The Weavers

The Best of the Weavers [Half Moon]

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AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder

This U.K. import has the upper hand over its domestic MCA equivalent with a half-dozen more songs and a comparable price. Whether it will satisfy Weavers fans is another matter, since it suffers from the same problem that afflicts any compilation of the group's early recordings -- although they're identified today (and properly so) as a folk ensemble, the Weavers in their own time were presented by their label, Decca Records, as a more of a pop ensemble, often backed by (or actually backing) Gordon Jenkins and his orchestra. Thus, for every folk song like "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine" there's a pop record like "Around the Corner" to intrude on the listening experience. Even their most famous recordings of this era, such as "Goodnight Irene" and "So Long," are heavily laden by orchestral accompaniment -- sometimes it works, as on "Lonesome Traveller," but at other times the orchestra is a little too obtrusive. Indeed, "Midnight Special" sounds more like a big band era novelty tune rather than anything resembling a folk song, much less a prison song, which is how it started life; only the presence of a guitar and a tiny bit of banjo allows the recording to retain any shred of folksiness (though one must concede that the reed section and the trumpet and sax soloists in the Jenkins band do turn in a hot break). On the positive side, those pop numbers and the cowboy ballads (toward which this set is weighed ever so slightly) do represent what the Weavers were recording and releasing, if not necessarily their strongest or most authentic material. The notes cover the same familiar territory of pop history for the group and its members, which makes them a bit on the superficial side. The mastering is clean and the sound is as bright and well defined as one could hope on 1950 vintage recordings.

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