Rainbow Quest, Pete Seeger, Judy Collins, Elizabeth Cotten, Shanachie, 2005
In a year that has featured various 90th birthday celebrations it is very appropriate to review some of the 1960’s television work of Pete Seeger, one of the premier folk anthologists, singers, transmitters of the tradition and “keeper” of the folk flame. This DVD is a “must see” for anyone who is interested in the history of the folk revival of the 1960’s, the earnest, folksy style of Pete Seeger or the work of folksinger Judy Collins, especially doing her renditions of a couple of early Bob Dylan songs (and how they were reworked by him from older traditional tunes) and her classic cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now”.
Also included on this DVD is the legendary Elizabeth Cotton, a musician that I have reviewed extensively elsewhere in this space, showing us her unusual guitar-picking style and regaling us with “Wilson’s Rag” and her own classic, make that super-classic, folk song, Freight Train”. Additionally, Pete, as an early exponent of what is now called “world music” brings in some lesser known Spanish guitarists and assists them in singing the well-known Spanish song written by the Cuban nationalist Jose Marti, “Guantanamera”
This DVD contains some very interesting and, perhaps, rare television film footage from two of Pete Seeger shows, packaged in one DVD, entitled “Rainbow Quest”. Each show is introduced (and ends, as well) by Pete singing his old classic “If I Had A Golden Threat” and then he proceeds to introduce, play guitar and banjo and sing along with the above-mentioned artists.
One final note: This is a piece of folk history. Pete Seeger is a folk legend. However, the production values here are a bit primitive and low budget. Moreover, for all his stature as a leading member of the folk pantheon Pete was far from the ideal host. His halting speaking style and almost bashful manner did not draw his guests out. Let’s just put it this way the production concept used then would embarrass a high school television production class today. But, Pete, thanks for the history lesson.