Joan Baez – Diamonds & Rust (1975): Review

Produced by David Kershenbaum
Label A&M

If not for the recognisable Soprano voice, one would never have realised that this recording was from the same artist whose folk debut had come with her self titled release 15 years earlier. Gone are the stark musings, the breathy innocence, replaced by pop, country rock, and jazzy mixes of both self penned, and cover songs. Baez surrounded herself with a session band made up of some of the most coveted musicians, including Larry Carlton, Joe Sample, Wilton Felder, Jim Gordon, David Paich and Larry Knechtel, who add their own abilities to make the album sound almost a group effort. Lifted of her self imposed devotion to fighting the U.S involvement in the Vietnam War, it seems that Joan has a new found freedom to explore a different musical process, at her own pace, and without the issues that must have had added a negative outlook to some of the song writing process in the past, “Diamonds And Rust” sounds a pleasurable experience for both artist and band.

Her choice of cover songs are both intelligent and well performed. Jackson Browne’s “Fountain Of Sorrow” seems a natural choice given Joan’s folk roots and her delivery is impeccable, as is her performance on Janis Ian’s beautiful “Jesse” which adds a Horn solo for extra dimension. The Stevie Wonder song “Never Dreamed You’d Leave In Summer” is honourably understated and sounds sweet from a female perspective. Her version of The Allman Brothers “Blue Sky” was so strong A&M immediately released it as a single, with positive results. Joni Mitchell joins Baez to duet on the lyrically nonsensical “Dida” which probably is one of the less memorable moments, as is the “I Dream Of Jeannie/Danny Boy” medley that closes the album. But for this reviewer the killer cut is the title track, a warts and all exposure of her love affair with Bob Dylan which had died some years earlier. The lyrics fly from barbed to yearning in an instant as she recalls the man who obviously even 10 years later has a profound effect on her everyday life, her thoughts and her actions. It quite possibly is one of the best songs Joan Baez has ever written.

“Diamonds And Rust” sounds younger than yesterday, a great return from Baez and the title track alone is worth the ticket price.

8/10

Track Listing
A1 Diamonds & Rust 4:45
A2 Fountain of Sorrow 4:29
A3 Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer 2:44
A4 Children and All That Jazz 3:07
A5 Simple Twist of Fate 4:44
B1 Blue Sky 2:45
B2 Hello in There 3:04
B3 Jesse 4:25
B4 Winds of the Old Days 3:54
B5 Dida 3:25
B6 I Dream of Jeannie / Danny Boy 4:10

Blue Sky

Diamonds & Rust

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s