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Joan Baez Joan Baez
Album: 75th Birthday Celebration
Label: Razor&Tie
Tracks: 21

Have to be a little careful here, as I have gone on record of saying that if I had to choose between seeing a Joan Baez concert and a Maz O'Connor concert I would be very torn, but I'd chose to go and see Maz. I think if I'd had the opportunity to go and see this particular concert though and had missed it, I would be kicking myself. On the 27th January 2016, Joan Chandos Baez celebrated her 75th birthday and to mark the occassion, she performed a concert at the Beacon Theater in New York. The concert was filmed by WNET for their "Great Performances" series and broadcast on American TV by PBS, and was released in the UK in June as a double CD plus a DVD of the concert all in one package.

I haven't bought a record from HMV for ages now. Normally find they don't have any records I want to buy, and the choice is always so much wider on the internet. Guess I buy most of my CDs from the musicians themsleves at concerts as well. Went in to HMV last week, and was really shocked to see how cheap their CDs seemed to be these days. Guess they had to drop their prices to compete with the internet. Saw a live Joan Baez double CD for less than a tenner, and thinking I'd be happy to pay that for just one CD, grabbed it. Wasn't until I got home that I realised it also included a DVD. What a bargain! Trouble is, I am now starting to worry whether music has become unsustainably too cheap. Ten pounds is a ridiculously low price to pay for a live DVD of a concert, especially if it includes two CDs.

Richard Thompson, David Crosby, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Emmylou Harris, Judy Collins, Jackson Browne, Paul Simon, Judy Collins, Damien Rice - quite an eclectic list of names, but all names that would fill the Beacon Theater in their own right. These were just some of the guests that joined Joan on stage. From the audience reactions each name seemed to be unexpected, and even Baez herself seemed to be amazed at how lucky she was that Paul Simon had agreed to join her. It didn't stop her from jokingly insulting some of her guests though - she introduced Emmylou Harris by saying that she was jealous of her but didn't quite hate her, and she introduced Richard Thompson by saying that she was going to sing one of his songs later, but in the meanwhile, here's one that the audience would know. The only person who managed to insult her, (in good humour, of course), was Paul Simon, who introduced "The Boxer" by apologising if they were a little rusty, as they'd only ever performed the song as a duo once before, about five years ago when Joan first celebrated her seventy-fifth birthday."

Funniest moment though, was during her duet with Judy Collins in which she changed the lyrics to "Diamonds and Rust", by singing "fifty years ago I bought you some cufflinks". Judy, who had been expecting the original line, "ten years ago I bought you some cufflinks" cracked up with laughter mid song. Later in the song they were both holding a note, and Judy continued after Joan had stopped, which prompted Joan to call her a "sneak".

More humour as well when Joan introduced the song "Seven Curses", which she described as coming originally, she was sure, from somewhere like Britain, Ireland or Scotland, but, she joked, Dylan claims he had written it, so that's how it appears on Google.

I am well aware that these days it can be considered sexist or misogynistic to complement a woman on her appearance, and to do it to someone in her seventies could even be considered ageist as well. So let me start by saying that one of her guests, a singer from Chile that I've sadly never heard of before, called Nano Stern joined her to sing "Gracias A La Vida", and he is a beautiful looking guy, in his early thirties. With his flowing long hair, he could pass as the god Thor.

I saw Baez back in the 1970's, afraid I can't remember when exactly or where. I do remember she made me laugh back then as well, though. Somebody in the audience had requested a song and she replied "Afraid it isn't that one. I hope you can adjust." I also remember how beautiful she looked, in particular there was something in her eyes that just radiated beauty. In the music industry, just as in the film industry, there is tremendous pressure on those who have already made it from younger artists who are on the way up, so to compete, many people in the limelight submit themselves to surgery to try to look younger, and end up just looking peculiar. Refreshingly, neither Joan, nor any of her guests, seemed to have been anywhere near Botox, or any form of cosmetic surgery, and as a result, they all look as beatiful today as they did half a century ago.

Musically, as well, none of them have aged. Everyone's voices showed no affects of time. Joan, herself, is still a perfect soprano, but with an amazing ability to lead, to duet, or to harmonise with others, and to always make the other person sound good.

The outstanding tracks on this album, in my opinion, are "She Moved Through The Fair", (accompanied by Damien Rice playing a shruti box - an instrument which creates a lot of sustain, equally matched by Joan's ability to hold notes); "Hard Times Come Again No More", (accompanied by Emmylou Harris - her voice is slightly deeper than Joan's and their voices blend together in a way that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up) and "Catch The Wind", (accompanied by Mary Chapin Carpenter - again, can't believe how well the two voices blend together).

Pete Bradley