ON THIS DATE (42 YEARS AGO)
May 11, 1970 – Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More is released.
# ALL THINGS MUSIC PLUS+ 4.5/5
# allmusic 3/5
Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More is the live album of the 1969 Woodstock concert. It was originally released on Atlantic Records’ Cotillion label as a set of 3 LPs on this date in May, 1970.
This triple album set of the monumental outdoor concert features Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young performing live for only the second time. The performance of “Sea Of Madness” by Neil Young actually heard on the record, however, was in fact recorded a month after the festival at the Fillmore East auditorium in New York City.
A second collection of recordings from the festival, Woodstock 2, was released a year later.
The recording of the music on location at Woodstock was supervised by Eddie Kramer, one of the most famed and legendary music producers and recording engineers in the history of Rock music. It was Eddie’s work as Jimi Hendrix’s principal engineer that led to him being hired to head up the recording crew at the Festival, alongside assistant engineer Lee Osbourne.
When Kramer arrived at the Woodstock site around 6 a.m. on Friday, August 15th, he began the process of attempting to turn the disorganized recording setup into a usable working platform of operation. Kramer and Osbourne used two 8-track recorders to capture the performances, synched together in a system that—miraculously—managed to function continuously for over three days’ worth of performances (Kramer has since noted that the whole recording system was held together by “baling wire and chewing gum”). The first of these recorders had been brought upstate from its usual home underneath the stage at New York’s Fillmore East, where it had been used to record a large number of performances at that legendary concert venue. No one involved seems to remember where the second 8-track recorder came from, though Eddie Kramer notes that it may have been brought up by the Hanley Sound crew, who were responsible for the audio facilities at the Festival.
Over the next three-plus days, Kramer and Osbourne (with necessary assistance provided by a painful vitamin B12 injection provided to the crew on Friday) diligently captured every note performed at Woodstock, along with a fair amount of inter-performance stage announcements. Opening sets performed by Richie Havens (two acoustic guitars and percussion) and Sweetwater (full Rock band setup) gave Kramer the opportunity to work out the bugs in the recording setup, and the remainder of the Festival was recorded smoothly (or at least as smoothly as was humanly possible) from the safety of a sound truck positioned just offstage.
In 1994 the songs from both albums, as well as numerous additional, previously-unreleased performances from the festival, but not the stage announcements and crowd noises, were reissued by Atlantic as a 4-CD box set titled Woodstock: Three Days of Peace and Music. In 2009, Rhino Records issued a 6-CD box, Woodstock: 40 Years On: Back to Yasgur’s Farm, which includes further musical performances as well as stage announcements and other ancillary material.
by Thom Jurek
It’s almost impossible to regard the soundtrack albums for the Michael Wadleigh documentary Woodstock, simply as music, apart from the event that inspired them or what that event has come to represent. Music from the Original Soundtrack and More: Woodstock was originally released by Atlantic’s Cotillion imprint as a three-LP set in a gatefold sleeve. It topped the Billboard Charts for four weeks and sold two million copies. It sold so well that Cotillion issued a sequel double album of more music from the festival that never appeared in the film. The LPs took the music out of the historical sequence of the festival and re-ordered (and edited) it for a sense of flow. Whether or not it accomplished its objective has been the subject of much debate and beyond this review’s scope. What is relevant is that these performances signified via their spotty recording quality — and sometimes dodgy performances — that there was an amazing array of legendary talent on hand at Woodstock; though not all of it is captured here. Rhino’s 2009 remastered edition of this set on a double CD is the cleanest edition yet, but even it has problems: the source tapes were problematic at best. It restores the original LP order, features new liners by Gene Sculatti, and has more photos in the booklet. Musically, the second disc sounds the least dated with its over the top performances by a shockingly great Santana with “Soul Sacrifice,” Ten Years After’s guitar workout on “I’m Goin’ Home,” Jimi Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner” medley (still a stunner after all these decades); the Jefferson Airplane’s rocking and raucous version of “Volunteers,” and the orgiastic Sly & the Family Stone medley that includes “Dance to the Music,” “Music Lover,” and an insanely great “I Want to Take You Higher.” There is some filler as well thanks to a drippy John Sebastian track called “Rainbows All Over Your Blues,” and an indulgent “Love March” by an out-of-their-prime Butterfield Blues Band.
