Various Artists

20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: Best of Folk

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With songs by the Mamas & the Papas, the Cowsills, and Traffic, 20th Century Masters -- The Millennium Collection: Best of Folk doesn't quite live up to what its title promises -- "Best of Folk-Rock" comes a little closer to the mix of largely (but not entirely) acoustic performances from singer/songwriters of the '60s and '70s that this compilation features. The album is at its most authentic on tracks like John Martyn's "May You Never," Barry McGuire's "Eve of Destruction," Cat Stevens' "Father and Son," Richie Havens' version of Dylan's "Just Like a Woman," and Tim Hardin's "If I Were a Carpenter," all of which capture the back-to-basics eloquence of '60s and '70s folk. By comparison, the Mamas & the Papas' "Monday, Monday" and the Cowsills' "The Rain, the Park and Other Things" sound even more lightweight than they would on their own, though it's possible they were included to show just how far-reaching folk's influence was in that era. Simon & Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair," Judy Collins' "Both Sides Now," and Traffic's "John Barleycorn" are among the collection's best balances of folk substance and pop style, a mix that 20th Century Masters -- The Millennium Collection: Best of Folk achieves enough of the time to make it worthwhile for folk-rock fans, despite its misleading title.

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