Woodstock At 40: The Sights, The Sounds, The Stories

Woodstock At 40: The Sights, The Sounds, The Stories

Like so many things during the latter '60s, some say if you remember Woodstock, you probably weren't there.

That may be true. And, of course, there are generations now who were too young to attend the legendary Woodstock Music & Art Fair -- or weren't even born yet. Fortunately, each decade's anniversary tends to bring with it a new batch of Woodstock-related product to help re-create the festival experience without the rain, mud, overflowing port-a-johns or Wavy Gravy screeching in your ear (brown acid is, of course, optional).

Woodstock's 40th anniversary has opened the coffers again with perhaps the most insightful and intriguing releases yet (but no Guitar Hero or Rock Band Woodstock edition. Yet.). Here's a quick overview of what's available...

THE SIGHTS

* A newly refurbished edition of the "Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music" director's cut expands the original documentary -- which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and was assistant directed by Martin Scorsese -- with two additional hours of performance footage, including groups such as Creedence Clearwater Revival who weren't in the theatrical release. It also includes new interviews with festival principals and artists, as well as a spotlight on The Museum at Bethel Woods. A Woodstock 40th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition also includes memorabilia such as ticket replicas and comes packaged in a fringed suede box.

* The Barbara Kopple-directed documentary "Woodstock: Now & Then," executive produced by festival organizer MIchael Lang, premiers at 9 p.m. Aug. 14 on VH1 and VH1 Classic and 8 p.m. EST Aug. 17 on the History Channel. The two-hour special features archival footage as well as current interviews with performers and festival attendees and is expected to be released on DVD at a later date.

* On the big screen, director Ang Lee's "Taking Woodstock" opens Aug. 28 and tells the story of Greenwich Village interior designer Elliot Tiber who helps bring the festival to Bethel, N.Y., in an effort to help the sagging economic fortunes of the area -- including his family's El Monaco motel. Demetri Martin stars as Tiber while Eugene Levy portrays the late Max Yasgur's, whose farmland played host to the Woodstock Nation.THE SOUNDS

* After releasing remastered editions of the "Music From the Original Soundtrack and More: Woodstock" and "Woodstock Two" albums in June, Rhino is firing the big guns with the Aug. 18 release of "Woodstock 40 Years On: Back to Yasgur's Farm. " The six-CD set that features 38 previously unreleased recordings, including a 19-minute rendition of the Grateful Dead's "Dark Star," a whopping 30-minutes of "Woodstock Boogie" by Canned Heat and previously vaulted selections from Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jefferson Airplane, Tim Hardin, Ravi Shankar, Joe Cocker, the Who and others. The set's booklet also purports to offer the definitive running order and track lists for the entire festival.

* SonyBMG's Legacy division, meanwhile, got a jump with "Woodstock Experience" editions of seminal 1969 releases by five of the festival's acts -- the Jefferson Airplane's "Volunteers," Janis Joplin's "I Got Dem 'Ol Kozmic Blues Again Mama!," Santana's debut album, Sly & the Family Stone's "Stand!" and Johnny Winter's self-titled effort. Each includes a second CD featuring the acts' complete Woodstock performances for the first time ever.

* The soundtrack for "Taking Woodstock," due out Aug. 25, captures the spirit of the music if not many (just two) actual performances from the festival. It does include a new recording by Richie Havens, "Freedom 2009," as well as era-specific songs by the Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Love and Crosby, Stills & Nash along with live material by The Band, Janis Joplin, Country Joe McDonald, Melanie, the Grateful Dead and Arlo Guthrie (his Woodstock soundtrack version of "Coming INto Los Angeles," which is actually from the Troubadour in Los Angeles). Rhino will also be releasing the "Taking Woodstock" score, which was written and produced by Danny Elfman.

THE STORIES

* Festival organizer Michael Lang's own memoir, " The Road to Woodstock" (Ecco, 320 pages), co-written with Holly George-Warren, leads the plethora of books taking advantage of Woodstock's anniversary. It augments his own memories and anecdotes with commentaries by Woodstock co-workers, performers and attendees.

* Joel Makower's "Woodstock: The Oral History, 40th Anniversary Edition" (Excelsior Editions, 367 pages), the most thorough and, according to participants, accurate portrayal of the festival, has been refurbished and updated, with new forewords by Lang and fellow organizer Joel Rosenman.

* " Woodstock: Three Days That Rocked the World" (Sterling, 288 pages) is an extensive photo book edited by Mike Evans and Paul Kingsbury, with a foreword by Martin Scorsese. The illustrations capture each of the festival's 31 acts, while the text offers more memories from the artists, concert-goers, neighbors and Woodstock crew members.

* Brad Littleproud and Joannae Hague, who head up the Woodstock Preservation Society, take a scrapbook approach with "Woodstock -- Peace, Music & Memories" (Krause, 256 pages), pulling together 350 photographs including images of Woodstock memorabilia, and more first-person accounts from Carlos Santana, members of Mountain and others.

* New York disc jockey Pete Fornatale (WFUV) offers his own festival history in "Back to the Garden -- The Story of Woodstock" (Touchstone, 336 pages), in which he mines a stash of interviews with the Who's Roger Daltrey, David Crosby, Joe Cocker, Joan Baez, Richie Havens and others to present a multi-perspective overview of what happened on Yasgur's farm.

* Photographer Elliott Landy has republished his superlative 1994 collection "Woodstock Vision: The Spirit of a Generation" (Backbeat, 224 pages), which includes not only photos from the festival but also from the era, including anti-war rallies, his work for albums by Bob Dylan, The Band and Van Morrison and entire sections on Dylan, The Band, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and others.

* In "Woodstock Revisited: 50 Far Out, Groovy, Peace-Loving, Flashback-Inducing Stories From Those Who Were There" (Adams Media, 256 page), festival attendee Susan Reynolds tracks down others who shared the weekend and gleans their impressions not only of the event but also views on the times and the coming of age of the youth counter culture.

* For those wishing to know more about the upstate New York culture that gave rise to the Woodstock festival, Weston and Julia Blalock's "Roots of the 1969 Woodstock Festival: The Backstory of Woodstock" (WoodstockArts 160 pages) examines the areas burgeoning music scene, including the open-air Sound-Out that inspired Michael Lang's festival concept. It also presents the transcript of a panel discussion about Woodstock held in 2008 at the Colony Cafe in Woodstock.

* Why leave the next generation of the Woodstock Nation out of the celebration. Max Yasgur's cousin Abigail Yasgur and her husband, Joseph Lipner, teamed with illustrator Barbar Mendes for "Max Said Yes: The Woodstock Story" (Change the Universe Press, 21 pages), a children's book that gives the late farmer his due for opening his arms, heart and, most importantly, his property to the festival after it was booted from its original site in Walkill.

* Worth Seeking Out: Elliot Tiber's 2007 memoir "Taking Woodstock" (Square One, 224 pages), co-written with Tom Monte, is getting a boost thanks to the Ang Lee movie adaptation..."Young Men With Unlimited Capital" (Bantam, 203 pages), by festival partners Joel Rosenman and the late John Roberts that was first published in 1974 offers a look from the "straight" side of the Woodstock production team...Robert Stephen Spitz's "Barefoot in Babylon: The Creation of the Woodstock Music Festival, 1969" (Norton, 515 pages) was first published for the festival's 10th anniversary and gave the first indication that things were not all peace and love behind the scenes. Many of Woodstock's principles were quick to question it, which is usually a sign that it hit closer to the bone than they'd like.