The Best Of The Vanguard Years
Tom PaxtonVanguard 75961-2
A review for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange written
The two LPs Tom Paxton made for Vanguard in the late seventies - New Songs from the Briarpatch and Heroes - have long been among my favorite Paxton albums. This CD contains material from those two releases as well as several live tracks from his Newport appearances in '63 and '64. |
After the Elektra period, when he produced most of the songs people outside the folk community associate with him, Tom had released two albums for Reprise, which did not sell much despite strong material. Then he had moved to England and recorded two rather weak ones for the British label MAM (one of which was not even released at the time). When he returned to USA and got a contract with Vanguard, he undoubtedly felt he had to prove that he had not lost his creative powers and came up with two first-class offerings.
The live-in-the-studio New Songs from the Briarpatch was released in 1977, contained all new songs, and showed a Paxton brimming with irony and passion. Among the uniformly strong songs, we find at least three new Paxton clasics: A moving tribute to the Mississippi bluesman in Did you hear John Hurt?, a beautiful love song called "You're so Beautiful" and Born On The Fourth Of July inspired by the book that was later turned into a film by Oliver Stone.
Next year's Heroes was a studio album, and it was even better. Backing musicians include Eric Weissberg on guitar, Herb Bushler on bass and Kenneth Kosek on violin. They all contribute enormously to the album's success, as the songs are given more fitting and inventive arrangement than on some of Tom's late sixties releases. As for the songs themselves, there is not a bad one among them: The chilling The Death of Stephen Biko pays homage to the South African activist, while the beautiful and sad Phil is a warm tribute to Phil Ochs who had committed suicide two years before. The satirical Anita O.J. - is about Anita Bryant's campaign against homosexuality - an irresistible pseudo-calypso that will definitely outlive its topic. Not Tonight Marie is a love song for those of us who have been married some years ... and finally both A Day In The Country and Winter Song evoke the calm and serenity of nature. Tom was back with a more mature a vision, and musically stronger than ever before.
This is a classy collection that no fan of Tom Paxton should be without.