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Plainsong Review

by James Christopher Monger

Ian Matthews' post-Fairport Convention quartet Plainsong only produced two records (not counting their competent but mediocre 1995 reunion album) before breaking up in the mid-'70s, but both 1972's In Search of Amelia Earhart and Now We Are 3 -- the latter is issued here for the very first time -- contain some of the most flawless and emotional country-tinged folk-rock of the era. This eponymous two-disc set from the Water label includes both albums in their entirety, as well as numerous bonus cuts and live tracks. Matthews was blessed with one of the clearest voices in popular music, and he let it shine on the wistful Amelia Earhart. "For the Second Time," "Louise," "Call the Tune," and the epic title cut rank as some his best work, but the group's long-shelved sophomore record was not without its charms. Taken on its own, Now We Are 3 is Amelia Earhart's countrified, less successful baby brother, but the honky tonk-inspired "Swinging Doors," the Randy Newman-esque "Miss the Mississippi and You," and the sparse "Keep on Sailing" and "Old Man at the Mill" -- both of which eventually found homes on Matthews' 1973 solo release -- are top-notch productions that put the more popular and recognizable work of "Take it Easy"-era Eagles to shame. Highly recommended.

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