VARIOUS ARTISTS – The Dutch Woodstock

Gonzo 2013

A stunning, if flawed, document of 1970’s Holland Pop Festival as a bridge between the decades of innocence and experience.

VARIOUS ARTISTS - The Dutch Woodstock

The Dutch Woodstock

Looks like it’ll take a future historian to come up with a chronicle of the continental rock events that took place in the ’60s and ’70s. Among those were a brilliant gathering in Bilzen, Belgium, in 1969, and one in Rotterdam, in August 1970, which has been preserved for posterity and is dissected here, across two CDs and a DVD, their audio source. Varied sound quality may not be up to today’s standards, but it’s the performances that matter, and the artists who played there gave their all on-stage, the fervency of SANTANA’s “Gumbo” – unreleased at the time and not delivered to Yasgur’s farm, unlike “Jingo,” present in both sets – equal to the madness of “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” by PINK FLOYD, the avatars of a new era in the same way that ELP appeared as its augurs on the Isle of Wight one month later.

FAMILY, doing the delicately bluster of “Drowned In Wine” here, as a single link between the two festivals, the Holland happening contrasts the domination of Americans with acoustic Brit rock cooked by TYRANNOSAURUS REX’s “By The Light Of The Magical Moon,” vibrant in all senses of the word, and “Zero She Flies” from Al Stewart, both overshadowing Country Joe’s morbid “Freedom.” By the same token, local heroes LIVIN’ BLUES’ “Big Road Blues” and CUBY AND THE BLIZZARDS’ “Dust My Blues,” a storming reading of a Robert Johnson classic that opens the album, come on brighter than a couple of fresh cuts from CANNED HEAT, “Human Condition” among them. There runs a clear line between these audience-teasing perfunctory slices of powerful boogie and Transatlantic folk flyers like THE FLOCK with their brass-tickled “Big Bird” and QUINTESSENCE who wildly unfold the flute-flashing “Giants” only to pale before the sprawl of “The Sun Of East” and “Irish Theme” from EAST OF EDEN.

Their magic swirl is rivaled by JEFFERSON AIRPLANE’s immortal, atomic “White Rabbit” and even topped by Dr. John’s effervescent “Mardis Gras Day” while IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY pack a different kind of trance into “Bulgaria” with its acidic organ. In this context the old guard THE BYRDS are as invigorating on the traditional “Old Blue” as SOFT MACHINE are roaring on “Esther’s Nose Job” with Robert Wyatt’s accentuated drum work. Coming out of the trip with FLOYD’s “A Saucerful Of Secrets” seems fairly logical: the path to the future was being paved there – and history was being made.


December 6, 2013

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