Before the American folk revival of the late '50s, the Weavers proved that traditional music, when presented in the proper fashion, could be wildly popular. Rarities From the Vanguard Vault captures the group at a crossroads in 1957-1958. On the first half of the material, Lee Hays, Ronnie Gilbert, and Fred Hellerman are joined by bandmate Pete Seeger; on the latter half, Erik Darling replaces Seeger. Each version of the band is represented by ten tracks, including a number of recordings -- four each -- that were previously unreleased. Versions of "There's More Pretty Girls Than One" and Woody Guthrie's "Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad" (with new lyrics by Hays) are nice additions to the Seeger era, while a Caribbean-influenced "Why-O" shows how the band continued to work with divergent material in the Darling era. Overall, the material offers two things for longtime Weavers' fans. First, the album's split personality allows one to compare and contrast both versions of the band. Next, most of this material is either new or has never appeared on CD. Two other songs, "Fi-Li-Mi-Oo-Re-Ay" and "The Boll Weevil," appear in stereo for the first time. The best reason to pick up this album, though, is the Weavers' singing. The tracks on Rarities never sound like outtakes or demos but like a long lost Weavers album.
AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.