This European compilation contains 28 of the 35 studio recordings made by the Almanac Singers in 1941-1942, plus an aircheck of "Round and Round Hitler's Grave." The recordings were released originally on five albums of 78s. The CD gathers all seven tracks from the group's debut album, Songs for John Doe, five of the six from Talking Union (not including "The Union Train"), all six from Deep Sea Chanteys and Whaling Ballads, all six from Sod Buster Ballads, and four of six from Dear Mr. President (not including "Beltline Girl" and "Side by Side"). (As annotator Glen N. Gretlund points out, they also issued a couple of singles, for a total of 35 tracks.) But the first-time listener is bound to be surprised by the album's title, Songs of Protest, at least while listening to the first 12 tracks, all of which are drawn from the non-political third and fourth albums. The compilers have decided against chronological sequencing, which is a big mistake when it comes to the Almanac Singers. The group changed their view radically during the course of their career. Songs for John Doe, recorded prior to American involvement in World War II, was scathingly anti-war, while Dear Mr. President, recorded after Pearl Harbor, was just as scathingly pro-war (as a title like "Round and Round Hitler's Grave" suggests). Even 60 years later, sequencing songs from these two albums beside each other creates considerable confusion; for example, when the pro-war "The Sinking of the Reuben James" from Dear Mr. President is followed by the anti-war "Liza Jane" from Songs for John Doe, or when Dear Mr. President's "Deliver the Goods" is followed by Songs for John Doe's "'C' for Conscription." Aside from this gaffe, folk fans should welcome having these historical recordings on a single, reasonably priced disc.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann