Monday, July 19, 2010


One of the pioneers of pop/folk was Burl Ives. While today he's considered one of the Jimmy Crack Cornies, he was one of the important champions of our American musical heritage. He sang "The Wayfaring Stranger," though from his profile, he was no stranger to wafering.

Along with Pete Seeger and the Smothers Brothers, he knew "The Times They Are a Changin'" and went from songs about Aunt Rhody and the fox in the henhouse to protest material. But in Burl's case, nobody was buying. His older fans didn't want him doing Dylan songs, and hard boiled Dylanologists couldn't believe that the old Burl'd egg had anything to offer. But if you listen to his versions of Dylan, well, they aren't that far off from Dave Van Ronk, and he had the same sincerity as a more respected old singer such as Ewan MacColl.

Ives' album "The Times They Are a Changin'" (1968) was a bold move coming after such middle-of-the-road discs as a show tunes collection ("Burl's Broadway"1968), religious tune compilation ("I Do Believe" 1967) and such hot and cold items as "On the Beach at Waikiki" (1966) and "Have a Jolly Christmas" (1966). He does offer some of the play-safe tunes middle-of-the-roaders liked: "Little Green Apples," "Gentle on My Mind" and "By the Time I Get to Phoenix." There's also a pretty creepy cover of "Maria," which has the cringeworthy line, "little girl, I'd make ya mine," which you don't want to hear from an old fat guy. The idea of an elderly, affluent, long-established actor and star singing the homesick "Homeward Bound" is a tad depressing.

But then there's the credible "Don't Think Twice It's All Right," a very interestingly intimate "One Too Many Mornings" and an undeniably poignant "The Times They Are a' Changing," which gains extra weight coming from an old singer getting behind the generation's Young Turk. In other words, ya need to give some respect to "Big Daddy."


Update November 2011: Rapidshare deletes files if they aren't uploaded often enough to suit them. A few individual songs have been re-upped individually via a better service:



Anonymous said...

I get the creepy old guy sentiment. I guess my take would be more about his being one of the guys that gave up names during the McCarthy commie witch hunt...

But Ives does have a LOT of prior cred due to his relentless promotion of American Folk Music and I have two volumes of songbooks from the 50s that prove it. They helped me along when I was much younger.

I discovered this LP through a promo 45 I had of "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" which I rank up there as one of the finest covers of that song (along with Kathy Mattea's version plus several other's which escape me at 4:00 in the morning ...oh yes Ray Stevens, too). There's something about the arrangement that is very satisfying. It's not like Burl had to do much to get it...just sing the damn song. He was still a big enough star to warrant a red carpet treatment in the studio. If you have it in front of you...was it Bob Johnston producing?

Anonymous said...

8/1/16 Wrote:
Yes, Bob Johnston produced this album, and it was his second sojurn at Columbia Records since 1951 (when he left for Decca Records.) At Columbia from 1945-1950, he originally recorded the first version of "Ghost riders In the Sky", which he learned from cowboy singer/actor Stan Jones in 1949. Vaughan Monroe quickly covered it for Victor Records and got the bigger hit off of it. Ives did perform "The Times, They Are A' Changing" on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour on CBS in 1968. His former friend Pete Seeger was allowed on The Smothers' show after battling with the CBS censors over the lyrics of "Waist Deep In The Big Muddy" the previous year. Burl and Pete were friends in the 1940's, and both performed in the original Almanac Singers, the forerunners to The Weavers, but apparently Burl gave away too much information to the HUAC Un-American activities Red-Commie scare of 1950-51 to Agents Keefauver and McCarthy from advice of his wife to protect his recording contracts and popularity (Burl was just about to switch labels from Columbia to Decca around the time of the Senate hearings.) Apparently Mrs. Ives was very self-protective of her husband's career and it is believed that these hearings cost Ives his friendship with Seeger, who later denounced him as a "common stool pigeon" just "protecting his recording contract issues". (no, it was Ive's wife's suggestion.) Ives continued to have massive popularity while Seeger got blacklisted for being a "Red" Commie. Ives still continued to put out decent recordings for the next four decades until his 2005 death.