Natural, unprocessed, clear, breathy vocal reproduction is the key to any Joan Baez album, and this side two will clearly demonstrate just how well-recorded Joan’s voice (and guitar) were by the Vanguard engineering team. We heard immediately that this side one was excellent. We had no idea the sound could get as good as it is on side two. It takes the sound and music to an entirely new level.
With just guitar, vocal and occasional cello, the “truth” of recording quality is hard to fault. After only a few moments there’s really no sound, only music.
By the second track the sound is excellent, with more harmonic extension and space. Joan is tonally right on the money, present and real.
Even better — shes’ so sweet and clear, who knew she could sound like that? If you don’t have a stack of copies to choose from, it’s unlikely you could luck into one this good.
Open, clear, breathy, and solid, few Vanguard folk albums we’ve heard would hold a candle to the sound of this side of “5”.
There But for Fortune
It Ain’t Me Babe
The Death of Queen Jane
Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 – Aria
Go ‘Way From My Window
I Still Miss Someone
When You Hear Them Cuckoos Hollerin’ (feat. Gino Foreman)
So We’ll Go No More A-Roving
The Unquiet Grave
Joan Baez 5 was where the singer’s music experienced its first major blossoming. Having exhausted most of the best traditional songs in her repertory on her four prior LPs, Baez had to broaden the range of her music, and she opened up some promising new territory in the process.
Baez and Vanguard Records must also have recognized by 1964 that the folk audience was changing and, in fact, was no longer just the “folk” audience — they were expecting current compositions in a folk vein, especially topical material, and also a certain degree of eclecticism, and Joan Baez 5 runs the gamut from classical to country.
Unlike her prior albums, Joan Baez/5 was divided evenly between contemporary work and traditional folk material. “There But for Fortune” was written by Phil Ochs, and she also included Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe” and Johnny Cash’s “I Still Miss Someone”, as well as a number of traditional English and American folk songs.