(director: Murray Lerner; screenwriter: conceived by Murray Lerner; cinematographer: Francis Grumman, Murray Lerner, Stanley Meredith, George Pickow; editor: Howard Alk; Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Murray Lerner; Janus: 1967-B/W)
“A solid music documentary that covers in B/W the Newport Folk Song Festival during the years 1963 to 1966.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A solid music documentary that covers in B/W the Newport Folk Song Festival during the years 1963 to 1966.
Murray Lerner (“The Moody Blues: The Legend of a Band“/”From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China“), who died at 90 in 2017, was a pioneer in feature-length music documentaries. They include films on Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Jethro Tull, Leonard Cohen and The Who, many of them recorded at the UK’s legendary Isle of Wight Festival.
The film captures the performances of headliners such as Joan Baez, Peter Paul and Mary, Judy Collins, Pete Seeger, Donovan, Odetta, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and many more. Most performers had a political tone expressing their protest music, but other types of folk music less controversial was also presented such as country, the gospels and the blues and were performed by the likes of The Blue Ridge Mountain Dancers, Johnny Cash, Howlin’ Wolf, Son House, the Staple Singers, Mississippi John Hurt, Sonny Terry and others.
Though not reaching the popularity of Monterey Pop (1968), Woodstock (1970), or Gimme Shelter (1970), this early music festival film compares well with them when it comes to known performers, production values and nostalgia for a period long gone. It seamlessly blends footage shot at the Rhode Island located festival with crowd shots, interviews with the artists and concert goers, and in capturing the festivals’ free-flowing atmosphere. The highlight was Dylan going electric in his 1965 version of Maggie’s Farm and getting jeered by the folk purist in the crowd. This move of Dylan propelled him into the new age of music. It also would be the last time he played at Newport for 37 years.
REVIEWED ON 7/16/2018 GRADE: B+ https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/