Amchitka: The 1970 Concert That Launched Greenpeace
Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Phil Ochs
(2-CD set, Greenpeace)
On Oct. 16, 1970, nine-and-a-half months before the famed Concert For Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden, a less star-studded but still significant benefit concert took place across the continent.
Joni Mitchell and James Taylor - both at or near the height of their popularity - performed for about 10,000 people at Vancouver's Pacific Coliseum, along with Phil Ochs and the band Chilliwack. Proceeds were used to fund the first project of the Greenpeace organization: a boat expedition to Amchitka, an island in southwest Alaska, to try to stop a nuclear weapons test.
The acoustic performances by Mitchell, Taylor and Ochs are documented on this two-CD set, which amounts to a priceless document of a time when sensitive singer-songwriters ruled the pop world. Greenpeace is distributing the album itself to benefit its ongoing environmental work.
Mitchell, still in her sweet-voiced folk-poet phase, sums up the spirit of the times with "Woodstock." She then segues from her own "Big Yellow Taxi" to a light-hearted cover of Larry Williams' '50s rock hit "Bony Moronie," and from her "Carey" to Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" (with Taylor helping out, gamely though not all that smoothly). Taylor also joins in on her encore, "The Circle Game," though you don't hear the entire song (the tape ran out).
During his own set, Taylor exudes laid-back soul on songs like "Carolina In My Mind," "You Can Close Your Eyes" and "Sweet Baby James," and introduces "Fire and Rain" with the words, "I've got a single out now, and I'd like to play it for you."
While Taylor and Mitchell were still in the early years of their long, fruitful careers, Ochs, a major figure in the '60s folk scene, was nearing the end of his time in the limelight. Plagued by alcoholism, he had rough times, personally and professionally, in the '70s, and committed suicide in 1976. Yet he comes off as an equal here, delivering sharp performances of fiery protest songs ("I Ain't Marching Anymore," "I'm Going To Say It Now") and delicate ballads ("Changes," "No More Songs").
The CD can be ordered via the website Amchitka-Concert.com.