The Carolyn Hester Coalition: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — August 21, 2022

THE GREATEST SONGS OF THE 1960s THAT NO ONE HAS EVER HEARD

558) The Carolyn Hester Coalition — “Half the World”

Folkie turns psychedelic. OK, she doesn’t get booed at the Newport Folk Festival, but she does get her share of grief and eye-rolls. “[S]tarry-eyed idealism and girlish, high-pitched vocals” — yes, guilty as charged. But as starry-eyed songs sung with girlish, high-pitched vocals go, this is a great one. It almost makes me want to join the Peace Corps. Oh, and the career lesson here? Never turn down the “Puff the Magic Dragon” gig!

Bad-Cat says that:

Anyone into [Carolyn] Hester’s earlier incarnation as a folk singer is likely to find her decision to turn to a more happenin’/commercial sound disappointing.  On the other hand, anyone into this late-1960s psych-oriented effort is liable to find her earlier folk albums trite and dull. The thought of a folkie turning to psych is probably a major turnoff to many folks.  That’s unfortunate since once you get over Hester’s little girl lost voice, 1968’s “The Carolyn Hester Coalition” is surprisingly enjoyable. . . . “Half the World” offered up some excellent psych/rock . . . .    

https://fancy313.rssing.com/chan-6208908/all_p32.html

Alex Molotkow throws in that “the Coalition were her foray into psychedelia, featuring an all-male team of pros. The band survived for two albums . . . both of which bear the marks of Hester’s folk revivalist past: starry-eyed idealism and girlish, high-pitched vocals.” (https://exclaim.ca/music/article/carolyn_hester_coalition-_carolyn_hester_coalition_magazine) And Jeff Penszak says that she “retains her ties to her roots with high-pitched wailings on . . . the politically charged . . . ‘Half The World.’” (http://www.terrascope.co.uk/Reviews/Reviews_August09.htm)

Finally, Richie Unterberger gives some needed historical context (though I edit out much of his vitriol):

[Hester] was an important if marginal figure of the early-’60s folk revival, singing traditional material with a high voice in the manner of Joan Baez and Judy Collins (though with less command). . . . Hester herself was unable to make it as a folk-rocker despite a brief try, and unpredictably went into psychedelic music for a couple of albums before largely drifting out of the business . . . . In 1960, she made her second album [that] cast her very much in the thick of the folk revival . . . sung in her high, almost shaky and girlish voice. In the early ’60s, she was briefly married to author and folk singer/songwriter Richard Farina, who became friendly with Bob Dylan shortly after Dylan’s arrival in New York. While recording her third album . . . she invited Dylan, then almost unknown, to play harmonica on a few cuts. His work on the album helped bring him to the attention of [John] Hammond, who signed Dylan to Columbia . . . shortly afterwards. While other performers of the early-’60s folk revival made great strides forward in sales and influence . . . Hester remained relatively obscure. She turned down a chance to form a folk trio with Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey, offered by manager Albert Grossman; that position went to Mary Travers . . . . [I]n sticking exclusively to traditional material, rather than covering songs by contemporary writers or writing anything herself, Hester was falling behind the folk curve. . . . In the late ’60s, Hester made the unexpected move to psychedelic music as part of the Carolyn Hester Coalition, who recorded a couple of little-known albums [which] were erratic but not half-bad, interspersing updates of traditional material . . . with moody and fuzzy folk-rockers. . . .

Carolyn Hester had been away from the recording scene for a few years when she re-emerged in the late 1960s as the centerpiece of the Carolyn Hester Coalition, a psychedelic- and folk-tinged rock group. It’s hard to read this as anything but an attempt to keep up with the times on the part of someone who missed the boat that made folk and folk-rock a commercial proposition. . . .

https://www.allmusic.com/artist/carolyn-hester-mn0000149166/biography, https://www.allmusic.com/album/the-carolyn-hester-coalition-mw0000818892

“Half the world is starving, half is overfed. Half take sleeping pills at night, half don’t have a bed. Half is struggling to live, half is sitting tight. Which side are you on, brother? Won’t you think before the night. Half the world wants answers, half the world says wait. Half the world has loving hearts, half is full of hate. Half would kill his fellow man, half don’t want to try. Which side are you on, brother? Won’t you think before the night? Half the world is seeing, half the world is blind. Half the world’s intolerant, half the world is kind. I just want the children fed after [?] Which side are you on, brother? Won’t you think before the night? Never mind your country, never mind your skin, never mind which god you love, which half are you in. Half is struggling to live, half is sitting tight. Which side are you on, brother? Why won’t you think before the night?”

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