Release Date: Aug 11, 2009
Record label: Rhino
Ultimately, however, it all comes down to the music. While we only get "Dark Star" by the Dead, we get (a bit) more music from the Who. The three tracks by CCR are all monsters, and hearing the five tracks by Crosby, Stills & Nash and then Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young all in correct sequence between BS&T and the Butterfield Blues Band makes total sense.
The 40th anniversary of Woodstock has, not surprisingly, given birth to a flurry of related products, ranging from CDs by associated artists to an extras-enhanced DVD of Woodstock, the movie. For our money, the best bet is this six-CD box, containing approximately one-fifth of all the festival’s music, much of it available for the first time in any format. Arranged chronologically, and featuring songs from almost every act that played (missing ? in action: The Band and Ten Years After), 40 Years On: Back to Yasgur’s Farm is a dandy primer and/or refresher course in why that mythic, muddy lovefest mattered, man.
Featuring 30 of the acts who appeared in 1969 at the festival that bookended the hippie movement before darker reality set in, this 6CD set reveals many things: one is that the sound quality left a lot to be desired, hence Grateful Dead’s refusal to countenance their appearance being included on the original vinyl. Yet here you get the Dead’s Dark Star, though Jerry Garcia’s advice to steer clear of the green acid is more entertaining. The list of the era’s top head acts is impressive – everyone from Tim Hardin and Canned Heat to Jefferson Airplane and Creedence Clearwater Revival.
Every decade following Woodstock there's a flurry of retrospectives, and the 40-year anniversary is no exception. This one comes hot on the heels of an AARP membership for most attendees, but that doesn't mean a new crop of music fans can't be browbeat with the event's mythology. See, kids, there was a time when neither Mountain Dew nor Clear Channel played a prominent role in music festivals, when pull-tabs were hauled past lax security, when the money-making aspect had yet to make things unbearable.
The forgotten secret of Woodstock is that it kind of sucked. Culturally, of course, it was a beautiful thing-- half a million kids found each other and everything was groovy. The audience was a generation with high ideals, crazy dreams, unreliable drugs, and an inexplicable fondness for Crosby, Stills & Nash, and it finally had something to pull it together that didn't involve all that many things being set on fire.
This year's 40th anniversary of Woodstock brought many tributes and recollections, but none as satisfying as this 6-CD collection of music and more. Initially planned as a 30-disc set of each performance from that magical weekend of August 1969, logistics forced an abridged result that still sprawls at almost eight hours of music and represents a major upgrade from the chart-topping 3-LP set and subsequent two-record Woodstock Two. With every artist that appeared at the three-day event presented in order of appearance, save for the Band, Ten Years After, and the Keef Hartley Band, this is as complete a document of the mother of all music festivals as we'll ever get, including the famous clash between Abbie Hoffman and Pete Townshend, and Max Yasgur's full address heard for the first time.