Don McLean

Don Mclean: American Troubadour

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Calling this collection of Don McLean's signature songs American Troubadour seems more than apt, since McLean's left-field 1971 hit, "American Pie," was a surreal song that captured rock & roll, cars, America, us, them, seemingly everything at once, into a mock epic narrative that was both hopeful and ominous, both at once, and completely a campfire singalong -- if anyone could remember all the words -- ah, but it had a chorus anyone could sing, the clear mark of a great song. McLean never flew quite so close to the sun again as a songwriter, if indeed he even tried or wanted to, although "Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)" evoked a similar sense of wistful artistic loss, but much like Jimmy Webb, he has written sturdy, intelligent songs for over some 40 years now, and if it's his biggest one, "American Pie," that gives him the title American Troubadour, well, the title still fits. This two-disc set is part of a multimedia package that also includes a book and a DVD centered around a McLean documentary produced by film director Jim Brown, who also produced the documentaries Pete Seeger: The Power of Song, The Weavers: Wasn’t That a Time, and A Vision Shared: Tribute to Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly. The CD set features several live tracks, including those of "American Pie" and "Vincent," and the lack of the original single versions is what keeps this from being a definitive "best-of" collection, although it does span McLean's entire career and does a very good job of showing the artistic arc of his work from 1970 to 2010.

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