie Dixon); and includes his own originals ("Oh Had I a Golden Thread," "Where Have All the Flowers Gone"), all the while instructing and encouraging his audiences to sing along. One unusual aspect of the Newport performances, however, is the inclusion of an excerpt from a "workshop" appearance, at which Seeger is questioned about his banjo style and explains some of his techniques. Another one-time occurrence is the group closer on "Down by the Riverside," in which he leads a stage full of fellow performers including Joan Baez and Peter, Paul and Mary. Those are moments that make this a special Pete Seeger recording, not just another one of his many live albums.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann