Fifty-one years ago this past weekend, a crowd of half a million converged at Max Yasgur's Farm in Bethel, New York for the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. The four-day event became a cultural touchstone and mythical ideal, strengthened even more by the Woodstock film and soundtracks that proliferated the marketplace during the early '70s and beyond. While performers, fans, and countless supposed attendees participated in even more myth-building, a small group of historians and researchers worked to piece together what really happened. Last year, a decade-long dive into Woodstock tape vaults culminated in the Andy Zax and Steve Woolard-produced 38-CD box set, Woodstock: Back To The Garden - The Definitive 50th Anniversary Archive. Featuring the entire festival save one lost track from Sha Na Na and two from Jimi Hendrix (denied for inclusion by his estate), and meticulously restored and pieced together in the proper sequence, it was a landmark archival release that will go down as one of the most ambitious and well-executed catalog projects of all time.
But that big box carried a necessarily hefty price-tag that kept it out of reach to many. Today, copies fetch four-figure sums on the secondary market. Highlights of each day's performances were available digitally, and 2-CD, 5-LP, and 10-CD configurations could be found in shops. But unless you paid up for the big box, you'd only get a fraction of the Woodstock experience.
Now, 416 of the 432 tracks from Woodstock: Back To The Garden - The Definitive 50th Anniversary Archive have arrived in high-resolution 24-bit/96kHz audio through HDTracks. Though Jimi Hendrix's set is notably absent due to licensing issues, every other track is presented exactly as it was in the box set. And for those who need the Hendrix performance, it's long been available separately on the 1999 set Live At Woodstock. At the time of this writing, the digital collection is available at the special discounted price of $399.98 (96 cents a track) to celebrate the 51st anniversary of Woodstock. This discount will apply through August 21.
Whether you missed out on the big box, or want a more portable, byte-sized version, this collection is an excellent way for fans to get a more complete view of the legendary festival - without the guitar strap, books, and ephemera. As of now, it appears the digital release of Woodstock: Back To The Garden - The 50th Anniversary Archive is only available through HDTracks in the U.S., but we'll keep you updated on any changes.