You never know who you're going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter's not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By - or, better, that TGB needed his column - which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.
I’m playing favorites today (as if that’s not what I normally do). I’m going to feature tracks I particularly like from several of Joan’s albums.
Okay, I’ll admit it. I first heard Joan Baez when she had a hit in this country with Kumbaya. This was before that song was associated with hippy dippy, join hands, everything’s groovy - well, you know the rest of it.
I found that the song was on the “Joan Baez in Concert” album and I managed to wangle it for my birthday. The next birthday I managed “Joan Baez in Concert volume 2”. These two have been released as a single CD (with a track or two missing). I will start with a song from this, as that’s where I started, Queen of Hearts.
Several quite good albums followed these. The pick of them to mind was “Farewell Angelina”. The title was a song of Bob Dylan’s that hadn’t appeared on any of his albums, so I had to have Joan’s version as I was, and am, a bit of a Bob person. Well, we all were back then. This is the song I’m going with.
Around 1968, Joan recorded a double album of Bob’s songs. Not really surprising. The unusual part of it was she did it as a country album. The concept was a good one but the execution was lacking somewhat, much too heavy on the pedal steels and take out meals.
The good part was that she performed a couple more songs Bob hadn’t released, although they later surfaced on his “Bootleg” series, as did Farewell Angelina. This is one of them, Love is a Four Letter Word. In this case the dobro, or whatever it was, is mixed far too high for my liking but it’s a good track in spite of that.
Although inextricably linked to the Sixties, Joan’s two best albums were from the seventies. Interestingly, on both of these she wrote most of the songs. Until then, she was noted more as an interpreter of other people’s material.
The first of these albums is “Come From the Shadows”. The song, Love Song to a Stranger, is her finest song, not just the best she wrote, but the best track she has recorded.
And speaking of Bob, which we were just up there, Joan wrote a song to him on her most successful album, “Diamonds and Rust.” Indeed, that was the name of the song as well. This was the other of her best albums, and I’ll go with the title song from this one too.
When you think of the song, Cry Me a River, Joan’s name isn’t usually the one that pops into your brain. Not even after you’ve gone through Julie London, Ray Charles, Linda Ronstadt and all the others, but she did record it.
When you hear her version, her name might get bumped up a little in the thinking stakes when the song is mentioned.