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Monday, Oct. 20, 2008

Richie Havens

Nobody Left to Crown (Verve)

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Almost 40 years after he opened Woodstock with a mesmerizing three-hour performance, becoming the voice of a generation with an improvised tune that evolved into "Freedom," folk-rocker Richie Havens remains relevant. On Nobody Left to Crown, the 67-year-old singer's still-distinct, soulful voice introduces listeners to memorable and politically charged songs such as "The Key" and "(Can't You Hear) Zeus's Anger Roar," as well as smartly chosen covers by Jackson Browne ("Lives in the Balance"), Peter, Paul & Mary ("The Great Mandala") and, most notably, The Who (an acoustic slow-burn take on "Won't Get Fooled Again").

At this point, Havens could be forgiven for coasting on Nobody Left to Crown, his 27th album. After all, at times his voice sounds slightly fatigued, as if Havens has grown weary of his own fight-for-peace message. Instead, despite its melancholy, this record boasts the same timeless quality of that long-ago Woodstock performance.


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