Bobbie Gentry

An American Quilt: 1967-1974

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Released two years after EMI/Zonophone's The Capitol Years: Ode to Bobbie Gentry, Raven's 26-track, single-disc collection An American Quilt: 1967-1974, intentionally or not, serves as a counterpoint to that pop-oriented compilation. Where that collection left off many charting hits, it did have an MOR, mainstream pop bent, particularly through its inclusion of many covers. This contains the missing hits -- "Okolona River Bottom Band," "Louisiana Man," "Mornin' Glory," although "He Made a Woman Out of Me" and the Glen Campbell duets "Let It Be Me" and "All I Have to Do Is Dream" are missing -- along with the hits and usual suspects from The Capitol Years ("Ode to Billie Joe," "Mississippi Delta," "Touch 'Em With Love," "Fancy," "Apartment 21"). An American Quilt excels in its non-hit song selection, in how it emphasizes Gentry's skill in creating evocative small-town narratives and eerie, low-key mood pieces like "Casket Vignette." Compiler John Dowler relies heavily on this material, which is good not only because The Capitol Years avoided it, but it also enhances Gentry's legacy as a songwriter and performer with a unique style and vision that could not be easily pigeonholed into country, pop, or soul. In its own way, however, it is just as skewed a compilation as The Capitol Years, since it does focus on one side of her musical personality over another, when what was so fascinating about Bobbie Gentry is how she contained both sides, often on one album. Still, that's a minor point -- this is a superb compilation of a neglected artist, and while both this and its Capitol Years companion are necessary, those more interested in her idiosyncratic side should turn here.

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