Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I think that the owners of the name (and brand) of "Woodstock" probably thought that the festival's 40th anniversary was going to be a bigger deal than it has turned out to be. There are a bunch of CD releases: the complete performances by Sly & The Family Stone, Santana, Janis Joplin, The Jefferson Airplane and Johnny Winter on Sony Legacy, and a new Woodstock box set on Rhino, plus an Ang Lee film based on the festival.

To me, Woodstock is a bit like Elvis: something that people who lived through it will talk endlessly about, and you can't deny it's historical importance whether or not you like the music. But the percentage of good music to bad isn't so high. In other words, with Elvis, I love to listen to the Sun Records sessions, but hardly anything else, and that's a relatively small percentage of his career. With Woodstock, some of my favorite artists - like Sly, Jimi Hendrix, The Who and Creedence Clearwater Revival - played the festival.

I will say that Santana's performance is one of the best live recordings I've ever heard - and it's the performance that kind of "broke" him to a wider audience. Sly's was great too. Hendrix's had it's moments (even "The Star Spangled Banner" goes on way too long) but it wasn't his best live performance by a long shot.

So, that's what we'll be talking about today, with maybe a bit of Woodstock '94 and '99 thrown in. I actually attended both of those: '94 was great, but '99 was obviously a disaster despite some great moments.


C. Bottomley said...

If you haven't watched the movie lately, I recommend that you do. The reason why Woodstock is privileged over similar events like Monterey (at which the music was generally "better") is largely because of the large audience it attracted, and the way they coexisted with the community. The music is interesting considering how much it's based on simple blues forms. Most of the bands, such as Ten Years After and Canned Heat, aren't really doing anything that "experimental," considering the times. Even Jefferson Airplane seems stripped down and pretty raw. That aside, there is some pretty excellent tuneage on display: CSN are wobbly but great, Janis shouldn't have been cut from the original film, and Vietnam is directly addressed through the music of Hendrix and Country Joe.

Minority said...

thanks for the clarification, Charles! (Charles is a great writer, I recommend that readers google him and look for other stuff that he's written).