Two years after Arlo Guthrie debuted with Aliceâ€™s Restaurant, and the surprisingly wide popularity of its eighteen-minute title track, his comedic anti-authoritarian talking blues became a movie and a soundtrack album. In its original incarnation, the soundtrack was anchored by a two-part re-recording of the title track, but its studio setting seemed to sap the satirical audacity of the debut albumâ€™s live take. More interesting were the tracks recorded especially for the soundtrack, including Guthrieâ€™s folk-styled instrumentals â€œTraveling Musicâ€ and â€œTrip to the City,â€ the meditative â€œCrash Pad Improvs,â€ and music supervisor Garry Shermanâ€™s bluesy â€œHarps & Marriage.â€ Two vocal tracks include Al Schackmanâ€™s performance of Guthrie and Shermanâ€™s â€œYouâ€™re a Fink,â€ and Tigger Outlawâ€™s poignant acoustic cover of Joni Mitchellâ€™s â€œSongs to Aging Children.â€
The original release was augmented with eleven bonus tracks for Rykodiscâ€™s out-of-print 1998 reissue, expanding upon the soundtrack elements created by Guthrie and Sherman. Featured among the bonuses is instrumental continuity written and arranged by Guthrie, including the Hawaiiana â€œBig City Garbageâ€ and the rock â€˜nâ€™ roll â€œWedding Festivities,â€ and a pair of Woody Guthrie tunes sung by Pete Seeger (â€œPastures of Plentyâ€), and Seeger with the younger Guthrie (â€œCar Songâ€). All eleven of these soundtrack bonuses are included on Omnivoreâ€™s 2019 reissue, and are augmented with a previously unreleased 24-minute rendition of â€œAliceâ€™s Restaurantâ€ that Guthrie performed in on Philadelphia folk radio legend Gene Shayâ€™s program in 1968.
Although it didnâ€™t appear in the film, the newly released performance reveals the folk tradition to which â€œAliceâ€™s Restaurantâ€ belongs, as Guthrie reinvents the song with lyrics that tell a shaggy, surrealistic tale of multicolor rainbow roaches and international nuclear war. In addition to the underlying guitar score, Guthrie leveraged many of the comedic vocal intonations that made the original â€œMassacreeâ€ so memorable. The new story hasnâ€™t the deep cultural resonance of the original, but it does shed an interesting side light, and the short talk segment that follows provides a time capsule of late-60s FM radio. Omnivoreâ€™s reissue includes liner notes by Lee Zimmerman, quotes from Guthrie, front and back LP cover art, and stills, promotional photos and lobby cards from the film. This is an offbeat part of Guthrieâ€™s catalog, but the film music and bonus radio track tell interesting stories about his development as an artist. [Â©2019 Hyperbolium]