Tom Paxton

Heroes

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Tom Paxton's third and final album for the venerable folk label Vanguard Records is a '70s neo-folk gem. Not quite aggressive enough to be folk-rock nor orchestrated enough to compare to the chamber-folk efforts of Judy Collins or Nick Drake, HEROES is more akin to the subtly adventurous arrangements of mid-period Joni Mitchell or early Carly Simon. Lyrically, however, it's pure Paxton all the way. Evenly split between serious songs and satirical broadsides, the concerns addressed in HEROES are like a yearbook of 1978: the calypso-flavored "Anita O.J." slams then-famous homophobe and orange juice spokeswoman Anita Bryant in no uncertain terms, while the more lighthearted "Hand Me Down My Jogging Shoes" pokes gentler fun at the running craze. In sharp contrast are deadly serious songs like "The Death of Stephen Biko," which is more literal than Peter Gabriel's later song about the South African martyr, but has just as stunning an emotional impact.

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