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July 24, 1971 - Image 5

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1971-07-24

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Saturday, July 24, 1971


Page Five

Judy Collins: A folk evening
at the Meadowbrook festival

Arts Editor
In a rare moment of foresight
for those of us who still believe
in folk music in the Leonard
Cohen style, Meadowbrook fes-
tival at Oakland University gave
us three hours of Judy Collins.
Not the Judy Collins who per-
formed at Hill Aud. in 1969, but a
revitalized Collins, belting out
her songs as if this was her first
performance and it was really
important that she please the au-
Although, in the wake of mas-
sive gate-crashing at the Wednes-
day night popular concerts, se-
curity was stepped up, the mood
of the crowd at the performance
was not at all restrained by the
added number of uniformed po-
licemen patrolling backstage or
in plain view of the audience.
Perhaps it is because Collins is
a special type of performer, re-
4 sponding to audiences and at
the same time responding to the
back-up group on stage with her.
Although Collins got off to a
shaky start, both in a quavering
voice, and lack of audience ap-
peal with "My Friend" followed
by "Sometime Soon", by the
* time she got to Leonard Cohen's
"Joan of Arc", Collins had the
audience and this reviewer eat-
ing out of the palm of her hand.
Somewhere in the midst of the
first half of the program, pri-
marily Collins singing Cohen,
the realization hit that Cohen
a festival
Copyright 1971
Considerable fanfare centered
' about one of the most physically
compact, natural and refreshing-
ly unaffected pianists currently
before the public- Vladimir
Ashkenazy's renunciation of
superfluous showmanship in the
much-abused Paganini Variations
yielded one of the most stupen-
dous feats of concentrated mu-
sical powers this critic has ever
encountered in concert. Indeed,
one must go back in recorded
musical history to the discs of
Artur Schnabel and Rachmanin-
off himself for comparable pia-
nistic depth and insight. Ashken-
azy's sensitive shading in cres-
cendi and diminuendi, his ring-
ing pianissimi, ravishing in full-
ness, and his uncanny capacity
for spinning out phrases left his
listener dazed. These qualities
converged in that old war-horse,
the 18th Variation, to work a
miracle: the over-popularized
melody emerged as if it were be
ing played for the first time. The
vocal lone breathed with inflec-
tions so rare and perfectly cal-
culated that not a tone seemed
out of place, yet everything
* sounded unforced and complete-
ly natural.
While Ashkenazy's decision to
program Rachmaninoff's Fourth
Concerto was a welcome relief
for those critics sick of review-
ing the omnipresent Second and
Third, it must be admitted that
r the Fourth isn't one of Rachman-
inoff's most successful works. In
this concerto the composer is
more sober, less intent on vir-
tuosity for its own sake, and
seems to be aiming for tighter-
knit construction than in his ear-
lier concerti.
Ashkenazy made the most of
the work's strengths (including
a hauntingly poetic statement of
the slow movement), but even

his musical endowments couldn't
raise the experimental Fourth to
the incandescence of the Paganini

should write his songs for Col-
lins. No one does justice to the
songs of Leonard Cohen like
Judy Collins - even Cohen him-
Collins was in fine voice, never
overpowering those up close to
the speakers, while at the same
time being heard even by those
sitting far back on the rolling
hills of Meadowbrook. Her ban-
tering with the audience was a
welcome change from the staid
performances Collins is famous
for giving in the past.
Not disappointing the over
5,000 people who came out un-
der the stars to hear her, Col-
lins broke into a new anti-war
song, "My Lover is Dead". Her
lover has died in any of a num-
ber of battles in Vietnam, in any
of a number of ways. Yet at the
end there is jubilation as Collins
announced that her lover is
alive-her lover being the coun-
try of Vietnam. Entertainment
mixed with protest is one of Col-
lins' fortes.
Collins ended the first half of
the performance with a poem by

Yeats set to music. Standing
with her guitar. and not accom-
panied by her back-up group.
Collins sang that "man of words
and not of deeds/is like a gar-
den full of weeds/and when the
weeds begin to grow/is like a
garden full of snow."
The second half of the pro
gram started out with Leonard
Cohen's immortal "Suzanne,"
long a favorite of Collins. The
audience came close to giving
her a well-deserved ovation.
As Collins explained, she
doesn't write much of her own
material, but "Easy Times", a
song about the woman left be-
hind by a prisoner in an Ala-
bama jail, was nice to listen to.
It did, however lack the power of
the Joni Mitchell songs, "Chelsea
Morn"' and "Both Sides Now"
which followed.
Part of the success of Collins'
performance was due to the fine
playing of her back-up group,
especially pianist Richard Bell.
Collins does her best in relaxed
atmosphere, and Meadowbrook
turned out to be an ideal setting.

