Rod McKuen

Greatest Hits Collection

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It's ironic that Rod McKuen is remembered as a best-selling poet, because his music may prove to be more enduring. Like Neil Diamond, he was an ambitious and sometimes pretentious songwriter with similar inclinations toward the sappy and sentimental. His work can sound dated today because of his preoccupations with free love themes and celebrities of the day, but McKuen occasionally let loose a real gem of a song and many of his best compositions have been widely covered. He must have retained the masters to much of his back catalog, because this inexpensive (around $30 retail) box set collects original recordings made for labels such as Warner Brothers and A&M from the late '50s onward. There is a lot of material here -- more than most casual fans would want -- but for those who are as intrigued by McKuen's failures as his successes, this five-disc box offers a wealth of each. The set concentrates mostly on songs rather than poetry recitations, which is good or bad depending upon your tastes, and he croaks his way through such classics as "Lonesome Cities," "Kaleidoscope," "Ally, Ally Oxen Free," and many others. The discs in the set are also available individually.

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