Alone among John Sebastian compilations, Raven's 2007 set Life and Times 1964-1999 attempts to draw a full picture of his career, ranging from his early group the Even Dozen Jug Band and running to his jug band group from the turn of the millennium, the J-Band. Of course, the lion's share of this set is devoted to the Lovin' Spoonful, the band that brought him his fame and remains the cornerstone of his legacy. Some may argue that 21 tracks is a bit too heaping of a spoonful of the Spoonful, but it's also hard to argue that much of Sebastian's legacy isn't built upon that band, so having all the hits here feels right, even if it has the side effect of downplaying his solo work. Only five solo cuts are here -- naturally including his biggest hit, "Welcome Back," the theme from Welcome Back, Kotter -- but then, he only recorded steadily during the first half of the '70s, before taking an extended hiatus and coming back in 1993 with Tar Beach. That album is bypassed here, as Life and Times jumps from 1976's "Welcome Back" all the way to 1999's Chasin' Gus' Ghost, his tribute to Gus Cannon that brought him all the way back to his folk jug band beginnings and provides a nice bookend to a compilation that begins with "Evolution Mama" from the Even Dozen Jug Band, Sebastian's first group. Which means that even if Life and Times 1964-1999 doesn't dig into all eras of Sebastian's career, it gets the basic arc of his career and provides all the big hits along the way, which makes it the best one-stop collection yet assembled on this seminal folk-rocker.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
feat: The Even Dozen Jug Band