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Thread: Don McLean thread

  1. #1

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    Don McLean, for better or worse, will forever be linked to his 8-minute and 33-second long magnum opus, "American Pie." There's no question it's the single best-selling record of his career, and that it captured the imaginations of millions of listeners, as they tried to decode the many metaphors that make up the biggest share of the song's lyrics. While the song's production is undeniably more rock than folk, McLean is and always has been a folk singer at heart. His roots are more in the Weavers and various cowboy singers than in anything else.

    For new listeners, the American Pie album (1972) is probably one of the best places to begin to explore McLean's music. It's one of his most consistently high-quality records of new material. Most of the songs are acoustic-guitar-based, and cover a variety of subjects from lost love to war to of course, Vincent Van Gogh. Rather than list highlights, it's easier to say that about the only song on it that isn't completely successful is "Everybody Loves Me, Baby." Still, I would be remiss if I didn't at least mention "Vincent" and the beautiful round, "Babylon."



    Other LPs of McLean's have explored different themes and styles, ranging back and forth between folk and pop/rock/country, and while each one contains at least one or two certifiable gems, they're mostly uneven, which is a genuine shame, considering the depth of the man's talent. It was obvious that throughout his career his record companies never knew exactly what to do with him, and he would deliberately do what he could to resist their various commercial pressures, whether that meant the net result was good or bad. I hate like h*ll to see him relegated, as he seems to be now, to the PBS fund-drive "oldies" category.

    All of that being said, the one other album I can recommend without any hesitation at all is the last of the handful of records he did for United Artists at the outset of his career - the live 1976 2-LP set Solo, available on a double-CD set from BGO Records. This album was compiled from concerts he played throughout England, with nothing but his voice, his acoustic guitar and his banjo, and it's the way he was meant to be heard. It contains material from the beginning of his career up through his Homeless Brother album, and he does stellar jobs on each song. He also sprinkles his set with a few traditional tunes and some songs by others (like Bob Dylan and, believe it or not, Dale Evans), but it's primarily a McLean evening. The crowd loves him and it shows in how he feeds off of that, taking his performance to a whole different level. An extremely good album of extremely good songs, particularly "Bronco Bill's Lament," "And I Love You So," "Circus Song," "Vincent," "Till Tomorrow" and the medley that contains his "Castles in the Air" and "Three Flights Up." One caveat - when he performs live, McLean likes to let the vocal fall a beat or more behind the accompaniment. He makes it work, absolutely, but if you're looking for pristine, just-like-the-studio-versions of these songs, you may be taken aback a bit.

    Last edited by cburgess54; 07-09-2009 at 08:03 PM.
    Craig in Indy

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    I liked American Pie, just as a good song without trying to figure out what he was singing about. I don't have any of his albums....my brother had the American Pie on vinyl and I have kind of forgotten about him over the decades.

    Nice detailed post as usual Craig, thanks.

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Grendel View Post
    I liked American Pie, just as a good song without trying to figure out what he was singing about. I don't have any of his albums....my brother had the American Pie on vinyl and I have kind of forgotten about him over the decades.

    Nice detailed post as usual Craig, thanks.
    That was very clever of you to end your post with the considering the American Pie album cover, LG.

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    I love his remake of Castles In The Air which I think was done in the early 80s. It's perhaps my favourite Don McLean song, but songs like Vincent, American Pie (extended edition), And I Love You So, If We Try, Homeless Brother, Jerusalem, Superman's Ghost & the list goes on are wonderful songs! If you ask me his live version of American Pie on Starry, Starry Night CD is just as good as the Original perhaps better!
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    Thanks Craig, nothing slips past you. I am going to look for American Pie, the complete album, I have seen it in my voyages but forgot about it until you wrote this thread, thanks for reminding us about this talented singer.

  6. #6

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    I'm so ashamed of myself.. I didn't know the name Don McLean, but at the mention of "american pie" I spontaniously sang "bye bye miss American pie" *mumbling* chevy *more mumbling* dry" in a high pitch voice... (I've had more masculin moments than this one)...
    The funny thing is, the only part I know by heart is:

    Oh, and while the king was looking down,
    The jester stole his thorny crown.
    The courtroom was adjourned;
    No verdict was returned.
    wich is only sung once...

    Anyways: i'll check out his other music. wich 2albums do you guys suggest ?



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    I am leaving that one for Craig, I only really know the one album.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Oblivion View Post
    Anyways: i'll check out his other music. wich 2albums do you guys suggest ?
    Well, there's no question one of them should be American Pie. After that, I suppose it would depend on your budget. If you can afford Solo, I'd go for it, but since it's 2 CDs I'm sure it costs more. If you need to keep the cash outlay down, I'd suggest one of these...

    Tapestry (his first album, shown here in its re-issue cover):


    Don McLean (his third album, the followup to American Pie):


    or Homeless Brother (his fourth album):


    Hmm...maybe I should post Homeless Brother in the album cover thread.

  9. #9

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    Thanks I'll check for solo nevertheless. But I'm downloading it before buying it. (And I'm not kidding, if I like it: I buy it)

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