Joan Baez - Do I just not get it?


I'm a relatively young music/audio guy (24). I recently bought a remaster LP of Joan Baez "In Concert" which I've heard is a great album, both musically and soundwise.

This is my first exposure to Joan Baez - and not meant to offend fans... But I could not make it past song two. Now I love singer/songwriter music, and certainly enjoy female vocals and acoustic guitar... but her voice! It is unlistenable! She uses so much vibrato and sounds like a sheep... baaaaaaa... Stevie nicks can at least get away with being a sheep because she has the rock music to keep the attention away... but joan Baez - How do you guys enjoy listening to this stuff? The vibrato is terrible!
I'm forty seven and attribute a lot my wrinkles to music like hers!!
Actually you do get it.

I feel the same even though she is of my generation (50).
Give a listen to her performance at Woodstock. Same thing, only 36 years younger. Just her style I suppose. Bob Dylan: if you take him only at his voice... I guess it's the whole package.
The only song from Joan Baez I love is Diamonds & Rust. Purchased the Cd for just that song, don't care for the rest. Keep in mind these songs were recorded during a time period when the average gear was more bass heavy then it is today so it could sound a little flat without equalization. Notoriously music that is recorded live never sounds as good & or dynamic as a studio recording in my opinion.
If you want to hear great Baez, try and find some of hear early albums on Vanguard -- even in mono. A voice like a clear bell, no vibrato. You'll understand what all the fuss was about.
The "In Concert" record is relatively early in her career (1962). What you describe is simply her voice and singing style. For some, the absolutely crystal clarity of her voice is totally enchanting; for others, her voice is sharp and thin and not very pleasant. And, as you describe, her use of vibrato can be off-setting. But so many of us who grew up in the 60s grew up with folk music, protest songs, and Joan Baez. She's an icon of her generation.
If you remember the 60's-70's then you weren't there...

Baez's 'sound' is the sound of those times that became her style...or is it the other way around?

I saw her on the recent Bob Dylan PBS special..she's aged well.

Joan Baez did us a great favor in finding, restoring, and performing a huge range of authentic folk songs...ballads which actually tell a story. Her voice is authentic, generally not backed up by other singers and a studio band. She actually played her own guitar while singing.

For vintage Baez, try Vanguard CD VMD-2027 and VMD-2097. On the second CD is one of the most beautiful love songs I know, "Plaisir d'amour".

Just don't get me started about her politics.
Diamonds and Rust is a really great album and recording. I have the Nautilus pressing and it is worth it. She does have that vibrato but it doesn't bother me that much on this offering. I have'nt heard the piece you're talking about so I can't say, but these modern "diva" singers around today have that EXTREME african-american R&B modulation style that I find affected and overused. Joan Baez is refreshing to me in light of these current MTV "singers"
I used to work for Joan back in 1976 (Stage lighting designer). We were touring on her Gulf Winds album. She would do a two part show. No opening act.The first half was just her. The second half she had a great band backing her. Elliot Randal on guitar (he did the solo on Steely Dan's Reelin' in the Years). She could really rock too.

She was using more of the vibrato by then. Early on she didn't use it as oftem. Still, when she was singing solo her voice was magical. Totally crystal like even with the vibrato. She did a show at the Academy Theater (hope I remember the name correctly) in Philadelphia that was so heartwrenchingly beautiful that the goosebumps on your arms never faded. I look back on that show as one of a highlight of thousands of shows I did for many top acts throughout fifteen years of touring.

