Santana at Woodstock
Photo: Tucker Ransom/Getty Images
New Woodstock 50th Anniversary Box Set Offers A Complete Listen To The Summer '69 Fest
An official 50th Woodstock anniversary concert may or may still not be in the works, but one thing's for sure: a lot of music fans really want to celebrate the Summer of '69 on its 50th birthday.
Now, with an expansive special-edition box set titled Woodstock 50 — Back to the Garden — The Definitive 50th Anniversary Archive, listeners can hear full performances from the original Woodstock concert.
Spanning 38 CDs, the limited-edition (of 1,969 copies, of course) set, which will be released on Aug. 2 via Rhino, will include 432 songs, 267 of which are previously unreleased, from the three-day event. It will be the most comprehensive look at Woodstock '69, i.e., the first time every artist, including greats Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead, are included on record.
As reported by Rolling Stone, the tracks are ordered chronologically based on the actual lineup order and sets performed during that mystical weekend of Aug. 15–17, 1969, with each artist's set on one disc.
The collection came together from the work of Los Angeles producer and archivist Andy Zax and co-producer Steve Woolard, who had the herculean task of making a pile of 8-track tapes from 1969 see the light of day in the digital age of music. Zax was originally sent to take a look at the tapes back in 2005, and realized there was a massive musical treasure that needed to be unearthed. He didn't have the resources to do a fully comprehensive release with the 2009 40th anniversary Woodstock set he also worked on, so the new set will finally give (almost) all of the tracks the light of day.
"The Woodstock tapes give us a singular opportunity for a kind of sonic time travel, and my intention is to transport people back to 1969. There aren't many other concerts you could make this argument about," Zax said to Rolling Stone. "From the moment I saw those tapes, I was like, 'Oh my God, there's so much more than I'd ever thought. It was clear to me that no one was exploring this stuff and dealing with it in totality. Here was this vast trove of material not treated correctly."
The three tracks that didn't make the cut include two songs from Hendrix's set, per the request of his estate, for "aesthetic reasons." The only other missing song is from Sha Na Na.
The first 37 CDs take you through each act's show, and the 38th "bonus" CD features audio extras, like attendee anecdotes recorded during the fest.
The non-musical audio moments, also featuring off-kilter announcements, are hidden gems of the archival work themselves. Zak speaks to the 38th disc, which includes "this one guy moaning about what a disappointing experience [Woodstock] was and that it was a sell-out. It's a great slice of real people in the moment reacting to it, which pleases me immensely."
In addition to the CD collection, the deluxe edition of the new set also includes a DVD of the director's cut of the 1970 Woodstock film, the 2009 "Woodstock" book by Michael Lang and various replicas of Woodstock '69 paraphilia, like a copy of the original program book. This deluxe set, housed in a plywood box designed by GRAMMY-winning graphic designer Masaki Koikethe, costs $800 and is the only option with the full audio.
Rhino also offers more economic 10-CD, 3-CD or 5-LP vinyl sets; all four options are available for pre-order now.