The Best of Arlo Guthrie

Arlo Guthrie

Warner Brothers, 1977

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


Every once in awhile, I reach into the old music collection and grab something off the shelf that I have not visited in awhile. A couple of days ago, this led me to Arlo Guthrie, who was a constant musical companion during my late teenage years.

He is the son of American music folk legend Woody Guthrie. He is now over twenty-five albums into his own career, which stretches back over four decades. While Guthrie has remained active both in the studio and concert hall, he has faded into the background and much of his material in unknown to the present generation of music fans.

During the late ‘60s, however, he was an important link in the group of folk artists who were active in the anti-Vietnam War protest movement. He performed at my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Woodstock and remains a part of that generation’s legacy. He has remained true to his ideals as he continues to be active in support of a variety of social causes.

The Best Of Arlo Guthrie was released in 1977 and is an excellent presentation of his best material from the most commercially successful period of his career.

If you want to understand the music of Arlo Guthrie and get a good picture of the ‘60s protest movement, “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” is the place to start. It clocks in at over eighteen minutes and is presented as a talking blues folk tune. Guthrie incorporates his own experiences with his local draft board, which still resonate and amuse today. If you don’t know about the Group W bench, you have missed a slice of the era. It may not be a track you will want to play over and over again, but it remains his best known song and is essential listening for anyone even mildly interested in folk music.

“Coming Into Los Angeles” was performed at Woodstock and perfectly fit the gathered hippie generation at that event. His simple and breezy interpretation of Steve Goodman’s “City Of New Orleans” became his only top twenty hit. “Motorcycle Song” is another amusing – and in many ways nonsensical – tune that combines his views about pickles with his love of motorcycles.

The first decade of his career produced a number of strong tracks, and I lament the fact that cuts such as “Washington County” and “Hobo’s Lament” were not included, but what it here is universally excellent.

Arlo Guthrie is now an elder statesman of the American folk movement. The Best Of Arlo Guthrie is not only a nice introduction to his music, but it also resurrects an important period of American history.

Rating: B+

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