Stills: Man and his

Stephen Stills - the man and
his music are one and the same.
R e a 1 - almost terrifyingly
honest - his conversations with
the audience descriptive, salty,
nearly friendly. So many peo-
ple, so many towns, so much
worship, and yet even with
those gigantic waves of ap-
plause I sense that the great-
er part of the inspiration can-
not come from the audience.
The drive of the man and all
the others with him, whose de-
votion to playing really f in e
music blazes from the stage__
perhaps it is a circular thing
like a tornado, sweeping up all
in its path but feeding large-
ly off its own energy.
Muscular, strangely beautiful,
enveloped in his world of so
much knowledge and so much
music, he picks up guitar after
guitar, his fingers painting his
life, his face and body play-
ing the notes, living the music.
The man plays everything -
keyboards, guitars, bass, piano.
He could - if his physical
strength permitted - do a
whole show himself.
From the moment he said,
"Crazy Horse didn't get here;
were gonna do two hours," to
the last note of "Find the Cost
of Freedom," the audience,
most of whom barely grasped
what they witnessed, were shak-
en to the core by a monster of
a three-part concert - electric,
folk, and big band.
The notes can't be reproduc-
ed here, or the arrangements, .
fantastic head arrangements
that Stills is so proud of, and
justifiably so; they are im-
peccably done and the groups
are so tight musically and at
the same time so relaxed t h a t
nobody freaks out when the
solos get extended. Hard work
done out of love, out of dedi-
cation to the art, tied together
by the love o fthe people with-
in the groups - that is what
we saw,
The groups themselves - the
first group, with Stephen From-
holz (whose name reviewers
constantly misspell "even to
such bastardizations as Frib-
nitz," he said) a man who has
only been into this scene for a
month and a half, playing gui-
tar and singing these arrange-
ments as if he was born to
them, so close to Stills that
they almost breathe with the_
same lungs; Dallas Taylor, who
told me that he wants only
truth and the feeling of at-
oneness with himself, who plays
his drums as if every beat is the
last and has to be the m o s t
glorious yet - and that is how
it comes off; Fuzzy Samuels,

working right on top of Dallas
Taylor with his bass, extend-
ing meter into notes and t h e
gut-response that sets the
groove inside the audience;
Paul Harris, whose keyboard at-
tack builds structures within
structures, not just meter and
notes and gut response but the
moving chords that hold it all
in place, the framework light
but so strong; and Stills there
with them, into them, on top,
over, around, through, d o i n g
"Helplessly Hoping," and break-
ing up as he sang a line out of
place, spearheading the pyra-
mid of sound. "Fishes and
Scorpions." directing the group
with subtle body movements,
with nothing out of place to
stop the flow.
A very few minutes off and
Stills was alone on the stage,
setting such a groove with
"Love the One You're With," all
by himself - just him and the
acoustic guitar. Unbelievablie
how the groove was right there
and his phrasing so free; such
control, such freedom. "Black
Queen," all Stills again. and at
this point he asked the aud-
ience for quiet, meaning es-
pecially those few who couldn't
relate to the subtlety of that
part of the concert. He did a
new song about singing the
swing shift, paying dues, expos-
ing your insides when you play;
and that's how it is. That song
was done the day of the con-
cert, in just a couple of hours.
"Word Game," from the second
album, pointedly tells it about
the rigid masses of people, old-
er people, who won't bend and
whose children see their lying
approach to the world. It's the
whole picture on this "g r e a t
society" done in a little over a
hundred words.
Stephen Fromholz joined him
for several things, notably "Do
for the Others," which was bea-
utifully and lovingly done, the
two men singing as one. "You
Don't Have to Cry," one of
Stills' best, was there, the same
beautiful execution. All the
songs are stretched, extended,
better than before. Just before
the intermission, only twenty
minutes to allow the road man-
ager time to set up for the six
Memphis Barns, Stills moved to
the grand piano and sang "For-
ty-Nine Bye-Byes" with h i s
thoughts about today's world,
today's kids, the eighteen-year-
old vote and how it means that
kids don't have to go out in
the streets and get killed'shout-
ing their views; in a thunder-
outs shout, Stills said, "Now if,
you don't like him, go VOTE
HIM OUT!" This was greeted

appropriately by an enormous
screaming standing ovation that
went on until Stills himself
calmed the audience and an-
nounced he'd be back with the
Memphis Horns.
There had been standing ova-
tions after nearly every number
and calls of "Stephen, Step-
hen!" The audience surged
forward during the intermission
to get as close as possible - so
close that no one could move
an inch; we were crammed into
the aisles as close as possible
and at times on top of each
The Memphis Horns, six men
(actually seven since one of
their number had a National
Guard obligation and couldn't
do the tour) who put forth such
a clean, tight, powerful, beauti-
ful sound, have been the main-
stay of nearly all the Memphis
artists, Stax Records, Otis Red-
ding, Aretha Franklin and now
Stephen Stills. Soon to be re-
leased is an album of their own.
These are all men who have
paid dues; none of them very
young, all products of every mu-
sic the world has offered them.
Rodger Hopps (fleugel horn and
trumpet) and I talked about the
be-bop era; Wayne Jackson, the
moving force, with Andrew
Love, behind the sound, talked
about the tour itself with me
and about jazz influences in
general. Each man is a star in
his own right. Prominently fea-
tured is Sidney George, w h o s e
flute and saxophone work is so
remarkable that he laughingly
remarked that he'd like to hear
all that played back to him. All
these men play so cleanly, so
perfectly together, a blinding
sheet of color in which every
horn voice blends and every
horn voice stands out. They are
all unbelievably modest about
how far they feel they h a v e
yet to go. They are such r e a l
people and there is no bullshit
about them musically or person-
ally, There is not space to de-
lineate everything that was said,
and there was no time to talk
to all of them, but suffice it
to say they are a revelation.
Stills has chosen his people
with no envy, just .the desire to
see as close to absolute perfec-
tion as possibly. To a man, they
love him and this is reflected
during performances. H i s
smallest signal is immediately'
responded to. Without doubt,
the whole concert was one of
the tightest things I've ever
seen. From one who has been
so often disappointed by live
performance and live-perform-
ance albums, there was no dis-
appointment last night at
Olympia. The name of the hall

says it well - Olympia - it was
Olympian last night. From the
first electric group, Stills,
Fromholz, Samuels, Harris,
Taylor, to the Memphis Horns
who blew the people down and
showed them how it is when it's
right, the atmosphere there was
high - high all night. During
the final tune before encores
("Cherokee") the audience was
moved out of itself into an
ecstacy seldom seen even in
these days of extremes.
And Stills himself. I talked
with him for hours. It is ap-
parent in all his songs that he is
a very deep man. He works, he
learns, he struggles to show us
what hes seen. And his message
is clear. I was met at first by a
necessary reticence, a testing
of me personally to make s u r e
there was no bullshit for him
to wade through. I found him
even more honest off the stand
than on. No tension, no games,
just truth, if you can take it.
"I'm a blues man," he said,
with all the waltschmertz, all
the dues-paying, that those
words imply; a statement of
a life style expressed in musical
idiom. He is eloquent with words
and it was easy to listen and be
caught up in what he said. He
is not a youth. His eyes are
open, seeing - even now he is
setting musical trends for those
who are more widely known.
He has been called a monster
talent, yet that is limiting. His
talent is the expression of his
life; you know he's been
through fires we can only ima-
gine. He is a multi-faceted per-
sonality, his mind is brilliant,
and those are things nobody ex-
pects to find in the field of pop
music. And he had his words
to say about that, too - about
Colorado. where he lives some
of the time, ,where as he says,
"They don't care what kind of a
pop star I am; they only care
if my jeep can pull their jeep
out of the snow."
Stephen Stills has not the
time to touch us all individually,
but through his music, his ly-
rics, his clear self-portrait, we
can all see the highs of in-
tellect, music, life for which he
lives, and be moved to reach
for the finest in ourselves.
I talked to Wayne Jackson
about the structure of the tour
itself, as tightly organized an
operation as the music. Twenty-
five cities to play between t h e
July 4 beginning and the end of
the tour August 18. No strain,
everything planned for maxi-
mum efficiency, no foul-ups,
just a relaxed atmosphere so
these dudes can play their axes
with free minds,

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