Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Another Pete Seeger Greatest Hits That Is Not The Best Of The Artist.

The Good: Good vocals, Some decent and recognizable themes
The Bad: SHORT, Lacking many songs, Some of the ad libs become tired upon multiple listens.
The Basics: A dull collection of Pete Seeger's early recordings, Greatest Hits does not do justice to the artist's massive career.

Back when I reviewed The Best Of Pete Seeger (here!), I posited that it is somewhat ridiculous to try to reduce the career of an artist who has been working for forty years consistently to a single disc and only a dozen songs. The only defense that Greatest Hits, a Brazilian import c.d. of Pete Seeger's works has is that Greatest Hits implies that the album only needs to contain the most commercially successful songs by the artist. In the case of this album, it does some of that, but there are noticeably absent tracks and Seeger's later hits are not represented. It is easy to "not recommend" this album if for no other reason than there is a domestic (U.S.) c.d. that has all of these tracks plus a few bonus ones.

With a dozen songs on the c.d. clocking out at a pathetic 37:09, Greatest Hits is an anemic collection of works by Pete Seeger. First, Seeger only wrote three tracks on the album and co-wrote another two, which is ridiculous considering he is an incredibly prolific singer-songwriter. He was not involved in the production of the album either, so this is mostly the presentation of Pete Seeger as a performer, not an artist. Seeger sings the primary vocals on all of the tracks and he plays banjo or guitar on the songs as well.

As well, on songs like "Talking Union," this particular recording includes a story of how the song was originally developed, which becomes tiresome on replay. Similarly, on "Abi Yo Yo," Seeger is preoccupied with leading the audience in singalongs. The result is that these recordings are not the most inspired or even direct versions of each song. The whole idea of yelling out to an audience seldom works for me on "live" albums and here the little stories Seeger is recorded presenting before "We Shall Overcome" replays poorly, though the ad lib about Mongomery is interesting. The result is a collection of songs that are hardly as good as they could be in addition to a poor selection of songs.

As for the song selection, this is a ridiculously small sample of songs Pete Seeger performed in his career, in addition to being a poor sample of Seeger as a writer. The only pro-labor songs are "Whose Side Are You On?" and "Talking Union;" the album lacks any songs that made Seeger a force to be reckoned with for environmental conservation. "Where Have All The Flowers Gone," and "Turn, Turn, Turn" are all great antiwar songs, but even with a limited experience with the works of Pete Seeger, there is something seriously lacking to have no songs of environmentalism on this disc.

Vocally, "The Best Of Pete Seeger" is not Seeger's best recording either. The recognizable "Wimoweh" is presented in a way that is painful to listen to from Seeger's attempts at falsetto on this recording. Outside that, the album is dominated by Seeger's tenor vocals and he clearly sings all of the lines. He is beautifully melodic on "Bells Of Rhymney" and that is interesting, but not enough to make picking up the album worth it.

Most of the songs are wanderers folk songs, making observations or telling musical storysongs as opposed to fighting for political change. "Where Have All The Flowers Gone" is, of course, the wonderful song which develops over the stanzas to trace the absence of flowers to the loss of men in war and the presence of flowers at tombs and it remains as clever and timely today as it did when it was first released. Seeger's rendition of "Little Boxes," which opens the album, is a very basic recording of it that is true to the original; given how those who watch Weeds are given a different rendition each week, this is pretty blase.

Because it's harder to find and there are so many Greatest Hits albums for Pete Seeger, the tracklisting for this album is:
1. Little Boxes
2. Wimoweh
3. Where Have All the Flowers Gone?
4. Abi YoYo
5. Bells of Rhymney
6. Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)
7. Talking Union
8. Which Side Are You On
9. We Shall Overcome
10. Living in the Country
11. Darling Corey
12. Guantanamera

For those looking for generally basic recordings with minimal audience participation by Pete Seeger, Greatest Hits might satisfy, but there are far better ways to get all of these songs and more for serious audiophiles or fans of folk.

For other Pete Seeger albums, please check out my reviews of:
American Industrial Ballads
We Shall Overcome: The Complete Carnegie Hall Concert June 8, 1963
God Bless The Grass
Stories & Songs For Little Children
If I Had A Hammer: Songs Of Hope And Struggle
Folk Songs For Young People


For other music reviews, please check out my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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