Peter, Paul and Mary

The Most Beautiful Songs of Peter, Paul and Mary

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It's a kind of an awkward title, but this double-LP set from Warner Bros.' German division was (and is) kind of hard to ignore completely. Back in 1970, when Peter, Paul and Mary made the decision to break up, Warner Bros. issued a single 12-song LP (Ten Years Together: The Best of Peter, Paul and Mary) in America, which was fine as far as it went, but no further -- it wasn't a big deal, as their entire U.S. catalog was (and still is, with one exception) in print. It took a little longer, but in 1972 the label's German division came along with this 23-song compilation covering that same chronological territory, but extending deeper than the trio's hits and most popular tracks. In between such familiar AM radio fare as "Blowin' in the Wind," "If I Had a Hammer," "Puff (The Magic Dragon)," "Lemon Tree," and "Leaving on a Jet Plane" are such odd yet equally representative pieces as "Norman Normal," "Gilgary Mountain" (the trio's adaptation of "Whiskey in the Jar," probably the only place where PPM crosses paths, if not swords, with Thin Lizzy and Metallica), "And When I Die," "Early Morning Rain," and "Quit Your Low Down Ways." It skips "Day Is Done" and "Too Much of Nothing" from the U.S. best-of, but apart from those two songs, just about the only tracks missing that might have made this 100 percent perfect in content are "A'soalin'" and "Single Girl" from the In Concert album. The sound is excellent, as one would expect, and one only wishes that the level of workmanship in the audio department had been embraced elsewhere here -- there are typos in one of the song titles, probably owing to language differences. But the latter are easy enough to overlook, as is the dullish jacket design and the lackluster cover art. And oddly enough, this was just about the most ambitious compilation on the trio's work available until the 1990s.