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A Link In the Chain

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Album Review

While the neophyte might be better advised to start with the 20-track 1972 Columbia compilation The World of Pete Seeger, this collection would make a good second purchase to hear the highlights of Seeger's major-label sojourn. Eschewing such favorites as "Little Boxes" (Seeger's sole chart single) and "If I Had a Hammer" (which Seeger co-wrote), but including many other familiar performances (among them "Turn! Turn! Turn!" and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?"), the set is thematically organized into story songs, political songs, biographical songs, and children's songs. This separation sometimes seems arbitrary — "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" and "Harry Sims" (about a mine workers' union organizer) would seem to fit better in the political column than as stories or biographies — and in concert, where much of this material was recorded, Seeger deliberately mixes his songs up while drawing on at least a few other categories. But for the most part, the grouping works on disc, and along with classics like "We Shall Overcome" and "This Land Is Your Land," there are some pleasant discoveries, such as the story of "Aimee Semple McPherson," from Seeger's debut Columbia album Story Songs, and Woody Guthrie's "Belle Star," a duet with Ramblin' Jack Elliott from The Badmen. At a running time well under two hours, the album could have been more comprehensive, and the liner notes, spread among seven writers, amount to little more than superficial tribute. So, this is not the kind of retrospective Seeger deserves. But it gives a good sense of the range of his talent, and it is full of enlightening, entertaining songs and performances.


Born: 03 May 1919 in New York, NY

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Perhaps no single person in the 20th century did more to preserve, broadcast, and redistribute folk music than Pete Seeger, whose passion for politics, the environment, and humanity earned him both ardent fans and vocal enemies ever since he first began performing in the late '30s. His battle against injustice led to his being blacklisted during the McCarthy era, celebrated during the turbulent '60s, and welcomed at union rallies throughout his life. His tireless efforts regarding global concerns...
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