The Bitter and the Sweet

Pete Seeger

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The Bitter and the Sweet Review

by Richie Unterberger

Recorded live at the Bitter End in Greenwich Village, this LP is most notable for the first appearance of "Turn! Turn! Turn!" In its original version, it's a spare performance, accompanied only by Seeger's guitar, delivered in a manner encouraging the audience to sing along. It's not as musically interesting as the Byrds' famous hit cover, or for that matter the version that Judy Collins would do a year or so after the appearance of this one by Seeger, but it is nonetheless historically important. The rest of the album, though, is a better-than-average Seeger outing, with more energy and guts than some of his work. There's also an intimacy that doesn't come through as strongly on some of his other live recordings, which were sometimes for bigger crowds. He plays more guitar than banjo during the set, putting effective 12-string guitar to use on a cover of Leadbelly's "Mr. Tom Hughes Town," hum-singing movingly on "Juanita," and offering some then-current topicality with the Seeger-Malvina Reynolds collaboration "Andorra." "Ram of Darby" has more rowdy thrust than most Seeger performances, and "We Shall Overcome," which leads off the album in a singalong version, is one of the songs with which he's most identified. So is "Where Have All the Flowers Gone," but this a cappella version is disappointing, as the song simply sounds better with guitar or banjo backing.

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