Here we go – into the sixties – 1960 in fact. There are quite a few albums from this decade I haven’t heard – but I’m gonna guess that in most cases I’m familiar with the artist; largely due to the plethora of greatest hits compilations. In the late 1980s when the first real 60s revival occurred I was a young, impressionable cassette-tape buyer. And I was raiding the last of the records left in the house as my parents gave away far too many great LPs and started buying up CDs. So I know a lot of the music from compilations rather than the original albums. That’s the case here.
I have a few Joan Baez albums – but I had never heard this. I wasn’t the hugest Baez fan when I first heard her; it wasn’t something that meant much to me. But that has changed across the last couple of decades. The album, Dark Chords on a Big Guitar was when I first got the bug, decided that Baez was far more than footnote. And from there it was back to some of her earlier material. But never this. Not sure why. I do love the live concert album that was released about 18 months after this album. But this book and this challenge is the reason I’ve (finally) gone back to her debut. And good job too.
Another great album I’d previously missed.
She’s just 20 years old here. That voice – like a bell. Some great folk guitar patterns and fingerings too. And a bunch of classic ballads – not quite in full protest mode, but definitely the start of a folk-artist’s recording career, the graduation from the coffee-shops to record label. And it stands up pretty well from what I can tell.
I thought of Laura Marling while listening to this. I wonder what – if any – impact this record had on her. There she was at 16 and 17 writing and performing and releasing a debut album at, I think, 18, and then a couple of albums deep into a brilliant catalogue and career by 20. In some way her earliest recordings are just another version of this. In some way this is a prototype of sorts. A brilliant album that means far more to me now that I could have ever realised.