From the 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Fair to the Byrdcliffe Arts Colony, the town of Woodstock is well known for its rich artistic heritage that frames and informs the spirit of this River Valley community. Hudson.

The city’s decades-long reputation as a hotbed for creatives and those who love the arts is also bolstered by its history as a destination for the recording industry.

From Albert Grossman’s Bearsville Studios to Levon Helm Studios, run for decades by the late drummer of The Band, Woodstock holds an indisputable cultural distinction as the launching point for records that remain timeless.

It’s a bold task to plant a flag in “greatest of all time” territory, but these eight Woodstock-recorded albums are unquestionably some of the most enduring contributions to music history. Legendary recordings are listed from oldest to newest:

“The Muddy Waters Woodstock Album” by Muddy Waters – 1975

Blues legend Muddy Waters performs at Northwestern University in 1981, six years after recording “The Muddy Waters Woodstock Album” at Bearsville Studios.

Paul Natkin/Getty Images

This Grammy-winning album from the legendary blues musician was recorded at Bearsville Studios Turtle Creek Barn and fused the musical talents of Waters’ traveling band with musicians living in Woodstock, like Helm and organ player Garth Hudson of The Band, as well as harmonica player Paul Butterfield. The recording is dynamic and fluid, notable for Waters’ slide guitar work and his cover of “Let the Good Times Roll”.

The album cover is a photo of Waters receiving the ‘key’ to Woodstock, surrounded by a crowd of admirers, which adds to the local flare of this album and the sense of place of the county recording. of Ulster.

“Bat out of Hell” by Meat Loaf – 1977

Recorded at Bearsville Studios and produced by Todd Rundgren, there’s no denying that “Bat Out of Hell” is an epic performance, captured on an epic album, delivered by an epic performer. Of course, The Who’s Pete Townshend has always been modern music’s rock opera guy, thanks to “Tommy.” But Meat Loaf, with “Paradise By the Dashboard Light,” may have released “Tommy”-ed The Who.

The hammy “Bat Out of Hell” became one of the best-selling albums of all time, selling over 43 million copies. This album, and other Meatloaf music, enjoyed a resurgence in sales and streaming following the artist’s death in January.

“Standing Solitude” by Suzanne Vega – 1987

The Scrapbook

Suzanne Vega’s platinum-selling album “Solitude Standing,” best known for the single “Luka,” was recorded at Woodstock and released in 1987.

Courtesy of Universal Music

Bearsville Studios is also where Suzanne Vega brought her band to record her 1987 album, “Solitude Standing.” The song “Luka” from this Woodstock-recorded album was a colossal hit, reaching number three on the Billboard 100, while the a cappella song “Tom’s Diner” was reinvigorated when it was later reinvented as a song by dance by British production duo DNA.

Part-time resident of Ulster County, Mike Visceglia, bassist for Vega since 1985, played on “Solitude Standing”. He said in an interview that the atmosphere and natural surroundings of Woodstock inspired the creative energy behind “Solitude Standing”.

As for “Luka,” which received three Grammy nominations, Visceglia said, “When we wrote it, we knew we had something special.”

REM’s “Out of Time” – 1991

Generation X remains defined in many ways by this record, which was recorded at Bearsville Studios and became a No. 1 hit for REM Decades after its release, the song “Losing My Religion” lives on, and the resident and singer Longtime Ulster County B-52’s Kate Pierson, well, shine on ‘Shiny Happy People’.

Mike Mills, Bill Berry and Peter Buck of REM apparently enjoyed their time in Woodstock beyond Bearsville Studios — they also golfed at Woodstock Golf Club, according to Jerry Mitnick, former co-owner of the former Tinker Street Café, who was their fourth on the course.

REM returned to Bearsville Studios to record the 1992 follow-up album “Automatic for the People”, which sold 18 million copies worldwide.

“Tigerlily” by Natalie Merchant – 1995

“Tigerlily”, recorded at Bearsville Studios in Woodstock, marked Natalie Merchant’s first solo effort after recording with the band the 10,000 Maniacs.

