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Revisiting Woodstock's original soundtrack release

Before buying any 50th anniversary Woodstock releases, go back to the original soundtrack of the Woodstock film.
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Various Artists
Cotillion (3-LP)

4 Stars

By Lee Zimmerman

Far more than a mere soundtrack, Music From The Original Soundtrack and More — the first recording to capture the music made at Woodstock — reclaimed a magical moment in time. It effectively illuminated one of the great phenomenons of the ’60s, a historic event of unparalleled proportions that gathered the tribes and gave voice to half a million young people who proclaimed not only their independence, but their cultural credence as well. Thus, the Woodstock generation was born.

The music on those three slabs of vinyl was essential of course, but the soundbites, bits of dialogue and aural effect overall still seizes on the spirit of that amazing gathering, wrapping it all in a nostalgic haze that remains every bit as affecting today as it was at the time it took place.

Triple albums weren’t all that common when the album was released in 1970, but any attempt to capture even a sampling of the sounds made over those three days couldn’t be contained any other way. As it is, not every act was represented — no Band, no Janis, no Grateful Dead, no Tim Hardin and no Incredible String Band for starters — and even those groups that were included were served with only one or two songs at most. Still, given the dynamic performances that are included — The Who’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” Joe Cocker’s “With a Little Help From My Friends,” Ten Years After’s “I’m Going Home,” the medley by Sly & the Family Stone and “Volunteers” by Jefferson Airplane — the energy and exuberance emitted from that stage is all too obvious. Likewise when MC Chip Monck admonishes the crowd to forego the brown acid and heed the coming rains by staying off the towers, that communal spirit is conveyed in an a remarkably obvious way.

There would, of course, be other musical mementos of Woodstock to follow. A second soundtrack boasting additional offerings from the aforementioned artists was the initial sequel. The 25th anniversary of the festival yielded more music under the title of Woodstock Diary, and 15 years later, on the 40th anniversary, the 6-CD set titled Woodstock: 40 Years On: Back to Yasgur’s Farm boasted more of it than ever. Likewise, there have been complete Woodstock sets released from many of the headliners as well, allowing the completist to cultivate a fairly large compendium of all the music that was played there. (See page 33 for a review of one of the 50th Anniversary releases.)

Still, given its place in time and the scenario it served, the original Woodstock soundtrack still holds its special spot alongside the other albums of the era. All it takes is a glance at the iconic cover that captured the couple as they embrace in their blankets to bask in those good vibes once again.

For what it’s worth, during Woodstock’s 50th Anniversary, the vinyl format of the Woodstock Soundtrack might be inflated online and in stores. Before buying, take into consideration that the following is the most accurate value:


• Cotillion SD 3-500, 1970, $25 (pale blue label)

• Cotillion SD 3-500, 1977, $18 (reissue on purple labels)

• Mobile Fidelity 5-200, 1985, $350 (audiophile vinyl)

The experience of Woodstock firsthand on the Goldmine Magazine Podcast