Janis Ian

Society's Child: The Verve Recordings

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The 41 songs on this double CD contain almost everything from the four albums that the singer/songwriter recorded for Verve in the late '60s. While it is true that Ian's early work may have been unduly savaged by unsympathetic rock critics, it's also true that the magnitude of her talent isn't large enough to merit a box set. As others have pointed out over the years, these compositions are often overly wordy, didactic, and self-absorbed, though these flaws are understandable (to a degree) given that Ian was in her mid- and late- teens when they were recorded. At the same time, the grooves make a fairly strong case that Ian is underrated, if hardly a major figure; some of the songs are affecting, the arrangements (especially the early ones by Shangri-Las producer Shadow Morton) have a '60s-period charm, and she's a pretty strong singer. Although some Laura Nyro fans might find the comparison insulting, there's a similarity to be found in Ian's bluesier and more soulful vocals, especially on her later Verve records. So while this couldn't be classified as a milestone of the early singer/songwriter era, it's more enjoyable and impressive than a lot of listeners would expect, although two-and-a-half hours is too much to take at once.

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