In a year filled with them, Rhino offers its own homage to Woodstock's 40th anniversary by rolling out this lavish six-CD box set. It can be argued that this is merely a cash-in, but a number of things should be considered when critically looking at a set of this size, covering one of the most important events in rock music history. Perhaps the ...
In a year filled with them, Rhino offers its own homage to Woodstock's 40th anniversary by rolling out this lavish six-CD box set. It can be argued that this is merely a cash-in, but a number of things should be considered when critically looking at a set of this size, covering one of the most important events in rock music history. Perhaps the most significant aspect of this set is that it contains tracks by almost every single artist who appeared on the Woodstock stage in their proper sequence. (The exceptions are the Band and Ten Years After, the Keef Hartley Bandas well as the introductory speech by Swami Satchidananda.) The reason for this is simple: Imagine the nightmarish lisencing process the set's compilers and producers had to go through to make this happen. This challenges the assertion of the original soundtrack recording. We also hear from artists such as Sweetwater, Tim Hardin, Johnny Winter, Mountain, Ravi Shankar Quill, the Incredible String Band, the Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Joe Cocker, and Blood, Sweat & Tears, and, of course, stage announcements by Chip Monck, John Morris, and Wavy Gravy. In presenting a historical document of this proportion there are some interesting judgment calls to make. Producers Andy Zax, Mason Williams, and Cheryl Pawleski researched the original set lists exhaustively and present them here along with the music and their choices. This is terrific not only because we can "see" what we're missing, but because those of us who aren't necessarily rock historians will finally know . The sound, which was done by Zax and mastering engineer Dave Schultz, is as good as it can possibly get. The book is a monster, loaded with photos and featuring Bud Scoppa's wonderfully researched and presented liner essay, whose chapters account for each day, act by act. Ultimately, however, it all comes down to the music. While we only get "Dark Star" by the Dead, we get (a bit) more music from the Who. The three tracks by CCR are all monsters, and hearing the five tracks by Crosby, Stills & Nash and then Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young all in correct sequence between BS&T and the Butterfield Blues Band makes total sense. One of the more welcome surprises is the expanded set by Sha Na Na. Fans of individual acts here will be delighted or complain about the treatment individual artists receive. Even though there is a bit more music, the Who still get short-sheeted (but we do get to hear the infamous row between Pete Townshend and Abbie Hoffman), as do the Dead. We didn't need more of Arlo Guthrie than we already had, and why we still needed three tracks by Melanie or more by the completely unmusical Country Joe & the Fish is a mystery. We could have used more of the Incredible String Band or Richie Havens! But these are individual complaints. The set as it stands is the ultimate document -- thus far -- and will likely be for some time to come. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi