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"Four Decades Of Folk Rock"

Click to buy at Amazon.com Reviewed by Terry Cochran

Time Life has gathered 71 tracks to show how folk rock has changed over the past four decades. From Bob Dylan plugging in and Roger McGuinn twanging his 12-string through Britain's electric folk and on into Celtic rock and other variants, this is a wide-ranging collection.

Disc 1, the 60's, starts off as it must, with selections such as Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone" and the Byrds' rendition of "Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season)". These numbers epitomized folk-rock in the minds of the young Baby Boomers who first embraced the concept. For variations on the theme, Time Life throws in some folkies who tried rock and some rockers who tried folk -- such varied artists as Barry McGuire, the Mamas & the Papas, Jefferson Airplane, Buffalo Springfield, and the Band.

Disc 2, the 70's, continues with American variations from groups such as Crosby, Stills & Nash and the Grateful Dead, along with the unique sound of British folk rock from such pioneering groups as Fairport Convention, Pentangle, and Steeleye Span. Artists like Arlo Guthrie, James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt and Joan Baez might be surprised to find themselves included here, but songs like Arlo's "Coming Into Los Angeles" do at least have the rock background to qualify them. There are those who might argue it's even more of a stretch, however, to find the folk influences in numbers from a Rod Stewart or a Fleetwood Mac.

Disc 3, the 80's, has an even more eclectic mix, ranging from Richard & Linda Thompson on the more traditional side to mellow sounds from the Roches and then all the way to groups like the Pogues and the Waterboys, who add a more Celtic flavor to the collection. Included, too, are edgier tracks from folks like Suzanne Vega and 10,000 Maniacs.

Disc 4, the 90's and beyond, is also a varied assortment, from certified stars like Sarah McLachlan, Natalie Merchant, and the Indigo Girls all the way to lesser lights such as Mazzy Star and David Gray. Like any family, they clearly show how many different branches can develop from similar roots.

Along with the artists who are remembered by all, this collection also includes many others who are familiar only to the experts -- folks such as Tim Hardin, Fred Neil, Tim Buckley, Nick Drake, and Tim Rose. I've loved both folk music and rock for a long time, but I must admit I'd forgotten about them.

Even more important, this collection turned me on to some artists that I'd ignored. For example, after hearing them here, I had to seek out more material by the Corrs, Lucinda Williams, and Anne McCue. In many ways, finding new music you love is even more fun than rediscovering old music you'd lost!

Either way, I recommend "Four Decades Of Folk Rock" to anyone who's ever enjoyed the genre. This is a marvelous overview of how it's changed over the years and how it's still vibrant and alive today.

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