Joan Baez – Diamonds & Rust

Joan Baez front

Artist: Joan Baez
Title: Diamonds & Rust
Released and Recorded: 1975
Label: A&M Records
Format: Vinyl
Musicians: Joan Baez-guitar,vocals,synthesizers, Wilton Felder, Reinie Press, Max Bennett-Bass, Jim Gordon, John Guerin-Drums, Larry Carlton, Dean Parks, Rick Lo Tempio-guitar, Joe Sample-Electric Piano, David Paich-Electric Harpsichord, Larry Knechtel, Hampton Hawes-Acoustic Piano, Red Rhodes-Pedal Steel, Mucho Gordo-Percussion, Malcom Cecil-Moog & Synths, Tom Scott-Flute, Sax, Jim Horn-Sax, Ollie Mitchell, Buck Monari-Trumpets.
Arrangment: Joan Baez and Larry Carlton
Producer: Bernard Gelb, David Kershenbaum & Joan Baez
Recording & mix engineer: Rick Ruggieri, Ellis Sorkin, Henry Lewy
Mastering Engineer: Mike Reese at Mastering Lab

Joan Baez is another iconic music artist, whom by the way, is still with us. (I thought I would point that out given the last few weeks of sad news coming from the music world).
While a good song writer and arranger, I’m not a big fan of her singing personally. For me, I find her over-using vibrato in her voice which becomes somewhat annoying in short time, but that’s my opinion. Her soprano voice, three-octave range and distinct, rapid vibrato has led to appearances on classical, jazz, and soundtrack recordings, most notably her numerous and highly acclaimed collaborations with soundtrack writer Ennio Morricone.

Joan Baez is an American folk singer, songwriter, musician, and activist whose contemporary folk music often includes songs of protest or social justice. She is also the sister of Mimi Farina (also a folk musician, but only had two LPs, one in 1975 and one in 1985). Baez has performed publicly for over 55 years, releasing over 30 albums. Fluent in Spanish as well as in English, she has also recorded songs in at least six other languages.
She is considered a folk singer although her music has strayed from folk considerably after the 1960s, encompassing everything from rock and pop to country and gospel. Influential in helping Bob Dylan gain greater career success in his early performing days, also having a brief relationship with him.

Although a songwriter herself, Baez generally interprets other composers’ work, having recorded songs by the Allman Brothers Band, the Beatles, Jackson Browne, Leonard Cohen, Woody Guthrie, Violeta Parra, The Rolling Stones, Pete Seeger, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder and many others. In recent years, she has found success interpreting songs of modern songwriters such as Ryan Adams, Josh Ritter, Steve Earle and Natalie Merchant. Her recordings include many topical songs and material dealing with social issues.
Her official website:

Diamonds & Rust is a 1975 album by Joan Baez. Baez is often regarded as an interpreter of other people’s work, and on this album she covered songs written or played by Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, The Allman Brothers, and Jackson Browne. But Diamonds & Rust also contained a number of her own compositions, including the acclaimed title track, a distinctive song written about Bob Dylan.

As you can see from the list of musicians, she had some heavy hitters: Larry Carlton, Dean Parks, Tom Scott, Larry Knechtel, to name a few. One odd point is the name of the percussionist. If you look at the liner notes on back of the LP cover, which is a book unto itself, you will see the name of the percussionist tkae on different manifestations on each song credit: Mucho Gordo, Gordo The Magnificant, JoJo Gordo, The Great Gordo and Mongo Gordo. I have no idea what the idea behind that was, must have been an inside joke.

Side 1:
Diamonds & Rust: This is the title track and the best one on the LP in my opinion. I like the structure and lyrics of the song. In the song, Baez recounts an out-of-the-blue phone call from an old lover, which sends her a decade back in time, to a “crummy” hotel in Greenwich Village; she recalls giving him a pair of cuff-links, and summarizes that memories bring “diamonds and rust.” Baez has stated that the lyrics refer to her relationship with Bob Dylan. This song was covered by British heavy metal band Judas Priest on their 1977 album Sin After Sin, and has since been one of their staples in live performance. American folk duo The Smith Sisters featured the song on their 1986 album Mockingbird. Anglo-American Renaissance rock band Blackmore’s Night covered the song on their 2003 album Ghost of a Rose. Finnish power metal band Thunderstone covered the song on their 2004 album The Burning.
Fountain Of Sorrow– (Jackson Browne cover): There were a couple of Jackson’s songs that people wanted to hear Joan do. She decided on this one. It became the most accessible cut for all people who stopped in at the sessions.
I’ve not heard the original to my recollection, so I can’t say if I like it better or not. For some reason, at least on my copy, the vocals and piano seem a little distorted and I’m not sure if it was during recording or if it happened during pressing.
Never Dreamed You’d Leave In Summer-(Stevie Wonder, Syreeta Wright cover): This was recorded in a single live take. It is from an old Stevie Wonder LP and one of the most moving ballads Joan ever sung. There is really nice bass extension and the string section is a nice touch really grounding the song.
Children And All That Jazz: Per the liner notes, this is a phenomenon. Joan had the remnants of a tune in her head for a while,but no lyrics. She was playing around with it at the end of the session of Jan 22, 1975 (around 2:00 am) with Hampton Hawes. They decided to have Larry Carlton work on the arrangement.
This is one of my least favorite cuts on the LP, but the piano work is fantastic.
Simple Twist Of Fate (Bob Dylan cover): On her cover of Dylan’s “Simple Twist of Fate”, one verse features Baez attempting a good-humoured impersonation of the song’s composer, but I don’t know why. I still like Dylan’s original better.

Side 2:
Blue Sky (Richard Betts): This was the second cut of the night of Jan 17, 1975. This gave freedom to the musicians to express their own art. It would fill some paragraphs describing the guitar, piano and drum work.
Hello In There (John Prine): Joan had to fight against half her nature to hold off from putting a blatantly political song on this album. In this song she shows her roots – folk songs and human politics. This has some flavor of the title track and the pedal steel work is great.
Jesse (Janis Ian): Another one that is not my favorite.
Winds OF The Old Days: Joan wrote this while on tour in Australia in December 1973.
Dida: This is the pre-runner to Children. It was originally recorded with Joni Mitchell as a duet in June 1974 while Joen was in the studio doing a record of political nature. It held as a valid track in Joan’s mind so she decided to include it here. This song would have been better had it been left an instrumental
I Dream Of Jeanie/Danny, not the TV show): Joan heard Sam Cooke sing it on the radio one night and did this as a tribute and felt it dovetailed nicely into Danny Boy. I’m not a fan of this interpretation. I’ve heard this done better from just about everyone else

Music: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_and_a_half_stars



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