Her albums just hint at what she was capable of live. Still, you get a good sense of what kind of vocal chops she possessed. I also suggest her earlier Vanguard recordings show her at the top of her form. I guess she sounds quaint now and a modern listener would take some time to appreciate her talent. In today's world of female corprate lip syncers and overprocessed no-talents, her pure voice would take a few listens to get into.
I suggest you listen to;Don Juans Reckless Daughter,Which has Jaco P. on bass,very good stuff!Im not a fan of most live albums ,,,,maybe you could sell that LP in the classifieds here,think the ad is free!
buffy st. marie anyone?
ray, Don Juan is Joni Mitchell but I agree it is terrific and I love Jaco too...
A friend of mine describes Neil Young's voice as sounding like a cat caught in a fan belt. I think Slipknot1's got it, it is the whole package.
Please excuse Ray, it seems he just woke from a nap ;-} DJRD is Joni Mitchell, not Joan Baez. I also don't believe anything on Audiogon is free anymore. I also grew up during the 60's and Joan did have a beautiful singing voice, albeit an acquired taste. She is not a long-term listen for me either.
Goatwuss - nothing wrong with your hearing, she's dreadful.
Her star rose during the period of self-flagellation in the 60's when an insipid PC tactic to be non-judgemental no matter how offensive the material, project or performance started.
Joan Baez is a lot like a root canal - only feels better when it's over. Bob Dylan's next. And Stevis Nicks - please, don't get me started.
She was a messenger for a very troubled time. Equal rights, the assassination of Kennedy, Vietnam, riots in our cities and collage campuses created some very troubled youth who believed they could change the world. The messages from Dylan, Baez, Guthrie and so many others was change.

These "leaders" speaking through their words help an entire generation change the world. Think about that, none were older than you Goatwuss, yet the world stopped for a time, and great changes happened.

It's one of those "guess you had to be there" things. emotion and energy of generations are portrayed in music, it's not always good however.

I do own the MoFi D&R and love it. But I understand different female voices appeal to different folks. Me?? I can't handle Patricia Barber--go figure.__
A lot is time-related and, as JD notes... the lyrics no longer strike the direct emotional chord as before, perhaps. Without the direct emotional & situational context, what's left is the music & that vibrato. That, I concur, hasn't aged very well.
Nor have my ears:
...(A)... song from Joan Baez I love is Diamonds & Rust
So do I -- but now that I'm a few months older, I prefer the version by Judas Priest! Go figure...
Sharp and thin is about it to these ears.
Goatwuss, it happens! I am a huge Clifford Brown, and Louis Armstrong fanatic. Yet past "Kind of Blue", I just can't get into Miles Davis. I guess that's why Baskin Robbins offers 34 ice cream flavors. So I wouldn't sweat Joan Baez.
Gregm, I had no idea that Judas Priest did a version of this song, never heard that one but I bet it would be interesting to hear.

Music is like stepping into a time machine, I don't think there is another media that can transport you so effectively & quickly to a another place and time. For better or worse this is one of Music's greatest draws.
The only album that ever won me over to her was "Diamonds and Rust" otherwise I agree with you and grew up in the 60's. By the way that album, like Carol King's "Tapestry" and Joni Mitchel's "Blue" were written either about or after breakups with a serious lover/affair. Sure made good music though.
I agree with Eddaytona - my wife and I saw her live last year in San Francisco, and the show was excellent. She was great - better than she's ever been, and the band was great. I went mostly because my wife likes her, and I was expecting to yawn through the old school solo acoustic pieces, but mostly it was uptempo rockin' ensemble stuff. She also has a very good stage presence - and the solo pieces she did were very good. It was one of the better shows I've seen and I would definitely go again tomorrow.

As far as her recorded stuff - there's a lot of it and it's not all superb, "Joan Baez In Concert" is NOT a favorite.

I'd say to get an idea of what people see in her:

Diamonds and Rust on Nautilus is probably the best sonically.

If I had to pick only one that's available on CD, it'd have to be "The First Ten Years" - a compilation of her best (up to 1970).

And if you have a vinyl rig then it's, "GOLDEN HOUR PRESENTS JOAN BAEZ" which was a 1976 compilation issued only in UK (pye Records) I believe - but it's available. Here's the track list from that because it contains what I'd say are many of her "must haves":

