Richie Havens, Live At The Cellar Door and at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium

Bruce Pollock

By Bruce Pollock

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
A rare live album from one of folk-rock’s greatest guitar players.

One of the most beloved of all the performers to tramp the streets of Greenwich Village with a guitar on his back, Richie Havens has a voice as wide and expansive as all outdoors, making the choice of one of his rare live albums that much more appropriate. Self-made, self-taught, Havens was also the perfect choice to open the Woodstock festival in 1969, a man on a chair serenading the sweeping throngs until the rest of the acts showed up. This set, captured long after his heyday and his prime, still presents a compelling picture of the man and the era, featuring signature tunes like Fred Neil's “The Dolphin,” Dylan's “All Along the Watchtower,” the classic “God Bless the Child,” and his lone hit, “Here Comes the Sun.” Richie's enduring penchant for quasi-mystical between-song patter may lose a bit without chemical enhancement. But his guitar playing is still stellar, with a right wrist like a steam engine.