Various Artists - Milk of the Tree: An Anthology Of Female Vocal Folk and Singer Songwriters

by Ljubinko Zivkovic Rating:10 Release Date:2017-06-30

Whenever you have to tackle an album that has as the artist(s) listed as ‘various artists’, whether it is just a simple compilation, a thought out anthology, soundtrack or a tribute album (thank you and/or no thanks, Hal Willner) there is always a nagging question hanging in the air - how many tracks will you skip? And it is usually not a question of a track or two, but more. Exceptions to the rule? Sure, too few and far in between. Usually, it is those anthologies, to be precise, that are done through a serious period of time, recording a musical trend, a movement, done by somebody who is not only passionate but also thoroughly knowledgeable about the music they are handling. That includes meticulous liner notes, details, unpublished photographs and other. Two examples, of such an approach and impeccable choice and production that comes up with lasting musical artifacts, are the two compilations dealing with the San Francisco and Los Angeles musical trends of the Sixties Love Is The Song We Sing and Where The Action Is respectively).

And here we have another one - Milk Of The Tree, subtitled An Anthology Of Female Vocal Folk and Singer Songwriters. And I dare say from a personal aspect, the producers definitely had an even harder job to succeed. First of all, they set out to cover the late Sixties and early Seventies scene on both sides of the Atlantic and with the usual contractual obligation limitations (obvious missing pieces here Joni Mitchell, Carole King and Judy Henske, for example), making the right choices had to be pitch perfect. No misses there. Whether it is the masterful voices and songwriting skills of Laura Nyro, Nico, Judee Sill or Sandy Denny, or not so widely know artists like Anne Briggs, Ruthann Friedmann or Margo Guryan, or female voices in a group setting like the inimitable jazziness of The Pentangle, West Coast hipness of The Serpent Power or harmonies of the sister duo Wendy&Bonnie.

Secondly, it was the task of balancing out the long casting shadows of vocal stylings of artists like Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell. Another plus there. Singing in a high vocal register can be a dangerous toy for many female artists, something that even the most renowned cannot sometimes handle properly. There I mean Joan Baez, of whom I’m not such a big fan. But her “Blessed Are…”, here just proves why she was (and still is) so influential and why other singers want to trace her steps.

I must admit I tried really hard to pick at least one title that was not up to my taste, after all, this is a three-album compilation. I simply couldn’t fault a single track. Now that is an achievement. Adding to all this, the lavish and meticulous booklet it is another (but still rare) addition to perfect compilations. Indispensable.

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