Released to mark the 25th anniversary of the start of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, Folkways Records' 1961 LP, Songs of the Spanish Civil War, Vol. 1, combines the contents of two albums of 78 rpm records originally issued in the '40s, Six Songs for Democracy (Keynote Records, July 1940) and Songs of the Lincoln Brigades (Asch Records, 1944). The latter, taking up Side One of this disc, is a collection of six songs recorded in March 1944 by Pete Seeger (on leave from the U.S. Army) and three of his fellow folk musicians, Tom Glazer, Baldwin "Butch" Hawes, and Bess Lomax (who later married Hawes). They sing in English and Spanish, employing old folk tunes to comment on life among the troops and pay tribute to the international brigade that went to Spain to fight the Fascists in the '30s. Their performances are stirring, even though the sound quality is iffy. Side Two contains the six tracks from the Keynote album performed by the German singer Ernst Busch and a chorus that was actually recorded in Spain during the conflict in June 1938. Busch mostly sings in German in a theatrical style reminiscent of the work of Kurt Weill, which is not surprising, given that Weill's old partner, Bertolt Brecht, provided the lyrics for "Das Lied von der Einheitsfront (Song of the United Front)." These are historical recordings marking an important and tragic conflict that presaged World War II. The album cover's notation, "authorized recording," is meant to cast aspersions on an earlier LP reissue of some of this same material, Stinson Records' Songs of the Lincoln and International Brigades. Folkways head Moses Asch lost master recordings of the Seeger music in a dispute with Stinson. Typical of Folkways, this version is much better annotated, with an extensive booklet containing liner notes and lyrics.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
feat: Tom Glazer