Courtesy of Warner Music Group

After the success of 10,000 Maniacs, Natalie Merchant moved to Bearsville Studios, a short distance down Route 212 from downtown Woodstock, to record her first solo album, “Tigerlily.” The album received mixed reviews (Rolling Stone initially called it “lame”), but audiences loved it: “Tigerlily” produced three consecutive top 40 hits (“Carnival,” ” Wonder”, “Jealousy”) and has sold over 5 million copies. .

Merchant, it’s worth nothing, is a longtime resident of the Hudson Valley.

“Crash” by the Dave Matthews Band – 1996

The Dave Matthews Band recorded their first two albums in Woodstock.  The second, the mega hit

The Dave Matthews Band recorded their first two albums in Woodstock. The second, 1996’s mega-hit “Crash,” was nominated for multiple Grammys and won Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group for the song “So Much to Say.” (Dave Matthews performs here at Arco Arena on November 12, 1996 in Sacramento.)

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

The Dave Matthews Band’s first two albums, “Under the Table and Dreaming” and “Crash”, were both recorded at Bearsville Studios. The former introduced many of us to the artist. But it was “Crash” that stood out because it revealed a coherence that Matthews and his band brought to the music they made.

The band could have just released the Grammy-nominated “Crash Into Me” and gone home, but their stamina emerged with jaw-dropping songs like “So Much to Say,” “Too Much” and “Tripping Billies.” . The album has sold over 7 million copies.

Esopus’ Paul Higgins, now advertising sales manager for Red Hook-based WKZE (98.1 FM), interned at Bearsville Studios during those recording sessions and is credited as second assistant engineer on “Crash”.

Higgins always appreciated the passion Matthews brought to his vocals on “Crash”, and described the record as having a “lean, clean, muscular sound”.

“Billy breathe” from Phish – 1996

The Scrapbook

Phish’s “Billy Breathes” album was recorded at Bearsville Studios.

Courtesy of Phish

Band Phish may leave some music fans scratching their heads instead of tapping their toes. But “Billy Breathes”, also recorded at Bearsville studios, offers a great opportunity to better understand a group that sometimes seems to speak in code. The album offers stark contrast from song to song, with “Waste” and “Swept Away” shining as the stars.


Phish was apparently so inspired by their recording sessions in Bearsville that they played a stealth show at the former Joyous Lake Concert Hall in Woodstock, which previously occupied the building that now houses Silvia’s Restaurant. The gig was announced on the day of the show, June 6, 1996, with Phish billed as “Third Ball”.

“The performance at Joyous Lake was small and low-key with the band playing on equipment brought from the studio and using the club’s PA system,” according to the band’s website Phish.com. “The club was packed beyond its capacity of 200 by the time the band took the stage around 11 p.m.… The only opening songs of the evening, “Waste” and “Character Zero”,… were pretty raw, with (vocalist and lead guitarist Trey Anastasio) explaining that ‘Waste’ didn’t have an end yet.

“Dirt Farmer” by Levon Helm – 2007

Woodstock resident Levon Helm, the former drummer of The Band, found his voice after losing it to throat cancer and recorded

Woodstock resident Levon Helm, the former drummer of The Band, regained his voice after losing it to throat cancer and recorded ‘Dirt Farmer’.

Courtesy of Levon Helm Studios and Ahron R. Foster

The Arkansas native and longtime resident of Woodstock in the early 2000s emerged from bankruptcy and lost his voice to cancer to kick off his house concerts Midnight Ramble at Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock. The momentum of those intimate gatherings and Helm finding his voice lit a fuse for the recording of “Dirt Farmer.” The album was Helm’s first release in years and became a Grammy winner that chronicled one of the greatest comebacks of all time.

Recorded at Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, also known as “The Barn”, “Dirt Farmer” was co-produced by Larry Campbell and Helm’s daughter, Amy Helm, who also performed on the album. Other performers include Campbell’s wife, Teresa Williams, and Byron Isaacs, now a member of the Lumineers.

“It was the biggest, purest recording experience we’ve ever had,” said Campbell, who, in addition to his role as a producer, served as musical director, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist for the Levon Helm. Band.

“It was nothing but walking into Levon’s barn, having a really good time finding songs, playing songs, singing songs…and when we thought we had something thing, just roll the tape and see what happens.”

When Campbell listens to the album now, he says he hears “the camaraderie and the creative spark that was ignited in all of us”.

Hudson Valley Art, Music and Culture