Joan Baez’ “From Every Stage”: Music review

This 1975 double LP was recorded on Joan’s live tour, with the first half solo acoustic and the second half accompanied by the band. Joan sings her own numbers, mixed with the usual collection of traditional folk songs and covers.
She opens the set a cappella with an arrangement of “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around” aimed at contemporary events including a spear or two lobbed at Kissinger for being a war criminal. Absent are many of the older numbers from her early days, replaced instead by stronger self-penned songs like “Blessed Are…” and “Diamonds & Rust,” or folk staples like “Joe Hill,” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” and “Amazing Grace.”
The difference in subject matter treatment between Baez’ “Natalya” and, say, Dylan’s “Hurricane” will tell you quite a lot about Joan Baez as a song writer.
In the covers bucket, she cranks out quite a few Dylans – the not surprising “I shall be released,” “Blowing in the Wind,” “Forever Young,” as well as the perhaps less expected “Love is Just a Four-Letter Word” and “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts.” She also throws in a version of Cohen’s “Suzanne,” and in a way this is pivotal to understanding Joan Baez because nothing quite sums up how she stands on the opposite side of a wide gulf from almost everything else that went on in the 60s like the way she takes Leonard Cohen’s beautiful delicate lyric “he’s touched your perfect body with his mind” and feels the need to tone it down, water it down, whitewash it, sanitize it until it becomes “he’s touched you and he’s moved you and he’s kind.”

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