It Ain't Me, Babe (B. Dylan)
Black Is The Color (J. J. Niles)
The Last Thing On My Mind (T. Paxton)
Help Me Make It Through The Night (K. Kristofferson)
Farewell, Angelina (B. Dylan)
Bachianas Brasilieras No. 5 Aria (H. Villa-Lobos)
The Lady Came From Baltimore (T. Hardin)
It's All Over Now, Baby Blue (B. Dylan)
Hush Little Baby (traditional)
We Shall Overcome (G. Carawan, Hamilton, Z. Horton, P. Seeger)
There But For Fortune (P. Ochs)
Plaisir D'Amour (traditional)
Babe I'm Gonna Leave You (A. Bredon, Smith)
The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (J. R. Robertson)
Don't Think Twice, It's Alright (B. Dylan)
Long Black Veil (M. Wilkin, D. Dill)
A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall (B. Dylan)
stay away from Joan and try Joni (Court and Spark, Hissing.. and Heijira are all excellent

if you like singer songwriters of that era go for Laura Nyro - fabulous stuff Angel in the Dark and Looms Desire are wonderful recordings

>>Bob Dylan's next<<

Yes Dylan's voice is quite rugged now. It was, however, much better in the 60's and 70's. That being said he is unquestionably the single most important pop songwriter of the last 50 years.
Joan Baez, Yoko Ono, Mrs. Miller [remember her?], and Tiny Tim and all sound about the same to my ears!
I think this is why I hate opera - oh - and Mariah Cary.

I know she can hold a note - so why won't she........just stop warbling like a maniac and sing girl!!!!

I agree Goaty...a point well made.
By coincidence, recently finished reading an old paperbook copy of Joan Baez autobiography, And A Voice To Sing With, which was a surprisingly unpretentious (and, hilariously funny, in spots) telling of her earlier life story.
Her take on the early Bob Dylon is up close and personal, a limited part of her story.
What went on in a performer's personal life was well hidden in the good old days, before People magazine and paparrazzi (?spelling).
No one is as bad as Kris Kristofferson. He has the vocal range of a door buzzer.
Maybe you should change your handle to "no fun". How do you really feel? You no like? Then you no listen! What's a matter you?
Sorry about my latenite mixup!MT10425,,,,LOL,,thanks for bailing me out!Ray
First of all, if you're 50, J.B. is not of your generation, she's of the one before (same as Dylan who just turned 64.)

Second, there was no such thing as "PC" in the 60's. Gosh, we even shamed our returning vets. How PC was that!! Thank God, now that we're in Vietnam II and realize we've "been fooled again," at least we're not taking it out on our troops.

Back to Joanie. Most of you probably don't remember when she won a libel suit against the cartoonist Al Capp (creator of Li'l Abner) for placing a raven-haired folk singer in his comic strip named "Little Joanie Phony." As for her voice, I can attest to what Eldartford and Eddaytona said. Steve Kuyamjian, a fellow MIT architecture student, was teaching her to play guitar, and we'd often go to hear her sing at Club 47 Mount Auburn, in Cambridge. Her voice was truly a natural wonder, the material was innocent and ageless. Find some of those early Vanguard LPs, it will be very worth your while. They leave "Diamonds and Rust" in the dust!
When did relative age have anything to do with anything. My 12 year-old loves Frank Zappa, so that means what? He isn't supposed to have an opinion because he's a couple of generations removed? Huh?
I was exposed to Joan Baez well before I was 10 by some unthoughtful siblings, and that means what?
PC start was in the 60's for gosh sakes. It's when everyone got touchy feely about everything and became so concerned with offending anyone in any fashion yada, yada, yada.
You can find instances where the great unwashed acted in an unseemly fashion - the 60's weren't unique.
Snofun, what it means is that your 12 year old son has great taste in music. What it dosen't mean is that he would be able to relate to the mind boggling cultural sea change one experienced growing up in the 60's. Especially after graduating high school in say 1959! For him, or anyone born after 1945, it's really all hearsay isn't it? -- reports of reports of reports, mostly (now) by people who were not there either.

The 60's youth were nothing if not "in your face", and as far as we were concerned, the only "correct" thing was to change all politics. And being peace-loving (touchy-feelie as you put it) never kept us from speaking our minds. Unfortunately the media has now put most of the kids to sleep. Only 30% of current college graduates show proficient reading skills. Yada, yada.

Nope, I don't think you'll find much evidence of the 60s vision in our current culture. We've gone (or been led) down a different road -- it's called consumerism. And it won't end now until the oil runs out. . . . . . and at the rate things are going, if I take real good care of myself, I just might live to see it -- wouldn't THAT be a trip?!

