Johnny Rivers

Summer Rains: The Essential Rivers (1964-1975)

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True, this 25-track, single-disc compilation isn't as extensive as the two-CD set usually hailed as the best Johnny Rivers collection, Rhino's Anthology, 1964-1977. It's also true that it's missing a few of the Rivers singles that tickled the bottom half of the Top 100, like "Cupid" and "These Are Not My People." If you're looking for the ultimate single-disc Rivers comp, however, this 77-minute CD is probably as close as anyone's going to come. Summer Rains: The Essential Rivers has every one of his Top 50 hits from between 1964-1975, of which there were many, adding up to 18 in all. The other seven cuts include some of his most interesting LP tracks, among them three early Jimmy Webb covers (from 1967's Rewind album); an orchestrated version of Gram Parsons' "Brass Buttons"; the late-'60s recording "Going Back to Big Sur," one of Rivers' relatively infrequent original compositions; and his 1968 cover of "Positively 4th Street," famously cited by Bob Dylan (in his Chronicles Vol. 1 book) as his all-time favorite interpretation of one of his songs. And, frankly, cutting away some of the flab from the later part of this period makes this a tighter, more consistent listen than the more comprehensive Rhino set. For most people, this will be all the Rivers you want and need, complemented by detailed liner notes.

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