Joan Baez's second album, recorded when she was 20 years old, is a hearty helping of folk masterpieces that give ample evidence to exactly how she was established as a leader of the contemporary folk scene of the day. In August of 2001, Joan Baez, Vol. 2 was reissued in an audiophile remastered edition, with new annotation and containing three additional songs from the same sessions – all are a match for anything on the original album, and "I Once Loved a Boy" and "The Longest Train I Ever Saw" count among the saddest, most emotionally enveloping songs of Baez's early career.
This 1987 best-of compiles the work from A&M efforts that marked a stylistic change from her Vanguard years, yet a pretty consistent level of success. Relying on the work of other artists seemed to be more hit and miss during the A&M era. In Baez's interpretations of songs like Bob Dylan's "Simple Twist of Fate" and "Forever Young" and John Lennon's "Imagine," her pitch-perfect tone might strike some as unemotional, but her singing is engrossing nonetheless. Not surprisingly, Baez sounds the best here with the tracks that deviate from weighty issues. "Gracias a la Vida" (sung in Spanish) and the haunting "Di Da" (with Joni Mitchell) have her giving off more charm and emotion than usual. "Children and All That Jazz," from her best-selling 1975 album Diamonds & Rust, has a gorgeous, heavily produced '70s L.A. pop/rock style that suited her voice.
It’s hard to believe that more than 50 years have passed since Joan Baez first stepped onto the public stage and became the voice of America’s conscience. From her early support of Martin Luther King’s civil rights campaign to the platform she provided to the suffering citizens of Sarajevo, there hasn’t been a major social-justice movement in the past half-century that Baez hasn’t championed. She primarily has been identified with the 1960s, and consequently, some of her recent charitable projects haven’t been at the forefront of the mainstream radar. In her new documentary How Sweet the Sound, Mary Wharton took the steps that are necessary to reverse this trend.
60 songs, 22 (!) previously unreleased-including duets with Dylan, the Dead, Kris Kristofferson, Donovan, Judy Collins and sister Mimi Farina, etc.-together with a 32-page full-color book packed with interviews and rare pix! From We Shall Overcome through The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down to Diamonds and Rust , her complete career. This is a big ol' box of Baez; certainly more than any casual fan would need. The hits are here ("Diamonds and Rust," "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down"), along with a treasure trove of rare duets (with Kris Kristofferson, Bob Gibson, Donovan, and others) and previously unreleased tracks (including a giddy 1965 concert duet with Bob Dylan on his "Mama, You Been on My Mind"). The depth and breadth of Baez's work–from her early traditional bent ("Silver Dagger") to her fine choices from contemporary writers (Merle Haggard, John Prine)–is well-represented. The striking beauty of her voice is, too.
Allan Taylor is one of England's most-respected singer/songwriters. His songs have been covered by artists on both sides of the Atlantic, including Don Williams, Frankie Miller, Fairport Convention, Dick Gaughan, the McCalmans, the Fureys, the Clancy Brothers, and De Dannan. Folk Roots praised him for his "ability to crystallize a mood and evoke an era with the ease of a computer memory access, crafting perfect songs with dramatic changes in the spirit of Brecht, Bikel, and Brel." The Oxford Book of Traditional Verse felt as strongly, writing that Taylor was "one of the most literate and sensitive of contemporary songwriters in terms of words and music and one who is capable of exploring more complex subjects than most of his contemporaries."