Various Artists

The Folk Years: A Singers and Songwriters Collection

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An adjunct to Time-Life Music's Singers & Songwriters series of compilations, The Folk Years is a nine-CD collection (that's four double CDs of mostly studio recordings originally released between 1957 and 1970, plus a bonus CD of tracks recorded at the Newport Folk Festival) that would be a box set -- it even includes a 56-page, 12"-by-5" booklet -- if they actually sent you a box to put it in. Licensing recordings from the five major labels and others, Time-Life has assembled a 132-track package that could have fit onto five discs, a point to keep in mind when contemplating the release price of about 108 dollars. Most of the major figures of the folk revival are represented, either as performers or as songwriters, and most of the major songs as well. Typical for a Time-Life release, there is a focus on hit singles: Of the 120 tracks on the eight main CDs, 93 made the Billboard Hot 100, and 77 of those were Top 40 hits. Further, even when these particular recordings were not hits, the songs themselves are well-remembered; folk standards like "Blowin' in the Wind" and "The Times They Are a-Changin'" turn up in cover versions. Bob Dylan, the pre-eminent voice of the folk revival, is present as a performer only once, but his name turns up 13 times among the writing credits. The only act who earns 13 mentions among the performers is the Kingston Trio, and that should tell you a lot about what's included here; it's the Kingston Trio who perform "Blowin' in the Wind," not Dylan or hitmakers Peter, Paul & Mary (who, like Dylan, have only one token appearance). There is also plenty of folk-influenced pop and country from the mid- and late '60s. This is not the best compilation of the folk revival.