WOODSTOCK – ” Music from the Original Soundtrack and More ” The Album

Posted: May 12, 2022 in MUSIC

When the team at Atlantic Records sat down to compile the soundtrack album from the filmed account of the 1969 Woodstock Music & Art Fair, they had their work cut out for them. How could they capture the essence of such a momentous event, one that went on for three days and nights on a recorded album? The “Woodstock” concert film, released on March 26th, 1970 had, after all, run for more than three hours. How could that possibly be condensed onto a record?

The answer was that it could not, so Atlantic put it out as a three-LP set. “Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More”, released on May 11th, 1970, on Atlantic’s Cotillion subsidiary, was embraced by record buyers much as the film had been.

The soundtrack couldn’t really lose. After all, presumably each of the 400,000 attendees would want it as a souvenir copy those sales alone would propel the set to platinum level. But its appeal, naturally, was much wider within a year of the fest, the name Woodstock had already taken on great cultural significance, and the music was of such consistently high quality that any fan of rock and folk music would want to add this one to the collection.

Atlantic Records made a wise decision not to follow the actual sequence of the performances from the festival on the album. Where singer Richie Havens had actually opened the event on Friday, August 15th, here he was relegated to the third position, following John Sebastian’s solo “I Had a Dream”—which captured the spirit of Woodstock so simply and sublimely—and Canned Heat’s “Going Up the Country,” used in the film as intro music to set the scene. Most of the acoustic music is relegated to the first two discs before the electric rock, soul and blues take over. Most, but not all, of the real heavyweights are represented—the Who, Sly and the Family Stone, Joe Cocker, Santana and, of course, Jimi Hendrix, the last artist to perform.

For whatever reason, the label included one track by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, “Sea of Madness,” that was actually recorded the month after Woodstock at New York City’s Fillmore East. They wisely included CS&N’s “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” from the festival.

In those days, most listeners played record albums on phonographs that allowed them to stack one disc atop the other, so in order to allow for a relatively uninterrupted stream of music, Atlantic placed side six on the flip side of side one, and so forth. For the cover, the label chose a now-iconic photograph of a drained-looking, blanketed couple embracing toward the end of the event, litter all about them. (They were still together as of 50 years later.)

The “Woodstock” soundtrack raised the bar for rock concert albums, and did so well that Atlantic, to no one’s surprise, released a two-LP sequel, “Woodstock Two”, in 1971. Even then, between the two set, several key acts that played the festival were not included, among them Janis Joplin, the Band, the Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Ravi Shankar, Blood, Sweat & Tears and Johnny Winter.

Most of those omitted artists were finally represented on the four-CD boxed set of Woodstock performances released by Rhino Records on the fest’s 25th anniversary in 1994, and on the even more expansive six-disc set from 2009.

For the 50th anniversary in 2019, Rhino produced a huge, 38-disc boxed set containing nearly every note played at the 1969 festival. The set, limited to 1969 copies, included 432 tracks, 267 of which had never before been released. It quickly sold out.

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