Ballad For Americans


In the absence of a multi-label Paul Robeson box, this 22-song CD is a superb account of the singer's late career, with one major work from his pre-blacklist years represented as well. In the late '50s, Robeson, like the Weavers -- who also were persona non grata at the major labels due to their leftist political views -- began recording for Vanguard Records, a New York-based independent label that wasn't afraid of controversial artists. These sides captured his last great years as an artist and reminded the public that the singer had not been silenced, despite his decade in the artistic wilderness. The material ranges from spirituals ("Deep River," "Go Down, Moses"), work songs ("Water Boy"), sea shanties ("Shenandoah"), classical compositions ("Jerusalem"), and traditional Irish and English folk songs ("Londonderry Air") to once-topical (and still relevant) songs such as Earl Robinson's "The House I Live In" (made famous in the mid-40s by Lauritz Melchior, Josh White, and Frank Sinatra). Robeson's voice is rougher and harder than it was in his prime, but he makes up for his lack of range with outstanding enunciation and projection, and he is equally impressive on the numbers done with solo piano accompaniment and those arranged for orchestra and chorus by Robert Decormier. The highlight of this collection, however, is the title track, "Ballad for Americans," which Vanguard can justifiably be said to have rescued from oblivion in the RCA-Victor catalog. Clocking in at ten minutes, the 1939 recording is a fascinating, still somewhat compelling concept work authored by Earl Robinson and John LaTouche, in which Robeson represents the entire country, all of "the people," in this grand musical canvas, supported by a chorus and a full orchestra. His voice is richer on this cut than on any of the other material here, understandable since it was recorded nearly two decades earlier, and the only drawback is that this piece -- by its nature as an overtly political, patriotic leftist work -- is as much acted as sung. One needed a larger-than-life vocal presence such as Robeson to pull this off. One can only be grateful for Vanguard's foresight in acquiring the quarter-century-old recording for this compilation in its original double-LP format, and to RCA-Victor (who were likely only too happy to let it go for whatever money they could get, at the time) for permitting its use; the song, although somewhat arch and pretentious at times, is a vivid reminder of the era in which Robeson made his name, and great battles for the hearts and minds of audiences were being fought daily. The sound on the Vanguard original recordings is excellent, despite this being one of the earlier LP-to-CD conversions from the catalog; "Ballad for Americans," a much older work recorded during the 78 rpm era, has some noise from its non-tape original source, and more limited audio range than the rest of the material, but is still eminently listenable and, at times, most striking in its structure and sensibilities. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

  • Condition: --
    HPB condition ratings
    • New: Mint condition or still sealed (SS). Absolutely perfect in every way. New.
    • Fine/Like New (EX): No defects, little sign of use, well cared for. Plays perfectly. Close to new. Not necessarily sealed or unused, but close. Could be an unopened promotional or cut item. Sometimes called: mint-minus.
    • Very Good (VG): Will show some signs that it was played and otherwise handled by a previous owner who took good care of it.
    • Good (G): Attractive and well cared for, but no longer fresh. Minor signs of wear, scuffing or scratching, but will play almost perfectly. For vinyl: barely detectable crackles or pops.
    • Fair (FR): This item is in okay condition. For vinyl: good is not so good and the record may have low level crackles or pops when playing. CD: one or more tracks may skip.
    • Poor (P): Obviously well-worn and handled. Most vinyl collectors will not buy good or below, but some tracks on CD or vinyl will play.
    Conditions Guide
  • Format: CD
  • Sold by: --
  • Language: English
  • Label: Vanguard Records
  • UPC: 015707011723
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Track listings

  • 1. Shenandoah
  • 2. Deep River
  • 3. Go Down, Moses
  • 4. On My Journey
  • 5. Water Boy
  • 6. Minstrel Boy, The
  • 7. Londonderry Air (Danny Boy)
  • 8. Loch Lomond
  • 9. Joshua Fought The Battle Of Jericho
  • 10. Get On Board, Little Children
  • 11. Scandalize My Name
  • 12. Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child
  • 13. Eriskay Love Lilt
  • 14. Now Sleeps The Crimson Petal
  • 15. Mexican Lullaby
  • 16. All Through The Night
  • 17. Jerusalem
  • 18. Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes
  • 19. Four Rivers, The
  • 20. John Brown's Body
  • 21. House I Live In, The
  • 22. Ballad For Americans
 
HPB condition ratings
  • New: Item is brand new, unused and unmarked, in flawless condition.
  • Fine/Like New (F): Book may have been read. Looks new and has no defects. May show remainder marks. Used textbooks do not come with supplemental materials.
  • Near Fine (NF): Clean, with no defects, but may show slight wear at edges of book or dust jacket. Used textbooks do not come with supplemental materials.
  • Very Good (VG): Shows signs of wear. May have minor defects: clipped or chipped dust jacket; owner’s inscription; remainder mark; minor foxing or bumping. Used textbooks do not come with supplemental materials.
  • Good (G): Average used book with all pages present. May have any of the defects above to a greater degree, including highlighting, library markings, or loose bindings. Rare and collectible books may have cocked spine, cracked hinges, water stains; torn or repaired dust jacket. Used textbooks do not come with supplemental materials.
  • Fair (FR): May be very worn, soiled, torn, or barely holding together. Used textbooks do not come with supplemental materials.
  • Poor (P): May have extensive damage from moisture or insects; detached boards; parts may be missing; marginally salable unless very unusual. Used textbooks do not come with supplemental materials.
Conditions Guide
HPB condition ratings
  • New: Mint condition or still sealed (SS). Absolutely perfect in every way. New.
  • Fine/Like New (EX): No defects, little sign of use, well cared for. Plays perfectly. Close to new. Not necessarily sealed or unused, but close. Could be an unopened promotional or cut item. Sometimes called: mint-minus.
  • Very Good (VG): Will show some signs that it was played and otherwise handled by a previous owner who took good care of it.
  • Good (G): Attractive and well cared for, but no longer fresh. Minor signs of wear, scuffing or scratching, but will play almost perfectly. For vinyl: barely detectable crackles or pops.
  • Fair (FR): This item is in okay condition. For vinyl: good is not so good and the record may have low level crackles or pops when playing. CD: one or more tracks may skip.
  • Poor (P): Obviously well-worn and handled. Most vinyl collectors will not buy good or below, but some tracks on CD or vinyl will play.
Conditions Guide
HPB condition ratings
  • New: This movie is unopened and brand new.
  • Fine/Like New (EX): Near new. No defects, little sign of use. Plays perfectly. Not necessarily sealed or unused, but close. No skipping; no fuzzy or snowy frames in VHS.
  • Very Good (VG): Attractive and well cared for but no longer fresh. Minor signs of wear, but will play almost perfectly. For VHS: barely detectable distortion or very few fuzzy or snowy frames.
  • Good (G): This item is in okay condition and basically works well. There may be some minor distortion on VHS tape; slight scratching or wear on DVD.
  • Fair (FR): Basically plays, but may be obviously well-worn with some scratching or tape distortion.
  • Poor (P): Disc or tape is intact, but may be scratched or stretched. There may be skips or distortion or product defects.
Conditions Guide
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