70s: From Acoustic to the Wall of Sound

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Some Dion fans will disagree, but this 21-song overview of his 1969-76 material isn't the best way to get a handle on this period, in which he'd fully evolved from his early rock & roll star roots into a more mature singer/songwriter. His records during this time were both inconsistent in quality and widely varying in style, from the acoustic folk-rock of 1970s Sit Down Old Friend to the strange Phil Spector-produced (and over-produced) sessions of the mid-'70s. They work better heard on their own, rather than sampled piecemeal (and not sequenced chronologically here, for that matter). It still does give listeners a reasonable look at what he was up to in these years, when he was no longer a commercial force, but was very much reaching out toward different avenues of self-expression. A good share of it, however, is rather blah early- to mid -'70s laid-back singer/songwriter material. The fine voice is still totally intact, but the songs (much of them self-penned) are given to unarresting mildness, too-sweet production, and some are too-blatantly James Taylor-like tunes. Amidst such mediocrity, however, is another good share of worthy material, like his famous autobiographical drug addiction-inspired "Your Own Back Yard"; the solo acoustic "I Don't Believe My Race Is Run"; the tastefully orchestrated "It All Fits Together"; and the Spector-produced cover of Gerry Goffin and Carole King's "Only You Know." Generally, the earlier and less elaborately arranged tracks are significantly better. For those whose curiosity is piqued to explore deeper, six of the albums from this era have been reissued as a series of three two-fers on Ace, the same label that put out this anthology.

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