Pete Seeger & Friends
Seeds: The Songs of Pete Seeger, Volume 3
First Appeared at The Music Box, October 2003, Volume 10, #10
Written by John Metzger
Midway through the first disc of Seeds: The Songs of Pete Seeger, Volume 3 is Estadio Chile, the horrific tale of Victor Jara, a Chilean folk musician who thirty years ago was publicly tortured and killed for supporting the legally elected but overthrown Salvador Allende government. Jara had been singing to the students at the State Technical University when the crowd suddenly found itself surrounded by soldiers. When asked if he had been the one performing, Jara nodded. He was taken to the middle of the stadium, his hands were broken, and he was told to sing. When he did, the crowd joined him, and the soldiers took out their machine guns and shot him. Said then U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, "I don’t see why we have to let a country go Communist just because its people are irresponsible."
Such has been the career of Pete Seeger, who for more than 60 years has spoken his mind — fighting for the common man and shining a bright light on the social injustices of the world. In the ’30s, he spent time making field recordings with Alan Lomax. In the ’40s, he performed with Woody Guthrie as part of the loose-knit Almanac Singers. He founded the Weavers, which went on to remarkable success, bridging the gap between folk and popular music, but due to his outspoken nature, Seeger also wound up blacklisted after being called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Commission. In the ’60s, he began his solo career and was at the forefront of the protests against the war in Vietnam, and although tastes and styles have changed dramatically over the course of the past thirty years, Seeger has continued walking down the same path, sticking to what he does best: enlightening the world through his genteel music and hard-hitting lyrics.
In 1996, Appleseed Records embarked on an ambitious project to highlight the wealth of music associated with Seeger throughout the 20th Century. Artists — including Jackson Browne, Bruce Springsteen, Nanci Griffith, Donovan, Richie Havens, and Tim Robbins — came together to pay tribute to a man who had informed their own careers. Seven years and three collections — spanning five albums and 90 tracks — later, Seeds: The Songs of Pete Seeger, Volume 3 draws the historical survey to a close.
The first disc of this Seeds features previously unreleased material, performed by Seeger with the help of a few friends. Anne Hills lends her gorgeous voice to the soaring Flowers of Peace and Steve Earle, Ani DiFranco, and Billy Bragg unite on the anti-Vietnam War-turned-anti-Gulf War II protest song Bring Them Home (If You Love Your Uncle Sam). Elsewhere, Seeger offers the playful English is Cuh-ray-zee as well as the stately beauty of Sailing Down My Golden River in his usual easy-going, affable manner.
The second half of Seeds shifts the emphasis to contemporary folk artists reinterpreting Seeger’s songs, and while it doesn’t have quite the star power of the first two editions in the series, it still features some rather stunning performances. Highlights are plentiful and include Dick Gaughan’s hauntingly austere rendition of Bells of Rhymney, Natalie Merchant’s potent translation of Which Side Are You On, and Janis Ian’s masterfully delivery of Who Killed Norma Jean. Indeed, the music and actions of Pete Seeger are an important part of America’s cultural heritage, and given the current environment where rights granted under this country’s Constitution are under fire by the very people elected to protect them, well, it just makes a collection like Seeds all the more essential.
Seeds: The Songs of Pete Seeger, Volume 3 is available
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box