Various: The Greenwich Village Folk Scene: Original Album Series

Everything but the Dylan: beatnik roots and revolutionary inspiration in equal measure.

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Five albums from the 19641965 Elektra catalogue (specifically The Even Dozen Jug Band and The Blues Project’s eponymous debuts, Phil Ochs’ I Ain’t Marching Any More, Fred Neil’s Bleecker & MacDougal and Tom Paxton’s Ain’t That The News) with original vinyl LP packaging, are faithfully reproduced here on CDs, in a slipcover. You might need a magnifying glass to read the sleevenotes on the miniaturised covers, but the content sings for itself and conjures up the essence and excitement of musical revolutions taking place in a faraway land.

Golly! I was instantly transported back to my teenage years, discovering these artists in music libraries, friend’s houses and obscure record shops, lapping up the blues, protest songs, love songs, traditional songs that had made their way across the Atlantic and back again, and the carefree happiness of the good-time jug band songs. We were like sponges, soaking up the different styles, and we learned some of the songs and they became part of the folk clubs and blues clubs of the UK.

The Even Dozen Jug Band, with its bluegrass/country roots, happy smiley music whose members became part of so many wonderful other collaborations, The Mugwumps and the Lovin’ Spoonful among others. Then there’s The Blues Project with the best of the urban blues singers of that time, including Geoff Muldaur and Mark Spoelstra.

Phil Ochs’ anti-war and political songs fired the rallies of the 60s with wit, sharply pointed lyrics and that extraordinary voice, while Fred Neil’s gorgeous vocal tops Bleecker & MacDougal’s slightly bluesy, fabulously arranged material, some traditional, some his own. Last, but never least, Tom Paxton’s evocative songs of love, living and activism.

How I wish I’d walked in Greenwich Village at that time, among those musicians, and heard this music dancing out into the night! Even 3,000 miles distant it enthralled, encouraged and resonated within my circle of friends. Some took on the jug band good-time music, some delved into the blues, some became writers of their own anti-war songs to be sung at CND meetings and some blended it all into their creative whole. The 16-year-old me was just delighted to be part of that excitement and to try out my fledgling autoharping within this growing musical scene.

It’s a great collection – but could have done with an explanation of the whys and wherefores./o:p

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