**** VARIOUS ARTISTS
**** VARIOUS ARTISTS
On any list of the great post-World War II indie record labels, you're sure to find the names of Sun, Chess, Atlantic, Stax/Volt and Motown.
Another label that contributed greatly to the face of contemporary pop music and culture over the last half century is Vanguard, which in the '50s and, especially, the '60s, was the spiritual home of folk music in America.
Vanguard was a label of both taste and courage, a company that launched the careers of artists as illuminating as Joan Baez as well as provided an outlet to Paul Robeson and Pete Seeger at a time when they were victims of the same kind of political blacklist that shook Hollywood during the McCarthy witch-hunt era.
Among the other blues, folk, bluegrass and jazz artists who contributed to the Vanguard legacy (and are all represented in this four-disc, 84-song package): Cisco Houston, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Odetta, Ian & Sylvia, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Charlie Musselwhite, Country Joe MacDonald, Count Basie, Jerry Jeff Walker and Buddy Guy.
Vanguard was founded by brothers Seymour and Maynard Solomon in New York in 1950 with $10,000 borrowed from their father, the owner of a Brooklyn arts supply store. The company's initial releases were classical, which only made sense because Seymour was a violinist and a musicologist who studied at Juilliard. But Vanguard soon branched into other areas.
The eventual emphasis on folk music was largely spurred by the decision in 1955 to release a live Weavers album, the rights to which the company obtained only after several other labels passed on them. The celebrated folk quartet had several hits on Decca in the early '50s, including "Goodnight Irene."
But the Weavers' career fell victim in the mid-'50s when Seeger, one of its members, was blacklisted because of alleged communist sympathies.
Vanguard's real superstar, however, was Baez, whose angelic vocals resulted in her first six albums all making the national pop Top 20.
Vanguard was sold in 1986 to the Welk Music Group, which continues to re-release the classic early material as well as release new works by such contemporary artists as Peter Case.
If you're interested in a particular Vanguard artist, this set probably isn't for you. Even Baez is represented by only three tracks. But if you want to sample the spirit and diversity of the Vanguard catalog, "Collector's Edition" is a delight--a collection filled with warmth and heart.
Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).