Tom Paxton | Comedians & Angels

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Comedians & Angels

by Tom Paxton

Songs of love and remembrance with a country/Americana tinge from one of the first, last and best of the original Greenwich Village folksinger-songwriters of the early '60s. Current GRAMMY nominee for 2008 Best Traditional Folk Album.
Genre: Folk: Modern Folk
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  Song Share Time Download
1. How Beautiful Upon the Mountain
4:06 album only
2. Out on the Ocean
2:57 album only
3. What a Friend You Are
2:55 album only
4. When We Were Good
3:11 album only
5. The First Song is for You
3:28 album only
6. And If It's Not True
3:50 album only
7. Bad Old Days
3:59 album only
8. Reason to Be
4:03 album only
9. I Like the Way You Look
2:57 album only
10. A Long Way from Your Mountain
3:14 album only
11. Home to Me (is Anywhere You Are)
3:08 album only
12. Jennifer and Kate
3:39 album only
13. Dance in the Kitchen
3:34 album only
14. You Are Love
4:08 album only
15. Comedians and Angels
3:38 album only


Album Notes
A longtime master of topical, personal, and children’s songwriting, and the recent recipient of several lifetime achievement honors, Tom Paxton is in a richly reflective mood on "Comedians & Angels," his first studio CD since "Looking for the Moon," a Grammy finalist as “Best Contemporary Folk Album of 2002.”

Upon turning 70, “I find that my definition of love songs is broader than I once would have found,” writes Tom in the liner notes to "Comedians & Angels," a thematic CD of “love songs, songs of remembrance and regret, even a hymn. . . . Still, there is love in them all.”

Over the course of the new CD’s 15 tracks, Paxton pays tribute to his family, his fellow musicians and activists, and to lovers “real or merely imagined.” Stylistically uniting seven newly-penned originals with rerecorded versions of apposite songs from his back catalogue of more than 40 albums is the warmth, simplicity and from-the-heart grace that has been as much a Paxton trademark as his humorous, sometimes biting political songs, his Scandinavian fisherman’s cap, and the twinkle in his eyes.

Tom’s musical valentines name few specific names, leaving the songs universal, but his love for Midge, his wife of more than four decades and to whom the CD is dedicated, shines deep and bright on tracks like “The First Song is For You,” “Reason to Be,” “I Like the Way You Look,” “Dance in the Kitchen,” “You Are Love,” and “Home to Me (Is Anywhere You Are).” “Jennifer and Kate” is a paean to two more of his angels, his daughters. The CD’s opening hymn, “How Beautiful Upon the Mountain,” celebrates the political activists of the Sixties and their idealistic descendants, and the album concludes with its title song, a melancholy but loving reminiscence of his former contemporaries on the early Greenwich Village folk scene, who included Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs and Dave Van Ronk.

Recorded in Nashville by frequent Paxton producer Jim Rooney, who also contributes backing vocals, there’s a light country/Americana flavor throughout Comedians & Angels provided by many of the musicians who also played on "Looking for the Moon," including Dobro/slide guitarist Al Perkins (Emmylou Harris’s Nash Ramblers, the Flying Burrito Brothers), pianist Pete Wasner, fiddler/mandolinist Tim Crouch, and guitarist Mark Howard (who has backed Iris Dement, John Hartford, and another of this album’s guests, Nanci Griffith). Joining Griffith and Rooney on harmony vocals are bluegrass/folk duo Barry & Holly Tashian, Suzi Ragsdale, and Jim Photoglo, all of whom have their own recording and performing careers.

As one of the first modern folksingers to write his own songs – early, enduring, and much-covered compositions like “The Last Thing on My Mind,” “Ramblin’ Boy” and “Whose Garden Was This?” and recent, instant classics like the 9/11 reflection, “The Bravest” – Tom Paxton has influenced generations of singer-songwriters and attracted lovers of thoughtful, funny, heartfelt original music. He has set the creative bar high, but "Comedians & Angels" sails over it effortlessly, with room to spare.

Despite more than four decades of recording and performing, the only sign that Tom Paxton may be slowing down a bit is that his past is catching up to him. In 2005, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting at BBC Radio 2’s Folk Awards in London. The following year, he was the recipient of a 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award from the North American Folk Music and Dance Alliance, honoring “those who have devoted their life’s work and talent to the advancement of folk music and dance.” And in January 2007, the British Parliament paid official tribute to his life and work, in which Lord Neil Kinnock described Paxton, a perennial UK favorite, as “one of the great folksingers. His is the real voice of America; he speaks for decent Americans.”

