Artist: Joan Baez
Album: Joan Baez
“The river of Jordan is muddy and cold
Well it chills the body but not the soul
All my trials, Lord, soon be over”
So the first question that is going on through everyone’s heads (probably not) is: Was this a good album to kick-off the 60s? That really depends who you are. I know for some people this would have been the perfect album to start the 60s, for others… maybe not. I unfortunately fall into the latter category but before anyone says anything let me explain.
I’m not crazy about folk music. I know, hang me up, lynch and mob me. For whatever reason I could just never get into folk music. Now it’s nowhere near the hatred I have of country, not even close, it’s just one of those genres I can’t seem to be able to sit through. Personally, I just find it boring, repetitive and a little grating. It’s depressing both lyrically (not always) and musically and I often find myself getting easily distracted away from it.
Do understand this is purely a personal taste. But you can imagine my reaction going into this, super excited to start the sixties and met with lightly strummed acoustic guitar and folky tales. Not really how I had hoped the 60s to start (though to be fair I should have expected it).
So here I am struggling about this album because on the one hand, I just can’t get into folk, but on the other, this album is a damn good album. Heard that? I just did something beyond astonishing, despite not liking it, I still recognized it as good. Odd, isn’t it? How I was able to separate personal taste and objective critiquing? I know, it’s the classic attitude: Well, I like it so it must be good or, I didn’t like it so it must be bad. Nope, not how it works, personal taste and objective reviewing are two very different things, yet so many people fall into criticizing things based on their own personal preferences (which explain why these people aren’t critics). And you see it all the time, people wildly criticising each other for liking or disliking something and calling each other idiots who shouldn’t breed just because their own personal tastes don’t match. This is stupid. If you’re like that, you’re stupid. Everyone is allowed to like whatever they want, it’s all up to personal taste which is a very personal thing. Different for everyone. When it comes to critiquing, the point isn’t whether you liked it or not, but why. The why is so important when doing reviews and critiques. Saying you think something is bad just because you “didn’t like it” is not a good enough reason. If you were able to delve into why you didn’t/did like it and are able to explain what it was that did/didn’t work for you, then you’re off to a good start.
So here I am, I wasn’t crazy about this album but I do recognize it as being one hell of a good album. It’s funny because if this album was released today it would easily be dismissed as a “seen that a million times” type album. But, it wasn’t, it was released in 1960, which was exactly the perfect time for it to be. This was fresh in those days and this album is an important one when it comes to the folk revival genre. Joan Baez not only rejuvenates these classic folk songs but performs with so much sincerity in her voice, which I should add is one powerful voice, strong and forceful, but never in an intimidating way, that it doesn’t sound like folk was an old thing (remember this was the 60s and it was considered Revival, and remember this was the 60s and not today… 2017, contextually what she was doing was a new thing).
If you’re a folk fanatic then you have to check out this album, it was very influential at the time it came out and listening to it, it shows. I had to go see a folk musician last year at some festival and knowing nothing about folk I thought he was pretty good, doing some interesting things I hadn’t seen done with an acoustic guitar… until I heard this album and realised how old it was and he probably owed a lot to Joan Baez for getting this style out there.
It’s funny how that works, eh? You always think you’re experiencing something new only to find out somebody had already been doing it decades ago. What’s even funnier is how we can discover an album like this and almost immediately discard it because of that feeling of familiarity that we feel like we’ve seen it a thousand times and it doesn’t feel like anything inspiring.
Context. Context is so important. I’m probably going to have to do that a lot with these albums, especially entering the 60s that has a lot of bands that, although now, don’t sound like anything different, but did big-time when they came out. I’m just going to have to remember that…
Song of Choice: El Preso Numero Nueve