Rod McKuen turns in one of his finest collections of songs with New Ballads, a smoky set of adult pop ballads. Don Costa wrote the arrangements, and his subtle, subdued instrumentation, with delicate harpsichords and strings, provides a perfect backdrop for McKuen while avoiding adult contemporary clichés. A few of McKuen's best songs, such as "Rock Gently" and "As I Love My Own" are included on this admirably consistent outing. "I'm Not Afraid" is one of McKuen's collaborations with Jacques Brel, but McKuen wrote most of the songs by himself. Although themes of romance lost and found predominate, McKuen also submits a Christmas song ("Thank You for Christmas") and a spot of humor with "Hit 'Em in the Head With Love." The album's orientation toward songs rather than poetry gives the album broader appeal for listeners who have less enthusiasm for his spoken word recordings, but his melancholy lyrics will nonetheless please the poetry buffs.
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