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PETE SEEGER - Pete Seeger In England

PETE SEEGER - Pete Seeger In England
Fellside Recordings FECD273

I remember Doug Dobell’s record shop in London. I didn’t know his Folklore label issued two limited edition albums recorded at Pete Seeger’s concert at St Pancras Town Hall in 1959. Now, Fellside has put them alongside Tony Adkins’ unreleased recording of Pete’s 1964 concert at Manchester Free Trade Hall. The cleaned-up result is a 147-minute double CD reminding us why Pete was a great figure in the folk revival.

It’s not his singing or banjo playing, good though these are. It’s his ability to engage with his audience. Paul Adams comments that these recordings should be compulsory listening for aspiring performers. Pete’s integrity was part of his charisma. Audiences knew of his principled position during Congress’s prolonged attempt to nail him. In 1959 he’d just been allowed to travel, and was still under threat of prison.

The first concert shows Pete was an early exponent of world music, with songs like Suliram (an Indonesian lullaby) and Bayeza (from South Africa). Another pleasure is hearing sister Peggy singing from the front row on songs like Which Side Are You On? and Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream. The second concert is full of familiars, from his Where Have All The Flowers Gone? and Guthrie’s Pastures Of Plenty, to the finale of We Shall Overcome. It’s also notable for generous support for other folk revival songwriters.

So much here, so few words to spare. A quick shout out for Joe Stead’s helpful essay in the liner notes.

Tony Hendry

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This album was reviewed in Issue 116 of The Living Tradition magazine.