Friday, August 23, 2019

WOODSTOCK: Back to the Garden

Last weekend marked the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, the defining event of a generation and one of the most iconic moments in popular music history. Despite its enduring cultural significance, no one has ever attempted to document the historic festival as it unfolded in real time. Until now.
Limited to 1,969 individually numbered copies, representing the year 1969, WOODSTOCK - BACK TO THE GARDEN: THE DEFINITIVE 50th ANNIVERSARY ARCHIVE features 38 discs, 432 audio tracks - 267 previously unreleased - providing a near complete reconstruction of Woodstock clocking in at 36 hours, with every artist performance from the festival in chronological order. Housed in a screen-printed plywood box with canvas insert inspired by the Woodstock stage set up, the set also includes a Blu-ray copy of the Woodstock film, a replica of the original program, a guitar strap, two Woodstock posters, a reprint of a diary written by then 17-year-old Kevin Marvelle during the festival, two 8x10 prints from legendary rock photographer Henry Diltz, and essays by Andy Zax, acclaimed music scribe Jesse Jarnow, and trailblazing rock critic Ellen Sander. The archive also contains a copy of Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music (Reel Art Press), a comprehensive new hardbound book about the event written by Michael Lang, one of the festival’s co-creators.
Up until now only about 14 CDs have been commercially released with music from the WOODSTOCK music festival. A few, such as Janis Joplin, Sanata, Jefferson Airplane and Johnny Winter, provided complete performances. Others included the soundtrack from the 1970 motion-pictures with a few songs from selected performers. When the movie studio came knocking in 1970 for permission to feature performances by selected artists, John Fogerty declined. He felt the band's performance was subpar, the sound was terrible through the system, and the band was tired from playing late in the evening. Fogerty later regretted not signing off for the 1970 film and granted permission for four songs in the 40th anniversary movie/director's cut.
In recognition of the 50th anniversary, two full performances were just released on CD and LP, Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Band, adding to the 14 CDs that were available until now. But the Rhino box set is the only way you can get an almost complete audio document of the entire three days. (Supposedly a total of six songs are missing out of the entire 38 CD set, no doubt due to rights issues, but careful review suggests it was the six songs played over the speakers from LP records to fill in time between acts.)

I spent the past two weeks listening to these CDs and never has there been a superior example of history candidly captured on recordings. So much was revealed when listening to the tracks that has yet to be documented in book form. After Canned Heat finished their encore, Chip Monck (the announcer) informed the audience that the intermission would extend an additional 15 minutes to replace the amps that Canned Heat blew out. Janis Joplin chatted with the folks in the front row of the audience between music. Tim Hardin apologized for the poor performance of one of his songs. Announcements delivered through the speaker system alerted audience members to call home, report to their car to fetch someone's medicine, and on one occasion a call out for someone to report to the back of the stage because his wife was about to deliver their baby. Even if you are not a fan of the music of that era, the historical significance cannot be denied. 
The Rhino box set retailed $799 plus postage and sales tax, was announced a month ago and has since sold out. Which goes to show you how the appeal of what might be considered the greatest music festival ever still commands top dollar. For a view of the product itself (and more importantly, a complete list of music and performers), click here:

Check out the link below!!

On the plus side, you can listen to a fascinating 52 minute documentary about the festival, loaded with tons of behind-the-scenes trivia, on NPR's ALL SONGS CONSIDERED here: