Arlo Guthrie & Pete Seeger,
Precious Friend
(Warner Bros., 1990)

Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger teamed up in the summer of 1981 to give a blessed crowd an incredible opportunity to enjoy a superb outdoor concert performance. The songs on the resulting two-CD set are mostly folk music about the working class and the everyday common man. We hear songs about the "raggedy raggedy" workers who need empowerment in the form of a union to stay alive, and there's a great song titled "I'm Changing My Name to Chrysler" sung by Arlo to demonstrate how fat corporate America gets much more social welfare in the form of government bail-outs than the poor ever will.

Arlo's sarcasm of the necessity for money for impoverished people to merely exist is evident in his social commentary song "Do Re Mi." (Arlo uses "do" as a synonym for money.) Arlo also dreams of a world where guns disintegrate and flowers grow; the crowd becomes ecstatic. However, there's more than just social commentary and opinions here. There's also the beautiful love song sung by Pete, "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine," and the song "Circles" about the twists and turns of life. We are treated to the bittersweet yet somewhat amusingly performed classic "Please Don't Talk about Me When I'm Gone" sung by Arlo. The electricity throughout the concert is amazing but this last song is especially powerful because of the way it is so beautifully performed with just the right amount of improvisation.

Yet the most powerful moments are at the very end of the concert when Arlo sings the infamous "Amazing Grace." Arlo explains that the song was written by the captain of a slave ship who realized the error of his ways and turned his boat around to return the would-be slaves back to Africa.

All throughout, both Arlo and Pete enjoy a masterful ability to lead their audience exactly where they want to take them while keeping them entertained all the way. Pete often helps the audience participate by singing along with his songs; Pete has called himself a "sing-along leader" on many occasions during his career. Even at the end of a fairly long concert, the electric atmosphere is so powerful that the audience is truly screaming for still more. A tour de force for Arlo and Pete!

The CD set is well produced; it was recorded from the soundboard on stage and certainly not from the audience. Arlo and Pete have ample musicians to help them along, introduced by Arlo by their first names only during "Please Don't Talk about Me When I'm Gone." The musicians make this classic into a great jam session with a lot of fun for the audience and any CD listener.

In addition, the two CDs come with a booklet giving you all the words and credits for each song. In addition, most of Arlo's spoken words to the audience are carefully written out for you here.

If you are a folk music fan but you don't have this set in your collection, get it now and set aside a LOT of time because you will not be able to listen to it only once before putting it away. I have listened to it countless times over the years and it has never lost a shred of freshness nor power. If you want a primer on folk music laced with some spiritual accents and social commentary, then this is also a great CD for you. We are truly lucky to have these two ingenious men among us all these years. Their compassion, intelligence and wit abound in every song so carefully performed for their audience.

I also recommend any other CD showcasing the talents of Arlo and Pete performing together live. This would include the two-CD set of their 1975 live concert titled Together in Concert and More Together Again in Concert, which was recorded in the early 1990s.

review by
Matt Sherwin

23 February 2008

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