Ian & Sylvia

Lovin' Sound/Full Circle

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Licensed from Universal Music Special Markets, this CD combines the contents of Ian & Sylvia's seventh (Lovin' Sound; 1967) and ninth (Full Circle; 1968) albums. Why, one may wonder, not combine, say, the duo's seventh and eighth (Nashville; 1968) albums or, even more logically, their eighth and ninth (both of which were recorded in Nashville, TN, in 1968) instead? The answer lies in the vagaries of Ian & Sylvia's record label affiliations. They recorded six albums for the small independent Vanguard and then signed to MGM Records, a much larger entity, for which they recorded Lovin' Sound. Sylvia Tyson is fond of telling interviewers (as she did annotator Richie Unterberger for this set) that the Vanguard contract was "ambiguous," but Vanguard's lawyers did not see it that way, and they claimed that Ian & Sylvia still owed the company one more album. When they prevailed, Nashville went to Vanguard, and the duo returned to MGM for Full Circle. So, this collection combines Lovin' Sound and Full Circle because those are the two albums in the MGM catalog, now controlled by Universal, while Vanguard has since been sold to the Welk Music Group. As such, the listener gets to hear two distinct phases of Ian & Sylvia's work. On Lovin' Sound, they were adapting to the folk-rock style of the mid-'60s, discreetly adding keyboards, electric guitar, bass, and drums, along with the occasional string chart, to their folk-based original songs and covers by Tim Hardin, Bob Dylan, and Johnny Cash.

Although both Tysons were accomplished songwriters, they were making records too quickly in the '60s to write all the songs themselves. Five of their six Vanguard albums had reached the charts, and MGM probably intended to try to break them even bigger, giving a strong pop arrangement to Ian Tyson's title song, which was released as a single simultaneously with the album in the late spring of 1967. It only scraped the bottom of the singles charts, however, and the LP was also just a modest seller. Forty years later, it remains a charming effort, boasting a couple of strong Sylvia Tyson compositions in "Where Did All the Love Go?" and "Trilogy." Ian Tyson's efforts are less impressive, although "Mr. Spoons" is a touching tribute to the couple's son, and "National Hotel," given a zany arrangement, looks lightheartedly at the ups and downs of life on the road. Arriving more than a year later and in the wake of Nashville (which Vanguard had no incentive to promote, condemning it to obscurity), Full Circle finds Ian & Sylvia again following musical trends by recording with country musicians including a pedal steel guitarist and fiddlers. Notwithstanding this instrumentation, the album is an eclectic collection that ranges from rock ("Shinbone Alley") to the kind of personal singer/songwriter style starting to emerge from the folk revival in the person of Joni Mitchell (Sylvia Tyson's solo turn, "Woman's World"). Again, the duo appears to have been pressed to come up with material, even to the point of re-recording "Mr. Spoons." But their inclusion of Dylan and Rick Danko's "Tears of Rage" (their third cover of a song from Dylan and the Band's "basement tapes" after putting "This Wheel's on Fire" and "The Mighty Quinn" on Nashville) demonstrates yet again their strengths as interpretive singers. Except for a few tracks on a 1994 compilation, this is the first time that Ian & Sylvia's MGM recordings have been back in print in decades, and they fill in a gap in the duo's history. (Perhaps the album went to the printer on a day when the company proofreader was sick. The song list printed on the back cover, the back of the CD booklet, and the disc itself contains the following errors: "Hang on to a Dream" is shown as "Hand [sic] On to a Dream"; "Woman's World" as "Women's [sic] World"; "Jinkson Johnson" as Jickson [sic] Johnson"; and "The Minstrel" as "The Minstral [sic]." In addition, songwriter Keith McKie, who wrote "Please Think," is listed as "McKei [sic].")

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