Friday, December 5, 2014

Peter, Paul and Mary – Discovered: Live in Concert

Discovered: Live in Concert
Warner Bros./Rhino

I was too young to have been caught up in the wave of commercial folk groups – like the Kingston Trio and Limeliters – that became hugely popular in the late-1950s. But several groups that came along just a little bit later – in particular Ian & Sylvia and Peter, Paul & Mary – did have a huge impact on me as my interest in music, and especially folk music, developed in the ‘60s.

My first Peter, Paul & Mary album was Late Again, which I bought when it was brand new in 1968. Soon I had all their earlier albums as well. Years later, I got to know Noel Paul Stookey a little and, through him, met Peter Yarrow and Mary Travers, when Peter, Paul & Mary performed in Montreal in the ‘80s.

Speaking of the ‘80s – Peter, Paul & Mary began to record their concerts in those years and put the tapes away. Now, they have released Discovered: Live in Concert, a 13-track set of songs from those concert tapes that were never included on any of their albums (although one song, “Mi Caballo Blanco,” was included in their box set, Carry It On), as part of the 2014 celebration of their 50th anniversary – there is also a new PBS pledge drive special and a book – as a group.

As is typical of many Peter, Paul & Mary albums, Discovered: Live in Concert includes some traditional material, some original songs, and their interpretations of material drawn from a variety of contemporary folk-rooted songwriters. And, like most of their concerts, a little silly comedy.

My favorite songs on the CD include Kate Wolf’s beautiful love song, “Give Yourself to Love”; Sarah Elizabeth Campbell’s moving song about homelessness, “Geraldine and Ruthie Mae”; “Cactus in a Coffee Can,” a touching story of a woman’s relationship with her difficult mother written by Steve Seskin and James Shamblin; and John Gorka’s very poignant piece about a wounded World War II vet whose deepest wounds, “the wounds that never heal,” were on the inside.

Peter, Paul & Mary were the most enduring of the commercial folk groups of the 1950s and ‘60s and a big reason for that endurance was that they never just rested on their laurels and constantly refreshed their repertoire with songs, such as those I’ve mentioned, by contemporary songwriters.

I’m guessing these recordings were made through on a line off the sound board at various concerts. As such, it lacks the fidelity you would expect in a professionally-recorded live album. And since the recordings were made at different times in different venues, some do sound better than others.

I mentioned that my first Peter, Paul & Mary album was Late Again. Well, since he trio was formed in 1961 and released their first album in 1962, they were late again in marking their 50th anniversary in 2014.

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--Mike Regenstreif

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