67th Birthday Concert (Rattle Snake RS 244)
Pfandhaus, Cologne, Germany – July 13th, 2009
(76:15): My Back Pages, Mr. Spaceman, Pretty Boy Floyd, You Ain’t Going Nowhere, Well Well Well, Ballad Of Easy Rider, Wasn’t Born To Follow, You Showed Me, All I Really Want To Do, Chestnut Mare, American Girl, King Of The Hill, The Trees Are All Gone, 5D (Fifth Dimension), Lover Of The Bayou, Just A Season, Bells Of Rhymney, Turn Turn Turn, He Was A Friend Of Mine, So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star, Eight Miles High, Mr. Tambourine Man, Feel A Whole Lot Better, Chimes Of Freedom, May The Road Rise To Meet You, Don’t You Write Her Off
Rattle Snake presents a rarity. 67th Birthday Concertis the first Roger McGuinn silver pressed title in god knows how long and is very much welcomed. It documents the complete performance on July 13th, 2009, his sixty-seventh birthday. Performing before an intimate crowd, he plays his set and is serenaded by the audience at the end. In the Roadie Report written by his wife Camilla McGuinn:
“On July 13th, Roger’s birthday, he celebrated by doing what he loves …. performing. The Cologne, Germany concert was broadcast for radio. As a reverse birthday gift for the enthusiastic audience, Roger autographed 250 tickets which were given to each fan as they entered the venue.”
Although she writes it was broadcast on the radio, it’s impossible to tell. This is a perfectly recorded and mastered tape, sounding better than many official releases. It captures the diversity of the material and the warmth and intimacy of the performance. Rattle Snake also put a lot of effort into the packaging with a booklet with several essays describing the event.
The liner notes describe the show, saying:
“And on that night McGuinn guides us through all his most important career highlights. The opening trio of songs is already a statement for that legendary birthday night. Opening the festivities with My Back Pages, one of the five Dylan covers he played. The lyrics suit him just fine, being fed by a warm and tender audience. Of course, the Dylan songbook has become so much of his own, but on this specific night it happens that they evolve into something as a personal statement. The second song, Mr. Spaceman, reminds us of that beautiful Rickenbacker trademark. But now the song stands on its own, depending more than ever on the voice of its creator. And it works miraculously. The third song on the setlist, Woody Guthrie’s classic Pretty Boy Floyd, brings everything back full circle.
“From there on Roger swings back and forward in his rich career. Praising his musical son Tom Petty with his early classic American Girl (which actually was a tribute to his musical mentor Roger), finding connection with Petty in the superb King Of The Hill (please check out the wonderful Back From Rio album if you don’t own this 1990 masterpiece.
“By the time the concert reaches a climax with the double Rickenbacker shot of So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n Roll Star / Eight Miles High, but club explodes into tears. The birthday boy gets a standing ovation and returns for two more Dylan reprises. Mr. Tambourine Man and Chimes Of Freedom aren’t just covers in Roger’s hands, travelling with him for over forty years. One more time he gets back to the stage of the Pfandhaus for a victory driven Don’t You Write Her Off.”
This is an important document for McGuinn as he reaches this milestone. It’s also great as a compendium of late 20th century folk music and works on that level. 67th Birthday Concert is such an enjoyable release that it’s worth having for everyone.