Arlo Guthrie – Rehashed 4:20 Sampler (Rising Son Records)
Every family has its own holiday traditions and one of my personal favorites happens on turkey day. Each Thanksgiving, usually while driving to a relative’s house for a big feast, I listen to Arlo Guthrie’s protest masterpiece, “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” – all 18+ minutes of it.
Although the song, which was originally released in 1967, is ultimately a protest against the draft, the initial story in the delightfully rambling monologue is focused on a Thanksgiving day littering incident and subsequent arrest. That’s enough of a tie-in to qualify it as a Thanksgiving song to me.
Needless to say, I was thrilled to see that Guthrie’s own Rising Son Records label recently released an EP of three vintage live recordings, which includes “The Alice’s Restaurant Multi-Colored Rainbow Roach Affair,” a previously unreleased take on my favorite.
That song, with its whopping 25-minute runtime, veers far from the original tale by both focusing on nuclear war and incorporating things like scientists from Russia and China, top American political figures from the era, the titular rainbow roach and a giant blanket, which replicates the sky or the United States depending on which side you are viewing. Although it meanders a bit, Arlo’s knack for spinning a great yarn makes it definitely worth checking out.
This different take on the familiar Alice’s Restaurant story sets the table for a collection in which humor and Guthrie’s obvious gift of gab reign supreme. With “The Story of Moses,” Arlo offers a decidedly different take on the familiar biblical tale of Moses and Pharaoh by giving the Pharoah’s “stash” and some “medicinal brownies” credit for playing a key role in helping the Israelites escape Egypt.
Guthrie also brings the funny on the sampler’s final track, a newly-remastered version of “The Story of Rueben Clamzo & His Strange Daughter in the Key of A.” The song, which is originally found on his live album One Night, is an hysterical tale of early American settlers fighting for survival against giant clams emerging from the ocean. Of particular note is the spirited shanty-style call and response section at the end, which features great supporting vocals by Guthrie’s band Shenandoah. Thanks to the new audio enhancements, the version on this sampler sounds better than ever.
Guthrie fans and people who like a little humor in their folk music will find plenty to love on this nifty little set.
Enjoy and happy Thanksgiving!