As for Joanie, she had an undeniably great voice; and that's what sold records, not her politics or her songwriting. If she was just starting out today, she'd be the darling of some niche market label, just like Jacintha, but not the star she was then.
It took real talent to be a star back opposed to today where 'talent' is defined how much hype you can muster. Oil won't run out in your lifetime, but the price it'll sell for will bring out the best in people..which will be a show in itself.


I might suggest less coffee & maybe cut your red meat intake in half.
Every time Joan joined Dylan on stage she ruined whatever song they were singing together. Everytime.
Nsgarch, MIT Architecture school? As a fellow Architect I am fully intimidated and completely humbled. That must have been quite a great experience!!!

I then had to go look at your system, Now I feel jealous, I'm not enjoying this morning, we do need to talk however...

Snow-man, you are a friend and as you know, I now live my skiing adventures through you. It was great hearing from you on your vacation plans this winter and I hope you plan on keeping me informed.

Having said that, I do disagree with you on PC of the '60's and '70's. I think riots in the poorest neighborhoods of our nation, riots and killings on our collage campuses, finally exposing the corruption of the Presidential Office and even sit-ins in the Junior High Schools do not qualify as political correct behavior.

Now if you feel the peace, love and Bobby Sherman attitude was PC, I think you missed the point. I do not read Imagine (John Lennon) as political correctness, I read it as love and respect for our fellow man. Sadly this lasted until the hippies got to stoned as to not remember what their cause was. This generation was so close to realizing the truth that it makes me sad to see how far we (human race) has fallen.

Political correctness is no scary halloween customs at the schools, supporting the troops no matter how crazy the reasoning. Calling minorities by the absolute correct name, but not questioning the fairness of their existence. Political correctness is sending vast amounts of money to African charities so we can believe we are doing all we can to help the poorest nations, when actually we have simply turn our backs, "Yes it's tragic, but what more can I do? I already send $$$." Hell, if you need proof of the effects of PC, look at congress, they have not moved in eight years of fear of alienating some group, despite what the masses have asked for. Our nation is no longer a Democracy, it's a forum for the super minority. One atheist complains about the pledge of allegiance in our schools and the entire Government stops to investigate, while thousands of our youth are underfunded by mandated programs that Congress has not gotten around to funding. Is this really what the majority has asked for?

PC states my comments here are not allowed, and as a life long battler of the establishment, I am saddened to see how even you my friend has lost sight of the truth.

BTW, if my complete and honest admiration of MIT Architecture school and my comments above sound like a contradiction, they are not. I must have respect for anyone who worked that hard for a title that I got without any schooling. I chose a thirteen years of experience out of High school rather than "the establishment" and their rules. This got me to the very top of my profession by the age of 35, and I made $$$ every year along the way. PC would dictate people like me not be allowed. Funny thing, 15 years ago the politically correct leaders of Architects made my route no longer available.

The '60's and '70's were a time when anything was possible, and all voices could be heard. Today the only route is the establishments route. No longer is your voice heard if it disagrees, now the protests, if even allowed to gather are forced to gather out of the reach of cameras. And the peace, love and Bobby Sherman? Could we as a nation be any further away???

PC, don't get me started!!!!

Jadem6, that is heavy but true. I especially agree with you that our Government is so concerned about what minority may be offended that the majority no longer have a voice.
Fishboat - Granted that being a celeb today is just a function of hype, but don't get carried away about the 60's regarding talent- as jadem mentions - Bobby Sherman? How 'bout John Denver? - true talents for sure right? There's plently more where that came from.

The foundations of PC were laid in the 60's. "Everything is beautiful in it's own way, everybody's wonderful, everybody's beautiful, the only reason a person is a loser is because he didn't get all the breaks" and on and on ad nauseum" - it's morphed into what we're seeing today.

How knowing what the generation was about by the year you were born is a fairly absurd way to define the apparent legitimacy of a viewpoint, gee, maybe there's other factors at play NSgarch, like family social structure, education perspectives, peer groups etc. Probably couldn't be right? - guess you have to be an architect to understand sociology eh?

