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Ring Them Bells (Collectors Edition) [Live]

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Album Review

As annotator Arthur Levy points out in his newly written liner notes to this expanded version of Joan Baez's live album Ring Them Bells, things have changed since it was first released in September 1995. Guardian Records, the imprint of Capitol/EMI that released it, no longer exists. (Rights appear to have reverted to Baez, who licensed it to the British label Proper for this reissue.) The Bottom Line, the 400-seat nightclub in Greenwich Village where it was recorded, is gone, too. And worst of all, Baez's sister Mimi Fariña, who made her final recorded appearance on the album singing a duet on her late husband Richard Fariña's "Swallow Song," died in 2001. But the collection, boasting six extra tracks and stretched over two discs with a running time now exceeding 87 minutes, remains a good précis of Baez's career over its first three-and-a-half decades, as rendered by the 54-year-old singer and a group of female guest stars representing the generations of women singer/songwriters influenced by folk music's premier interpreter. In a sense, the influences can be seen as flowing both ways, since Baez sings songs written by her guests, some of which have been part of her repertoire for years — Janis Ian's "Jesse," Mary Chapin Carpenter's "Stones in the Road" (which Baez actually introduced on her 1992 Play Me Backwards album before Carpenter used it as the title song for one of her albums) — as well as accompanying them on songs she has made her own, either because she actually wrote them ("Diamonds and Rust," sung with Carpenter), or because she has been singing them for so long ("The Water Is Wide," sung with Indigo Girls). From Baez's early days of performing traditional material such as "The Lily of the West" and "Geordie,"through her incorporation of the work of her singer/songwriter contemporaries (Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright," Tim Hardin's "Don't Make Promises") to her own originals ("Love Song to a Stranger," "Sweet Sir Galahad") and her explorations of Latin music ("Gracias a la Vida," sung with Tish Hinojosa) and country (Dylan's "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere"), not to mention her fluke hit with the Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," Ring Them Bells provides a live summation of her career. There is even a smattering of songs she has not recorded before, such as Dar Williams' "You're Aging Well," sung with its author, and Indigo Girls' "Welcome Me." The album actually works better as a career retrospective than it does as a concert experience, because it has been edited in such a way that there are practically no stage remarks beyond the occasional count-off or "thank you." None of the guests is introduced, and there is no spoken interplay with them. They just sing their parts, some of them matching up with Baez better than others. (For example, Carpenter, with her contralto, makes a good duet partner, and Indigo Girls provide excellent, restrained accompaniment, while the trio of Baez with Kate & Anna McGarrigle on "Willie Moore" is just pleasantly odd.) The music-only restriction might have made more sense on the initial single-disc release, but there was plenty more room on the two CDs here to give a flavor of what it was like when Baez welcomed all of these younger female admirers to share the tiny stage of the much-missed Bottom Line with her for two nights in April 1995.

Customer Reviews

The duets are awesome

As are the harmonies & guitar

Really great, soulful album - surprisingly excellent live

Love this album - also because of the guests which sing with her. Beautiful.

Ring Them Bells - Joan Baez

Still the "Mother Voice" some singers loose their voice, not Joan, she has her full voice plus. "May God bless and keep you always"...loved the innovative work with various cross of generations of Artists... Beautiful harmonies, song selections, just a must for everyone that is a admirer of your work or soon to become one.


Born: January 9, 1941 in Staten Island, NY

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

The most accomplished interpretive folksinger of the 1960s, Joan Baez has influenced nearly every aspect of popular music in a career still going strong. Baez is possessed of a once-in-a-lifetime soprano, which, since the late '50s, she has put in the service of folk and pop music as well as a variety of political causes. Starting out in Boston, Baez first gained recognition at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival, then cut her debut album, Joan Baez (October 1960), for Vanguard Records. It was made up...
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