Introspective meditations on inner turmoil and social injustice didn’t start with Tracy Chapman, of course. As a reminder, Rhino Records has released Troubadours of the Folk Era, three volumes of ’50s and ’60s folk that capture the impassioned Strum und Drang of the time — via the protest songs by Phil Ochs, the moody balladry of Tim Hardin and Eric Andersen, the folk standards of Joan Baez and Pete Seeger, and the clean-scrubbed collegiate folk of the Kingston Trio. You can practically smell the espresso in the coffeehouses.
”I wanted to re-create the ambience of the time,” says Rhino A&R coordinator Ted Myers. ”The picture on the cover of Bob Dylan’s Freewheelin’ album pretty much describes it. Dylan’s walking down a snowy street with his girlfriend, Suze Rotolo, and it’s cold, but he doesn’t care. There was a brave-new-world feeling. We were going to change the world.”
Myers is the first to admit that ”it didn’t turn out that way. You feel a little sad at the end of these records.” Dylan fans may feel forlorn, too; he’s absent, says Myers, because ”he doesn’t like to be part of compilations.” Same with Peter, Paul & Mary, who aren’t included for similar reasons. To paraphrase noted folk critic William Shakespeare, we think they do protest too much.