Cris Williamson

Live in Concert: Circle of Friends

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Cris Williamson's 1975 album The Changer and the Changed was a landmark in the development of women's music, and 15 years after its release she performed a show commemorating the anniversary at Zellerbach Auditorium in Berkeley, CA, captured on this, her first solo concert album. Williamson, whose most recent studio albums, Prairie Fire (1985) and Wolf Moon (1987), were full of synthesizer-driven pop/rock arrangements, appeared alone, accompanying herself on piano and acoustic guitar. This was not a performance of material ranging across her career, as concerts often are, or intended to showcase her newest songs. In the first half (tracks 1-9), she did go back to an early point in her career, beginning with "If It Weren't for the Music," her debut single for Olivia Records. And she did bring things up to date with the newly written "Olivia." But most of the set was given over to covers of songs by other writers: Mary McCaslin's "Circle of Friends," Eric Andersen's "Is It Really Love at All," Leonard Cohen's "Sisters of Mercy," and Hank Williams' "Hey, Good Lookin'," all rendered sympathetically. The second set (tracks 10-17) was the reason for the show, an abbreviated live performance of The Changer and the Changed, minus "One of the Light" and "Having Been Touched (Tender Lady)," and with the singalong "Song of the Soul" appropriately moved to the end. The song collection held up well in this stripped-down, audience-fueled context, with Williamson providing amusing anecdotes and finding herself joined unexpectedly by associates Vicki Randle and Teresa Trull on vocals on "Shooting Star." The result was an unorthodox, crowd-pleasing show.

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