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'The Woodstock Experience'

Releases and reissues from the historic 1969 festival

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'The Woodstock Experience'
Sony Legacy
For the artists, it was the best of times (Santana launched a career) and the worst of times (Grateful Dead could barely perform because of being shocked whenever they touched their microphones) at Woodstock 1969. For the audience (then and now) the festival encapsulated the mood, the culture, and the music of a generation.

Pegged to the festival's 40th anniversary are several packages of Woodstock performances, some being released for the first time.

'The Woodstock Experience' Box Set

Back in 1969 Santana, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Johnny Winter and Sly & the Family Stone weren't all label mates. Some recorded for RCA, some for Columbia, some for Epic. In recent years, those labels have each been absorbed by Sony, putting that company in the position of being able to bundle music from each of those artists into a single package on its Legacy label.

The Woodstock Experience is an interesting concept. For each of the mentioned artists, Sony Legacy has put together a two-CD package that includes the artist's performance at Woodstock and a studio album released by the artist in 1969. Quite a few of the Woodstock performances are being released for the first time.

All five packages are available in the box set, or individually.

Janis Joplin
Album reissue: I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!
Woodstock set: 10 songs, including previously unreleased tracks "Raise Your Hand," "As Good As You've Been To This World" and "Can't Turn You Loose."

Joplin is engaging as she polls the crowd: "Are you staying stoned, have enough water, got a place to sleep and everything?" This was one of her first live performances after parting company with Big Brother and The Holding Company, and at time she seems nervous and unsure of herself. Regardless, it's a powerful set.

Jefferson Airplane
Woodstock set: Volunteers
Woodstock set: eight songs, including previously unreleased tracks "Wooden Ships," "The Ballad Of You And Me And Pooneil," "Come Back Baby" and "The House At Pooneil Corners."

Performing early on Sunday morning, the band rolls with the punches and doesn't show any outward signs that they're playing a set that started about 12 hours later than originally scheduled. This was one of the last gigs for the original lineup. The vocal harmonies are tight and polished, with individual instruments enhancing, never distracting.

Johnny Winter
Album reissue: Johnny Winter
Woodstock set: eight songs, seven of which are being released for the first time: "Mama, Talk To Your Daughter," "Leland Mississippi Blues," "You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now," "Johnny B. Goode," "I Can't Stand It," "Tobacco Road" and "Tell The Truth" (the last three with his brother, Edgar.)

Johnny Winter wasn't well known prior to Woodstock, but that changed after his performance there, aided by the release of albums just before and just after. His set is raw, hard rocking blues.

Album reissue: Santana
Woodstock set: eight songs, including the previously unreleased "Evil Ways."

Even though the temperature was in the 90s, and the two acts they followed (Quill and Keef Hartley) were unknown and not particularly inspiring, Santana's Woodstock performance was high energy, innovative risk-taking. This set is one for the ages.

Sly and the Family Stone
Album reissue: Stand!
Woodstock set: nine songs, including the previously unreleased "M'Lady," "Sing A Simple Song," "You Can Make It If You Try," "Everyday People," "Love City" and "Stand."

Sly & family were already well known and quite popular when they were booked at Woodstock, so expectations were high. They did not disappoint. Their bare fisted approach to social issues ("Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey" for example) was a perfect match for the Woodstock audience.

Release date (physical and digital) for The Woodstock Experience: June 30, 2009
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(Each of the five two-disc sets is available individually, but unless you're really only interested in one artist, the box set is a better value.)

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