In the fall of 1965, Joan Baez released her sixth album, Farewell, Angelina. The album signalled a change and a departure in the subtlest of ways towards more contemporary songs, without discarding the folk songs and ballads that had built her reputation. Baez had included Bob Dylan songs on her two previous albums, In Concert Part 2 and 5, (including changing the former after its release to include “With God On Our Side”), and Farewell, Angelina was no exception, including four Dylan covers. In addition, while previous Baez albums included occasional accompaniment by other musicians, this album featured string bass on every track and electric guitar, (actually a Martin acoustic with a pickup), by Bruce Langhorne on several songs.
Joan Baez and Donovan perform at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival
The title track – a previously unknown song by Bob Dylan – was the album’s highlight, though the entire album was strong. The melody was based on the traditional “Wagoner’s Lad”, the song that opened Baez’ second album, but it was also the melody of the cowboy song, “I Ride An Old Paint”. The lyrics, however, were among the most poetic and surreal that Dylan had delivered, with startling imagery: a table standing empty by the edge of the sea, cross-eyed pirates shooting tin cans with a sawed-off shotgun and the make-up man’s hands shutting the eyes of the dead not to embarrass anyone. Each verse ended with a farewell and a vision of the sky; at times embarrassed, trembling, on fire, or erupting.
The second song was one Baez had been singing onstage as a duet with Dylan for the previous year, “Daddy, You Been On My Mind”. Interestingly enough, Judy Collins also released a version of the song on her fifth album, almost simultaneously. Track three was “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”. At the time of release, few knew that Baez had broken off her relationship with Dylan, who would marry another woman not long after the album’s release. The details of that relationship wouldn’t be revealed until the following decade.
Track four was a beautiful version of the Irish “Wild Mountain Thyme”, made famous by the McPeake Family. Decades later, a version of the song would emerge in footage cut from the film Dont Look Back, sung informally with Dylan in a hotel room in England. This track was followed by a strong version of a Woody Guthrie ballad, “Ranger’s Command”, which few people knew of at the time. Side One concluded with Donovan’s “Colours”, including beautiful guitar from Langhorne.
Side Two began with the country song “A Satisfied Mind”, a hit for Porter Wagoner, and then moved into familiar Baez territory with the traditional American ballad “The River In The Pines”. Consistently a better guitar player than she’s given credit for, Baez’s playing on the track is simply haunting. There are then two foreign songs; one in French and “Where Have All The Flowers Gone”, sung in German. Both are okay, but they remain the weakest songs on the album. The album concludes with a powerful “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”, accompanied by Langhorne.
Farewell Angelina was the last of Baez’ – for lack of a better word – folk albums, and it remains one of her best.