Cris Williamson

The Changer : A Record of the Times [DVD]

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Cris Williamson's 1975 album The Changer and the Changed, originally released by the neophyte label Olivia Records, was the landmark recording in the women's music movement, and this 67-minute documentary chronicles both it and the early days of the movement through performances of most of the songs from the LP by Williamson (drawn from a 15th anniversary concert held in November 1990 that was also the basis for the CD Live in Concert: Circle of Friends); interviews with the principal artists, musicians, and record company personnel; and archival footage of the actual recording sessions. Williamson, a West Coast-based singer/songwriter, was taken up by a group of lesbian activists in the Washington, D.C., area in the early '70s on the basis of her 1971 album Cris Williamson and local appearances, and when, off the top of her head, she suggested in a radio interview that they found their own record label, they did exactly that. Other early Olivia artists included Meg Christian and Margie Adam, both of whom are heard from in the film in interviews and performances, along with Holly Near (who had her own label, Redwood Records). Bonnie Raitt, an admirer of Williamson who has played on her albums, also comments. This is an inexpensively produced effort, and in some interviews the audio leaves something to be desired. But Williamson's performances are compelling, and all the important people are heard from, whether it's label president Judy Dlugacz or side musician Vicki Randle, giving a full picture of Olivia's rise as the first female-owned and run national record label and Williamson's significance as its flagship artist.