With the 40th anniversary of the original Woodstock Festival looming, various commemorative releases are being prepared to markthe occasion.
Sony, for instance, is offering a series of five double-disc packages pairing the complete Woodstock sets of Santana, Sly&The Family Stone, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin and Johnny Winter with each act’s contemporary studio album from 1969. The six-disc box set from Warnersrecapitulates the bulk of the original triple-album soundtrackandfollow- up doublealbum, with a bonus 38 tracks.
Themost welcome of the new material derives from the hippie scene’s San Francisco cohort, particularlyTheGrateful Dead’s “Dark Star”, a soaring 20 minutes of essential psychedelia. There are also extended sets from the Airplane, Janis Joplin, Country Joe & The Fish and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Also welcome are the contributions from The Incredible String Band and the expansion of The Who’s set, including the priceless moment when Pete Townshend tells Yippie figurehead Abbie Hoffman to “get off my fuckin’ stage!” after the latter had grabbed a microphone to seek the crowd’s support for jailed White Panther Party leader John Sinclair. But it’s hard to see how the experience is improved by the inclusion of also-rans such as Quill, Sweetwater and Bert Sommer, each surprisingly afforded more than a token track apiece.
Their inclusions are all the more baffling given the continuing non-appearance of anything byTheBand, only one track of whoseset has ever been released, andby the removal of Ten Years After’s “I’m Goin’ Home”, one of the show-stopping performances of the film. Couldnospace be found for either among these 95 tracks – particularly given the inessential indulgence of an additional 20-minute Canned Heat boogie? Likewise, whoever decided to separate the crowd’s celebrated “Rain Chant” from its former segue into Santana’s “Soul Sacrifice” has thoughtlessly jettisoned one of the original album’s greatest coups de théâtre, also decoupling the sense of collectivity between audience and performers. Sometimes, chronological accuracy tells only half the story.
Similarly, far too much time is given over to the pompous-hipster stage announcements about births, marriages, medical emergencies (“Bring Scully his asthma pills!”), and the various warnings about the sub-standard quality of the brown and green strains of LSD. Grace Slick knew better: “Sorry about those who got the green,” she sympathises at the start of the Airplane’s set. “We got a whole lot of orange, and it was fine. It still is fine. Everybody’s vibrating!”
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