Thanks for your suggestions Fishboat. Hopefully they'll be more useful than your opinions.
Fishboat, I hope by "bring out the best in people" you are referring to the creative use of alternative energy sources?

JD, I'd be happy to chat about architecture. Best if you'll email me separately, I think.

While one would hope the alternative energy sources would be popping up I'll have to admit "the best in people" comment was more tongue in cheek(i.e. realistic). We'll see alternative energy applications on the expensive fringes until the oil-cow has been milked for all it's worth & only then will we magically see alternative energies coming out of the woodwork....and guess who will be selling them to you? (hint..where does energy come from today?)

All that being said..I still think John Baez has aged very well. :-)
Blah, blah, blah. Somebody doesn't like Joan Baez. No problem, to each his own, turns into a protracted discussion about the 60s. Don't forget there were people with flat tops in the 60s, definitely a lot more than long hairs. There was good music and bad music just like any other era.
Rja, you are (somewhat) right. To restate (24 year old) Goatwuss's inquiry: After listening to his first Baez album, he was, to say the least, underwhelmed with the sound of her voice -- which is all she really has to offer, since she's not a songwriter.

I think most of us simply tried to direct him to those recordings that best exemplify the qualities that made her so popular from the start.

If he seeks out a couple of those suggested recordings and remains unimpressed, he's certainly earned my respect as a serious music lover regardless.

Long hair and flat tops do remain == it's what's under them that has changed :~))
I'm really not too sure about the changes. My point was that the discussion somehow turned to politics instead of music. No problem here about liking or disliking Joan Baez or trying out some of her music. Good discussion material. I guess I'm just sensative to the politics. One of the reasons I enjoy Audiogon is the (near) absence of it.
As far as Joans voice, it's crystal clear AND powerful and probably difficult to record. When she first started as a folk singer she probably sang in small clubs either through a mike and tube amp or with no electronics at all. As far as vibrato, have you heard Buffy St. Marie? Cheers!
The late 60's to me was the staging ground for the idea that if you had a degree for a job which didn't have unlimited employment oppourtunities you created them. In city, county,
Educational and government workplaces jobs were created so people could ply their trades. Jobs from Real Estate to Pyschiatry were now being paid for by tax payers and this is why we have to keep paying more taxes and getting less results for our tax dollar.
Any way Diamonds and Rust is my favorite Joan Baez album and I have seen some 180 gram Vanguard Superlab pressings of her early work out there.
I read this thread as a question Joan Baez-Do I just not get it?

My response to Joan's existence as a singer needed to be put into context. Joan symbolizes the very essence of the '60's turmoil. Separating the two in my mind is not possible.

I admit I later brought up politics as it related to PC. If that amount of discussion regarding the times we live in offended you, sorry. Perhaps you need to look at that. I will out of respect for your sensitivity no longer look into this thread.

Thanks to the others on this thread for a fun discussion, but I guess it's too much.


Has anyone heard National Lampoon's "Radio Dinner" LP? Joan Baez is parodied, and you could piss your's just TOO funny!
It was the quality of her voice that was in question. It's either your cup of tea or it isn't. I don't know what that has to do with the "politics" of the 60s.

I was out for the weekend, and haven't seen any responses to this until now. Thanks for all the insight and discussion!

So it seems as though most of Joan Baez's popularity (past and present) stems moreso from her political messages communicated through her music than the actual music itself.

This is fine, though from my perspective in order for any messages to be communicated to me the tools have to be crafted well enough to not be abrasive to my senses and to my musical values.

The point comparing Joan to Bob Dylan was effective for me. I personally love Bob Dylan. Of course the main appeal of Bob Dylan is what he has to say. I feel as though Dylan is more a poet than a musician, and that he used music as a tool to communicate his poetry. I feel he did this effectively. Clearly his voice is not amazing, but it works for me. My girlfriend thinks he's terrible. Case in point.

In any case, I will sample some of the other Joan Baez music that some of you recommended to see if it more to my taste. I'll also try listening to my "In Concert" record again with some of the knowledge I've gathered from this thread to see if it grows on me. Otherwise, you'll be seeing an "only played once" NM copy of Joan Baez "In Concert" on the A'gon.

Merry Christmas