Cisco Houston Web Site


The Greatest Songs of Woody Guthrie


1984 - Vanguard VMD 73105 (on CD spine)

1988 - Vanguard VCD 35/36 (on CD spine)

This CD was released twice, in an admirable demonstration of Vanguard's long-standing commitment to recycling. In 1984, the very early days of CDs, something called The Greatest Songs of Woody Guthrie, Vol 1 was released.

Track Listing

  1. This Land Is Your Land: Woody Guthries
  2. Do Re Mi: Cisco Houston
  3. So Long--It's Been Good To Know Yuh: The Weavers
  4. Pastures Of Plenty: Odetta
  5. Roll On Columbia: Country Joe McDonald
  6. Hard Travelin': Woody Guthrie with Cisco Houston
  7. Deportee (Plane Wreck At Los Gatos): Cisco Houston
  8. Group of Children's Songs:
    • Pick It Up: The Babysitters
    • (Take Me) Riding in My Car: Woody Guthrie
    • Why Oh Why: The Babysitters
    • Ship In The Sky: Cisco Houston
    • Grassey Grass Grass: Woody Guthrie
  9. Old Lone Wolf: Cisco Houston
  10. Woody's Rag & 900 Miles: The Weavers
  11. 900 Miles: Cisco Houston
  12. Jackhammer John: The Weavers
  13. Tom Joad: Country Joe McDonald

There may have been a Vol 2, but I have found no mention of it. This is close to the first half of the later CD, but Country Joe's Tom Joad did not make the second one (Cisco really does it better, this version seems oddly inappropriate, kind of upbeat and peppy.) And the Old Lone Wolf and Woody's Rag/900 Miles cuts were also left off.

So, in 1988, with a slightly different cover, The Greatest Songs of Woody Guthrie without a volume number was released.

Track Listing

  1. This Land Is Your Land: Woody Guthrie/The Weavers
  2. Do Re Mi: Cisco Houston
  3. So Long--It's Been Good To Know Yuh: The Weavers
  4. Pastures Of Plenty: Odetta
  5. Deportee (Plane Wreck At Los Gatos): Cisco Houston
  6. 900 Miles: Cisco Houston
  7. Roll On Columbia: Country Joe McDonald
  8. Hard, Ain't It Hard: Woody Githrie and Cisco Houston
  9. Dirty Overhalls: Woody Guthrie
  10. (Take Me) Riding In My Car: Woody Guthrie
  11. Ship In The Sky: Cisco Houston
  12. The Sinking Of The Reuben James: The Weavers
  13. Rambling Round Your City: Odetta
  14. Jesus Christ: Cisco Houston
  15. When The Curfew Blows: Country Joe McDonald
  16. 1913 Massacre: Jack Elliot
  17. Talking Fishing Blues: Jack Elliot
  18. Curly Headed Baby: Cisco Houston
  19. Jackhammer John: The Weavers
  20. The Great Historical Bum: Odetta
  21. Pretty Boy Floyd: Joan Baez
  22. Buffalo Skinners: Jim Kweskin
  23. Hard Travelin': Woody Guthrie with Cisco Houston and Sonny Terry

Of Interest:

Maynard Solomon is listed as the producer for all the Cisco cuts, though "The Songs of Woody Guthrie" label lists Harold Leventhal and Lee Hays as the producers. 900 Miles is not on Cisco's Woody disc, and on the Folkways LP of the same name, Wooody is not listed as the author, though they were rather sloppy about attribution.


Bill Adams

Originally a two-LP set released by Vanguard in 1972, this compilation disc is still perhaps the best tribute to Woody available. There are several reasons for this, including five tracks by Woody himself, six by best buddy Cisco Houston, three fine performances by the formidable Odetta, three from The Weavers, whose original members were old friends of Guthrie, and two tracks by Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Woody's final protege. Compared to that feast, the addition of Country Joe McDonald for two songs, and Joan Baez and Jim Kweskin for one track each, is just dessert.

Although Woody is considered to have written 1,000 songs, the majority of them went unpublished. Realistically, his catalogue might be 200, with 100 of them having some lasting popularity in folksinging circles. So the 23 chosen for this album are producer Maynard Solomon's idea of the "Greatest Songs." Or, at least, the greatest ones already in Vanguard's vaults at that time, along with five which could be obtained cheaply from Moses Asch at Folkways. Realizing that no two true fans could ever agree on Guthrie's 23 best songs, Solomon did not do a bad job.

This disc goes by the catalogue number VCD 35/36 in monaural, and VSD 35/36 in "stereo" although, of course, anything laid down before 1958 or so is NOT done in stereo.

Woody sings "This Land is Your Land" and "Hard, Ain't It Hard" and "Dirty Overhalls" and "Take Me Riding in My Car" and "Hard Travelin'". Cisco contributes "Do Re Mi" and "Deportee" and "Ship in the Sky" and "Jesus Christ" and "Curley Headed Baby" and "900 Miles." Those first five are all on his superb Vanguard release, "Cisco Houston Sings the Songs of Woody Guthrie."

Cisco's performances, are, to me, the classiest on the album, but if I were not biased toward him, I wouldn't be writing this review for the Cisco Appreciation Site, would I? Next would be Odetta's fine contributions: "Pastures of Plenty" and "Rambling 'Round Your City" and "The Great Historical Bum." These are wonderfully done. Country Joe McDonald, known back in the '60's for anti-Vietnam songs recorded as "Country Joe and the Fish" does a nice version of "Roll On, Columbia" and has fun with a little-known Guthrie song titled "When the Curfew Blows."

From The Weavers the listener gets "So Long, It's Been Good to Know Ya" which they did probably better than anyone else, and "The Sinking of the Reuben James" and "Jackhammer John." The last two have Erik Darling in place of Pete Seeger, but are competent renditions. Personally I have come to like Johnny Horton's version of "Reuben James" better than most, and a performance by Logan English of "Jackhammer John" better than all others I've heard over the decades.

Now to Jack Elliott, still going strong at age 73: Here he sings "1913 Massacre" which I always felt he did better than anyone else. He also contributes "Talking Fishing Blues" but for my tastes, both Woody and Cisco (separately) have better versions.

The single track by Joan Baez, which was used to hype sales of the records back in '72, is "Pretty Boy Floyd." I prefer Cisco's version, but I must say I love Joan's guitar breaks on this take. Finally, the one track I don't really love is Jim Kweskin's five-minute-plus performance of "Buffalo Skinners." He sings it raw and appropriately, but it is one of my least favorite Woody songs. Lots of fans disagree with me about that one.

If you like Woody or Cisco, this CD ought to be in your collection, if you can find it so many years after its release.

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