Review: Woodstock 40 Years On – Back To Yasgur’s Farm

Cover edit

We are going to move on from Woodstock, and this is the last stop.  I slapped this on the other day and it pretty much stopped me in my tracks.  More than a few times during the Woodstock 40th anniversary weekend I read where the music itself at the 1969 festival wasn’t that great.  Woodstock 40 Years On – Back To Yasgur’s Farm, a new six-CD set revisiting the music from the great festival, makes a strong case that the music in that moment of time was terrific.  Yeah, I know – this is a bit of overkill in this summer of Woodstock Exploitation and if you have any of the other retrospectives from Woodstock, maybe it is a bit redundant.

But look – and listen- a little closer, and you’ll find cleaner sound and some welcome stuff from the vaults that help disprove the myth of sloppy sets.  The Grateful Dead for years complained that their set was horrible, for example: the version here of “Dark Star” is sublime, and even after 19 minutes it still fades out before its ending.  Joan Baez turns in nice versions of a couple of Gram Parsons tunes, “Hickory Wind” and “Drug Store Truck Drivin’ Man”; Creedence Clearwater Revival kicks it with three of their best-known tunes and the mostly acoustic Disc 1 puts a spotlight on the tragically forgotten Bert Sommer, as well as the bottom-billed Sweetwater.

And the archaeologists have restored some of the familiar stuff to a more logical context: Max Yasgur’s speech to “the kids” is here in its entirety, the stage announcements now include warnings about blue and green acid in addition to the much-beloved brown acid, and ladies and gentlemen – Blood, Sweat and Tears!

The best stuff here is still among the greatest live rock performances ever: the Who’s incendiary “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” restored here to its full version;  Sly and the Family Stone, Janis Joplin, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Santana, Joe Cocker (also with the previously unreleased “Feelin’ Alright”) and the Jimi Hendrix “Star Spangled Banner/Purple Haze” blast.  This might be a little pricey for the casual fan but this big box set has pure gold in its grooves.

MP3: “Sea Of Madness” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (live at Woodstock)

MP3: “Amazing Journey” by the Who (live at Woodstock)

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