Paul Robeson in only his second stereo recording receives a sonic upgrade…
Paul Robeson At Carnegie Hall – Vanguard/ PurePleasure PPAN VSD 2035 – stereo vinyl (1958) ***1/2:
(Paul Robeson – vocals; Alan Booth – piano accompaniment)
Paul Robeson was an iconic figure well ahead of his time, who provided a “threat” to the conservative powers of the McCarthy period of the 1950s. Robeson was an African-American whose talents were prodigious. He was a brilliant student who excelled at athletics. He played in the NFL, while obtaining his law degree at Columbia. Robeson found a calling in the theater performing Shakespeare in England. He is most known today for his magnificent bass/baritone voice that both moved and inspired listeners.
At the time of his concert at Carnegie Hall in 1958, he had been ostracized for his social activism, and his defense of the Soviet Union. Blacklisted by the McCarthy hearings, he had not been active on stage for over eleven years at the time of this recording. Only Vanguard Records, the home label of the Weavers, would record Robeson. The May 9th concert went so well that another Carnegie show was set the same month. These two concerts provide the only stereo issues for Paul.
Noted for their recognition of iconic music of historical value, PurePleasure Records has reissued the May 9, 1958 concert on remastered 180 gm vinyl. Accompanied only by piano, Paul’s powerful vocals still resonate today nearly 60 years later. His choice of material bears testament to his “man of all seasons” reach. We have spirituals, monologues from Shakespeare and Godunov, and compositions from Bach and Dvorak. There are folk songs from Russia and China, as well as definitive versions of “Old Man River” and “Joe Hill.”
Paul was sixty years old at the time, and soon would suffer from both physical and psychological issues largely due to the strains of his activism, and the resistance he found from the conservative establishment. The Carnegie Hall concerts let him regain some stature he was due, while he still had his magnificent gift, his magisterial voice.
Kudos go out to PurePleasure for providing the chance to hear Robeson in the best possible fidelity.
Side 1: Every Time I Feel the Spirit, Balm in Gilead, Volga Boat Song, Monologue from Othello, O Thou Silent Night, Chinese Children’s Song, My Curly Headed Baby, Old Man River, Going Home (Dvorak)
Side 2: Monologue from Boris Godunov (Mussorgsky), The Orphan, Christ lag in Todesbanden (Bach), Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel, Lullaby (Franz Schubert), O No John, Joe Hill, Jacob’s Ladder
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