Disc one is more complex. There are some fine moments here, especially the CS&N and CSN&Y tunes, including “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” (perhaps not perfect in voice but a very inspired performance), and “Wooden Ships,” with a decent if not thrilling “Sea of Madness,” in between. There is a desultory “We’re Not Gonna Take It” from the Who that is out of context, given they performed the entirety of Tommy. While Canned Heat’s “Goin’ Up the Country” has aged well, Country Joe & the Fish’s “The “Fish” Cheer/I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die Rag” has not, nor has Joan Baez’s performance of “Drug Store Truck Drivin’ Man.” Her version of “Joe Hill” is generic. Richie Havens’ “Freedom” is still thrilling, especially since it is preceded by Sebastian opening the entire set up with another duller-than-dull “I Had a Dream.” The “Summer of Love” had been over for two years by the time Woodstock took place, and riots in Watts, Detroit, Newark, and other places had occurred, as well as an escalation in the Vietnam War. The most out of place thing here is Sha Na Na’s “At the Hop,” which sounds surreal but ragged and right, and Joe Cocker’s “With a Little Help from My Friends,” that closes disc one; it’s electrifying if rather out of tune. So as it stands, Woodstock is a wildly mixed bag, and not particularly pleasant to listen to, but it does indeed have a significant place in the rock pantheon and should be regarded more as an artifact than as an album in its own right.
On the LP release, side one was backed with side six, side two was backed with side five, and side three was backed with side four. This was common on multi-LP sets of the time, to accommodate the popular record changer turntables.
Most of the tracks have some form of stage announcement, conversation by the musicians, etc., lengthening the tracks to an extent. Times are listed as the length of time the music was played in the song, while times in parentheses indicate the total running time of the entire track.
“I Had a Dream” – 2:38 (2:53)
* Performed by John Sebastian.
“Going Up the Country” – 3:19 (5:53)
* Performed by Canned Heat
“Freedom” – 5:13 (5:26)
* Performed by Richie Havens.
“Rock and Soul Music” – 2:09 (2:09)
* Performed by Country Joe & the Fish.
“Coming into Los Angeles” – 2:05 (2:50)
* Performed by Arlo Guthrie.
“At the Hop” – 2:13 (2:33)
* Performed by Sha-Na-Na.
“The “Fish” Cheer/I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die Rag” – 3:02 (3:48)
* Performed by Country Joe McDonald.
“Drug Store Truck Drivin’ Man” – 2:08 (2:38)
* Performed by Joan Baez & Jeffrey Shurtleff.
“Joe Hill” – 2:40 (5:34)
* Performed by Joan Baez.
“Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” – 8:04 (9:02)
* Performed by Crosby, Stills & Nash.
“Sea of Madness” – 3:22 (4:20)
* Performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
“Wooden Ships” – 5:26 (5:26)
* Performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
“We’re Not Gonna Take It” – 4:39 (6:54)
* Performed by The Who. The final 1:50 of the track is an emergency announcement and the statement to declare “it’s a Free Concert from now”.
“With a Little Help from My Friends” – 7:50 (10:06)
* Performed by Joe Cocker. In the CD version, the first disc would close with this track, with a 1:30 long recording of the rainstorm.
“Soul Sacrifice” – 8:05 (13:52)
* Performed by Santana. The first 3 minutes of the track is the “Crowd Rain Chant,” a chant started by the crowd as an attempt to stop the rainstorm.
“I’m Going Home” – 9:20 (9:57)
* Performed by Ten Years After.
“Volunteers” – 2:45 (3:31)
* Performed by Jefferson Airplane. The final 34 seconds or so of the track is a speech by Max Yasgur, praising the crowd for coming to the festival.
“Medley” (Performed by Sly & the Family Stone) – 13:47 (15:29)
Dance to the Music – 2:11
Music Lover – 4:50
I Want to Take You Higher – 6:46
“Rainbows All Over Your Blues” – 2:05 (3:54)
* Performed by John Sebastian.
“Love March” – 8:43 (8:59)
* Performed by Butterfield Blues Band.
“Medley” (Performed by Jimi Hendrix.) – 12:51 (13:42)
Star Spangled Banner – 5:40
Purple Haze – 3:28
Instrumental Solo – 3:43