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Rereleases commemorate 40th anniversary of Woodstock

Martha Karam | Wednesday, August 26, 2009

This summer I had the distinct pleasure of making my hajj to Woodstock, N. Y., expecting some sort of Disney World for the kids who grew up in the wrong generation. I was not completely let down. Instead of themed rides, there were themed head shops, and instead of carts with funnel cake, there were overpriced restaurants that bragged on local and organic food.

I did find that there were those lost souls I was searching for. Teenagers and young adults singing along to the music blaring from the shops, young children as excited as their 30-something year old parents to see tie-dye and deep yellow textiles. It was proof that Woodstock is not only enjoyed by the baby boomers.

It is time that our generation fully appreciates the history of Woodstock Festival as well as accept the music as our parents, or, in my case grandparents’, generation did.

This is easily done with the reissue of the “Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack” and the new box set called “Woodstock: 40 Years On: Back to Yasgur’s Farm.” It consists of six discs with 77 songs, 38 of which were previously unreleased. The album is not for the fair-weather 1960s music lover, but has already sold-out twice on Amazon.com. The set is produced by Rhino records and costs a $79.98 plus shipping, but there is a free T-shirt if you buy it from the Rhino site.

When broken down, six discs for around $80 is not unreasonable, but for only $41.99 you can purchase the entire documentary itself, now on a DVD with a director’s cut and bonus features. Unless you have exhausted the soundtrack, memorized the DVD and cannot wait for “Taking Woodstock” to come out, the price and the limited availability of the box set is not worth it.

“Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack” is a reissue of the original soundtrack from the documentary plus more previously unreleased tracks. The album includes performances by John B. Sebastian, Canned Heat, Richie Havens, Country Joe & the Fish, Joe Cocker, Santana, Ten Years After, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Butterfield Blues Band, Jimi Hendrix, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, The Who, Joan Baez, Sha-Na-Na and Arlo Guthrie. The distinctiveness of the album is that it is not a compilation of the artists’ studio-produced songs, but actual recordings of the music performed at Woodstock. It is as historically valuable as recorded speeches, but as aesthetically pleasing as music can get.

Because these are live performances, there is a freedom in what the artists performed. Joe Cocker was able to cover the Beatles’ “With a Little Help from My Friends,” Jimi Hendrix revolutionized the “Star Spangled Banner,” The Who performed a song from their rock opera “Tommy,” and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young covered “Wooden Ships” by Jefferson Airplane, even though Jefferson Airplane performed in the festival also. The album also features “stage announcements” and “crowd chants” and an announcement from Max Yasgur himself, the man who owned the farm on which the festival took place, setting the music to a background of the crowd and entire experience itself.

The music performed at Woodstock may seem inaccessible because it is not current, or whimsical because it can never be reproduced or the artists’ music styles evolve, so it is imperative to take the music as is: folksy protest and “rock ‘n roll in the rain.”

The songs played at Woodstock were not thematically restrained to the late 1960s – songs about love, peace, post-apocalyptic worlds, riding your car out to the country for a weekend and wishing for change can be enjoyed by any generation.

Contact Martha Karam at mkaram2@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not

necessarily those of The Observer. Martha can be reached at mkaram2@nd.edu