Peggy Seeger

Period Pieces: Women's Songs for Men & Women

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Billed as a compilation of Peggy Seeger's feminist compositions, Period Pieces, whose songs were written between 1963 and 1994 and recorded between 1979 and 1998, is actually a compendium of the singer's various topical concerns, with 11 of the 17 tracks newly recorded. Early on, the songs concern specifically feminist and women's issues, such as equal pay ("I'm Gonna Be an Engineer"), contraception and abortion rights ("Nine-Month Blues"), mother-daughter relations ("Different Tunes"), domestic violence ("Winnie and Sam"), and rape ("Reclaim the Night"). But as of the seventh song, "Missing," which is about a "disappeared" Chilean activist, Seeger expands her subject matter to broader political issues including unionism ("Union Woman II"), apartheid ("I Support the Boycott"), work-related injury ("R.S.I.," which stands for repetitive strain injury), the rights of the disabled ("Woman on Wheels"), and nuclear disarmament ("Carry Greenham Home"), though she always places them in the context of women's viewpoints. As the album title suggests, some of these subjects are now historical rather than topical. The result is a thorough survey of left-wing views over the past 40 years that is sometimes doctrinaire ("Marriage is a feudal custom," she sings in "Winnie and Sam," "Women are one of the props"; while in "R.S.I." she declares, "The world's not big enough for conscience and the profit motive"), but always impassioned and, occasionally, not without humor. Seeger is more of a proselytizer than a singer, but her pinched voice, backed by various acoustic instruments and voices (including those of her family members) serves the material well.

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