The 1963 Newport Folk Festival was notable for the six albums of live performances that were released. “Newport Broadside” specifically focused on topical songs, following the Broadside tradition that dated from the 18th century. Broadside was originally a form of musical news output, bringing social and political news, often along with a healthy dose of scandal and tittle-tattle, to the British masses. It led to the folk traditions of topical and commentary songs that came to greater prominence in the Cold War years. This compilation shows how prevalent they were during the early Newport Folk Festival years.
Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger duet on the opener ‘Playboys And Playgirls’, reminding us that Dylan was one of the key topical singers of the day. Tom Paxton follows with the thought-provoking satire of ‘The Willing Conscript’, a song inspired by aspects of his earlier military training. Sam Hinton’s ‘Talking Atomic Blues’ reflects the concerns felt by many over the nuclear arms race and was sung a few scant months before the Cuban missile crisis – topical indeed. The international aspect of the folk movement is underscored with the inclusion of Tynesider Bob Davenport singing Ewan MacColl’s ‘Come All You Gallant Drivers’. The Freedom Singers, who deliver three wonderfully harmonic songs, practised what they preached; all their members had been imprisoned many times for their activism. Jim Garland, a union organiser at a time when that was a dangerous occupation, has two songs here that relate dark aspects of union membership. Eddie McCurdy’s ‘Where Do You Come From’ gently underlines the concerns of parents bringing children into a dangerous world. Phil Ochs, then a new talent on the folk scene, sings two songs to an enthusiastic response, before Peter La Farge describes the position of the American Indians in a positive light while questioning their historical treatment by white men. The collection ends with Bob Dylan and Joan Baez’s duet on ‘With God On Our Side’, a song as relevant today as it ever was.
While these are decidedly songs and performances of their time, it would be wrong to think of them as dated. Their relevance and themes are every bit as important for listeners today, making this fine CD one that should never be overlooked.