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In support of Rachel (long) (archive)

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Posted by Jeff 'The Blur' for now on November 11, 2000 at 22:58:59:

In Reply to: Re: Gotta move to SF posted by Rachel on November 11, 2000 at 11:46:37:

November 1, 1998

Original Soundtrack - Alice's Restaurant (Rykodisc)
Rating: 7 (out of 10)

For millions who came of age in the fabulous decade of the Sixties, the story behind Alice's Restaurant is at, or at least near the top of the list of experiences that defined the "counter culture," climaxing in 1969 at Woodstock (where Arlo Guthrie was among the performers).

It's a story that's been a holiday staple for more than 30 years: college dropout Arlo, son of folk legend Woody Guthrie, makes his way to Stockbridge, Massachusetts to spend Thanksgiving of 1965 with friends Alice and Ray Brock, whose home was a deconsecrated church which had become a haven for the local hippie element. To support themselves, the Brocks had opened a restaurant, and Arlo wrote a catchy jingle help promote the eatery. Following their Thanksgiving feast, Arlo volunteered to take the remains to the town dump, but finding it closed for the holiday, he located a suitable (by his judgment) alternate landfill. Having left incriminating evidence, though, he was arrested and jailed for littering by the legendary Officer Obie, but acquitted by a blind judge before whom the photographic evidence collected by Obie was useless. When Arlo was drafted a short time later, at the height of the Vietnam War, he was rejected as "unfit to serve" on the basis of this arrest record. In near-mock indignation, he berates the sergeant at the induction center, complaining that "you're telling me I'm not moral enough to join the Army and kill ... after being a litterbug?"

With his father Woody on his deathbed in 1967, Arlo began performing full-time, combining his restaurant jingle and his own natural comic narrative flair with the "talking blues" Woody had made famous into "Alice's Restaurant," a thirty minute anthem that poked fun at the establishment while at the same time making one of the most powerful anti-war statements of the Vietnam era.

Director Arthur Penn, who had scored earlier major success with Bonnie And Clyde, had also lived in Stockbridge and was drawn to the real people and real life depicted in the story, going so far as to cast Arlo to play himself, with Ray and Alice Brock as extras (their marriage broke up during the filming).

In addition to the soundtrack version of the "Alice's Restaurant Massacree" (shorter than Guthrie's own album version by about ten minutes), the music on this disc reflects the mixture of folk, country, blues and rock that, as much as it defines Arlo Guthrie himself, is also characteristic of the mid-sixties, post-British Invasion music scene that wasn't always heavy metal and acid rock.

Longtime Guthrie family friend Pete Seeger appears on the soundtrack as well ("Pastures Of Plenty") and teams up with Arlo on "Car Song" -- both written by Woody.

As both film and music, Alice's Restaurant still stands, thirty years later, as one of the best examples of blending humor, pathos and social protest.

John Lupton

More Reviews

Which Alice's Restaurant? The one from the Arlo Guthrie song is in Massachusettes.... You mean maybe Alice Water's Restaurant???

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