In the 45 years since Tom started performing regularly in New York’s Greenwich Village, he’s earned his place as one of the great “singing journalists,” in the tradition of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Phil Ochs and the early Bob Dylan; as a pioneer in the early-Sixties transition from performing traditional folk songs to original, personal compositions; and as one of our finest contemporary songwriters. Although his own records have never sold in the quantities they merited, Paxton originals such as “The Last Thing on My Mind,” “The Marvelous Toy” and “Ramblin’ Boy” reached a wider public through cover versions by more “commercial” folk acts – the Chad Mitchell Trio, Peter, Paul & Mary, and the Kingston Trio. The Fireballs had a Top 10 hit with Tom’s goodtimey “Bottle of Wine” in 1968. As early as 1969, Paxton’s status as an underappreciated craftsman was noted in Lillian Roxon’s seminal Rock Encyclopedia: “The trouble with Tom Paxton is that he’s been too good too long and people take him for granted . . .”

But sometimes good things do come to those who wait. In addition to the recent honors mentioned above, Paxton has enjoyed much long-overdue appreciation in the 21st Century. In 2002, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Composers, Artists and Publishers (ASCAP), and three “Wammies” (Washington, DC, Area Music Awards) as “Best Male Vocalist” in both the “traditional folk” and “children’s music” categories and for “Best Traditional Folk Recording of the Year” for "Under American Skies,” his duo CD with frequent collaborator Anne Hills on Appleseed. His 2001 CD "Your Shoes, My Shoes" was a Grammy finalist in the “Children Music” category, and 2002’s "Looking for the Moon" was a Grammy finalist as “Best Contemporary Folk Album.”

Born in Chicago on Halloween in 1937 but transplanted with his family to tiny Bristow, Oklahoma, at age 10, Paxton caught the music bug for R&B, classical and folk music in junior high school. Although he entered the University of Oklahoma as a drama major, his attraction to folk music blossomed and he acquired an acoustic guitar as a sophomore. “By the time I got out of college . . . I loved this music so much that I had to try it. . . . I had undergone a chromosomal change after hearing The Weavers At Carnegie Hall album.”

As a fresh-faced Army reservist stationed at New Jersey’s Fort Dix, Paxton was within commuting distance of Greenwich Village, sleeping on friends’ floors and performing in small “basket houses” for change. After his six-month stint in the reserves ended, Paxton became a Village fixture by mid-’62, one of the first of the new crop of folksingers to write original material, helping to open the floodgates of the singer-songwriter movement, alongside Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Fred Neil, Dave Van Ronk and others. As the outspoken musical activist Steve Earle recently told No Depression magazine, “The singer-songwriter thing came out of the folk movement. The first guys who wrote their own songs were Dylan and Tom Paxton. They were both really good.” On a West Coast tour in 1963, Tom “discovered” another young singer-songwriter, Eric Andersen, a future label-mate on Appleseed, in San Francisco and sent him back east to join the musical party.

In 1964, Paxton was signed to Elektra Records, the flagship label for creative folk music, and recorded "Ramblin’ Boy," his first of an estimated 40+ albums. The following year, Paxton made his first of many annual tours of Great Britain. At the 1969 Isle of Wight Festival in the UK, Paxton’s performance stole the show from the most popular rock bands of the day and solidified his English fan base. He lived in London during the early ’70s, collaborated with various British folk stars, including Ralph McTell and Danny Thompson, and recorded his first of many albums of children’s songs in 1974.

After returning to the States, Paxton became a beloved constant on the folk circuit, acclaimed for the depth and wit of his songs and the humor he brought – and still brings – to his dozens of yearly performances. Tom is a delightful storyteller with or without a guitar in his hands, and since 1987 has written the text for more than a dozen children’s books. Whether Tom sings of love, as on "Comedians & Angels," of topical events (in his ongoing series of “short shelf-life songs” frequently posted for free download on his website), of toys and measles and holidays (on his children’s CDs), or of the everyday lives and world that surrounds him, what’s left of the “real” America couldn’t have a better spokesman.



to write a review

David Joss

Comedians & Angels
The first time I heard Ramblin' Boy I became a fan of Tom Paxton's music. Then somewhere along the way he kind of faded away.
Now I'm rediscovering him and I'm glad to find he's as good as I remember him back then.
This is a very pleasant album and it gets a lot of playtime at our place.

Nancy Saphier

Comedians and Angels
Tom just gets better and better. I just had my copy autographed at a concert. There is not a bad track on the CD. If you can catch him in concert, you would be a missing an awesome experience if you do not go.