on 23 January 2004
For a detailed, in depth or more knowlegeable opinion, I suggest you read the other expert reviews contained here. I can only say that I agree with all the positive comments, where I understand the prose! From my perspective, I simply suggest that you dump any pre-concieved ideas you have of a has been folk singer, regurgitating old hits in a worn out voice. Because they either need the money or haven't twigged to the fact that they're no longer cutting it. So swallow your hip hoppin, house blasting, rap-a-tap rapping ministry of sound pride and be prepared to be amazed, you don't need to know the history of the artiste. This album is chocabloc with timeless lyrics sung with the voice of a maverick angel. Fronted (backed ain't the word here) with great musicians, who stand on their own merits, but collectively with Ms.B form a hell of a band in the true sense of that loosely bandied-about word. You would have to be really into the outer limits of non popular music not to enjoy this revelation. Honest, I had no idea who she was and bought this on hearing a snippet of the track Christmas in Washington on the car radio, driving to work on a miserably wet Monday morning. It made me smile, got me fingers a-tapping and has a subliminal political message that you don't need a University education to appreciate! It's nice to see she is still protesting with grace as oppossed to amazin' grace. Yes, I have now done my homework and enjoyed a live performance from the current tour, and wow she's as good on the 'ol peepers as she is on the ears! If you consider yourself a fan and haven't got tickets, you'll be kicking yourself all the way to Woodstock and back after hearing this breathtaking new album. Ave it!!!
on 7 October 2003
With "Dark Chords on a Big Guitar", Joan Baez has graced us with a thought-provoking collection of songs that touches both the heart & soul. Reflecting the times in which we live, this is a dark album in both music and lyrics. But Joan's smile on the black & white cover photograph hints of the hope and happiness that still exist, which she proceeds to uncover through a series of 'song snapshots'.
The album succeeds first and foremost due to Joan's voice & vision. Starting with "Play Me Backwards" (1992), and continuing with "Gone From Danger" (1997), Joan has honed her interpretative abilities. After 62 years of life, Joan's "lived in" voice serves as the perfect instrument for these brilliant songs. The angelic qualities of her younger voice have been replaced by a more Earthly warmth. Her range, in a sense, has gotten wider. She sings as if she has stepped into the shoes of these various personas and walked around for a while.
The next positive factor here is due to the musicians. The album's intimate sound is provided mostly by members of Joan's touring band. This makes for an unusual, but winning situation. "Dark Chords on a Big Guitar" has the sound of a live album, but with studio recorded quality.
The third ingredient in this superb mixture is the choice of songs. While there is not a dud among them, standouts include 2 Greg Brown songs: "Sleeper"; the tale of a former lover haunting our dreams, and "Rexroth's Daughter"; wherein what appears to be a search for an individual turns out to really be an exploration of the meaning of one's life. The literal & spiritual center of the album is provided by Natalie Merchant's "Motherland" and Josh Ritter's "Wings". Both of these poetic songs seem to have struck a chord in Joan, producing heartfelt renditions. We are all reminded here of the arms we have for hugging, and the "wings" we have for soaring above the fray. The album ends with Steve Earle's "Christmas in Washington", so timely (with the coming presidential election), and unfortunately also timeless, in its tale of hypocritical greedy politicians. The song's protagonist's story eerily mirrors Joan's own life's journey, and Joan gives it a knowing take.
Another of the album's highlights is Ryan Adams' "In My Time of Need". This story song shares a universal truth: We all need, whether from a friend, family, or a companion, someone to be there for us in our time of need, and us for them. Ultimately, this album contributes to the soundtrack for that provided comfort. Take a listen, and let Joan's smile and singing "just off and carry you".
[Note: Joan will be touring the UK and Ireland in January & February of 2004.]
on 28 September 2003
Like other Dark Chords reviewers I feel that Joan Baez is
choosing to use her voice in a particular way on this recording in a way that suits the music, the songs themselves and the times we are living in. It is a number of years since I heard Joan Baez sing live -1997, I think - when she sang "Matty Groves", from one of her earliest recordings in full soprano and faultlessly - all 22 verses! These songs on Dark Chords would not sound right sung in a high soprano voice: they are more earthy and I think Joan's treatment of them on this CD is no less than superb. To my ear this CD sounds as good - and at times as raw - as a live performance. It's true that Joan's voice is changing over time but she seems to be rising
wonderfully to the challenge of a new style suggested by the songs themselves. I feel, too, that her singing voice is now much closer than before to her speaking voice which always has to my mind been much deeper than her "achingly pure soprano" when singing. Her current singing style has a contemporary edge to it, which is likely to get more people listening to her work and more radio playing than was maybe the case previously. People I have played the CD to are using words like "mellow" and comment how well the voice and the band blend on most tracks. I was pleased to see Dark Chord listed on some website
under "Adult Contemporary". This recording seems to be leaning
towards commercial values without compromising the integrity of Joan, the main performer, or her beliefs. Joan Baez is back on the music scene (though for her die-hard fans she has always been there.) All this just to say that I like this CD very much!!! Go on, treat yourself! Buy Dark Chords on a Big Guitat and revel in the quality of a lovingly put-together piece of music craft!
on 20 September 2003
I wasn't at all sure about this CD when I first played it. It seemed too quiet and in some ways lacking in passion. But after about five plays it came alive and I now find myself humming some of the songs. Yes, it's a bit darker than some of Joan's earlier recordings, but all the elements of a fine CD are there. Joan's voice is still wonderful. The band is talented and matches her beautifully. My favourite songs are 'Rexroth's daughter', 'Christmas in Washington', 'Wings' and 'Rosemary Moore'. One thing is lacking. When Joan was last touring in Britain she sang a wonderful song by Betty Elders - 'Long bed from Kenya'. This has not appeared on a CD and would have been a great addition to this CD.
on 12 September 2003
This CD proves that Joan Baez is one of the most versatile performers around. The songs, written by some of the best contemporary writers today, speak to these dark times and she delivers them like only she can. Using that extraordinary voice in a bluesy, sultry manner, she blends perfectly with some of the best electric guitar licks and the most astounding drum playing I've ever heard. Dark Chords On A Big Guitar speaks across generations appealing to all ages. It may just be the best all around recording of her career!