Helen Reddy

I Am Woman/Long Hard Climb

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Raven's two-fer release of Helen Reddy's I Am Woman and Long Hard Climb is typically well-produced -- well-annotated by Ian MacFarlane, remastered expertly, nicely designed, adorned by two bonus tracks, and -- above all -- focusing on two records that capture the artist at the peak of her career. All well and good, so the question is this: Is this solely for the diehards or will those who like "I Am Woman" and know nothing else also enjoy this two-fer? The answer is yes, they should enjoy I Am Woman/Long Hard Climb, but it's a qualified "yes" because a little Helen Reddy can go a long way for some listeners -- especially those who enjoy "I Am Woman" for either its camp value or its message. However, those who like the record for its sound -- its layered, post-Glen Campbell, early-'70s soft rock, AM pop, MOR sound -- this is quite enjoyable, particularly because the quality of the songs is quite consistent (apart from the odd stumble like a woeful cover of Ray Charles' "Hit the Road, Jack" or the vaudevillian "The Last Blues Song"). Ironically enough for a singer so associated with a tale of empowerment, Reddy isn't a particularly assertive vocalist; she tends to blend into the production of the records on both albums, which is not a bad thing, since it enhances the enjoyment of each as sheer sound and as period pieces, since they certainly stopped arranging and producing records like this a few years after these were released. And that's also the reason why this disc may, in many ways, be preferable to a hits collection for listeners who like "I Am Woman" or "Delta Dawn," the big single from Long Hard Climb, and want more in that vein instead of all the charting hits, which after a certain point were less endearing than the music captured here.

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