Roger McGuinn

Limited Edition

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There's something familiar about Roger McGuinn's transformation from the acoustic folknik of Treasures From the Folk Den to the folk-rocker of Limited Edition. Indeed, it's as though he glanced back at his own career, born in the heart of the early-'60s folk revival and fully realized in the mid-'60s with the Byrds, and decided to dust off the blueprint. The Folk Den underlines his roots, featuring guest spots by revival contemporaries like Judy Collins, Pete Seeger, and Odetta, whereas Limited Edition, by taking the 12-string Rickenbacker out of mothballs, emphasizes his artistic maturation. It's difficult, however, to consciously do what one once did unconsciously, and McGuinn returns to his old haunts with mixed results.

Limited Edition begins with a jaunty take on George Harrison's "If I Needed Someone," a musical tribute to the man who led McGuinn to pick up the Rickenbacker in the first place. The effort, though well sung, finally turns flat thanks to stiff percussion and unimaginative guitar runs that distract more than decorate the song. "Parade of Lost Dreams" works much better, marrying the sounds of the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield into an enticing folk-country-rock blend highlighted by the nifty guitar work that's tightly woven into the song's tapestry. Before the listener can get too comfortable with any particular sound, though, McGuinn is busy trying on another musical hat. He combines hip-hop and folk for the oddest take on "Shady Grove" ever committed to CD, and switches to straight rock for a version of "James Alley Blues." The overall effect of Limited Edition is a bit scattershot, as though it was recorded over a long period of time. McGuinn's in good voice, and it's pleasant enough to hear him pick up the electric 12-string guitar again, but many of these songs -- "Shenandoah," "When the Saints Go Marching In," and "Saint James Infirmary" -- receive lackluster treatments. Limited Edition will probably entertain hardcore McGuinn fans, but it doesn't qualify as a new chapter in his distinguished career.

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