Every major recording artist seems to have some juvenilia in the catalog that has gotten away somehow and gets repackaged endlessly, ripping off fans and making life hard for discographers. In Jimmy Buffett's case, that juvenilia consists of the recordings he made for Barnaby Records in the early '70s. Originally issued on the LPs Down to Earth (1970) and High Cumberland Jubilee (1976), they have also turned up on Before the Salt (1979) and Before the Beach (1993), and are available to any entity that wants to lease them from Celebrity Licensing, Inc., and put out a CD. That's what bottom-feeder bargain label Madacy has done with Collector's Edition: There's Nothing Soft About Hard Times, which contains on its two CDs ten of the 11 original tracks from Down to Earth, all of High Cumberland Jubilee, and "Richard Frost," a track first released on Varèse Sarabande's 1998 reissue of Down to Earth; the only track missing is "England" from Down to Earth. (Madacy has also released a version of There's Nothing Soft About Hard Times that contains only the first CD of the set.) It's too bad that tracks from the two albums have been mixed up, because they are quite different. The ones from Down to Earth portray Buffett as a thoughtful folk-rock singer/songwriter of the early '70s, earnestly strumming an acoustic guitar over a rhythm section and singing lyrics of social consciousness with sly references to drugs ("Ellis Dee," "A Mile High in Denver"). The tracks from High Cumberland Jubilee are a bit more ambitious musically, boasting a string section, and they sometimes contain hints of humor typical of the later Buffett. On the whole, there is some good work on this album, but it is not characteristic of the lighter tone Buffett eventually took, and potential customers shouldn't buy it expecting his usual style.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2