Record Reviews

Joan Baez

Album: “Whistle Down the Wind”

Grade: A

Nearly 10 years on from her last studio album, Joan Baez delivers another pearl, 10 deeply felt interpretations about the human condition and the state of the world.

Baez’s voice is in fine form and if her range now is, unsurprisingly, more earth angel than angelic, it serves to enhance her expressiveness, the depth of the lyrics and the strength of the melodies.

Some of the songwriters, such as Tom Waits, Kathleen Brennan and Eliza Gilkyson, also contributed to “Day After Tomorrow,” the 2008 album produced by Steve Earle that’s like a soul mate of this one, shepherded by Joe Henry.

The Waits/Brennan title track and their “Last Leaf” are typically full of captivating images and a few lines, like one about Dwight Eisenhower, and provide some moments of comic relief. Baez can be mischievously funny in interviews, but not here.

“Another World,” from Anohni, is one of the most disconsolate tracks – “I need another world/This one’s nearly gone” – while “The President Sang Amazing Grace,” Zoe Mulford’s reflection on the 2015 Charleston church shooting, is one of the most moving.

Baez will be presenting “Whistle Down the Wind” on what’s meant to be her last extended tour. It’s a strong album for a farewell, as representative of her talents as of the times.

–Pablo Gorondi, Associated Press

Randy Bachman

Album: “By George – By Bachman”

Grade: B-

Randy Bachman, founder of The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, let’s his imagination run away with 11 George Harrison songs on “By George – By Bachman,” which mostly succeeds when respecting the Quiet Beatle’s melodies, but sometimes fails to capture the grace and elegance of the originals.

“If I Needed Someone” has a jazzy feel, with a George Benson-like solo while there’s a flamenco-ish rhythm on “You Like Me Too Much.” “I Need You” gets a power-pop rebuild and “Don’t Bother Me” rocks out even further, like something from the Smithereens’ catalog. On these and a few others, the original tunes are more or less intact and they’re sturdy enough to support the makeovers.

“Something,” however, is a supple love song meant to be about “the way she moves,” not the way she plods, and even some hot guitar solos can’t change that. On “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” the instrument and the song seem way past the soft cries and closer to a complete nervous breakdown. Oh well.

–Pablo Gorondi, Associated Press

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