Tom Paxton's first two studio albums, Ramblin' Boy (1964) and Ain't That News! (1965) are combined on this European two-fer CD, and they blend easily into one long album of Paxton's initial batch of songs. Growing up in Oklahoma from the age of ten, Paxton was steeped in the folk tradition of Woody Guthrie while also boasting a college education that introduced the brainy comic tone of Tom Lehrer to his work and a stint in the Army that made his critique of the American military closely observed. Arriving in New York, he became part of the topical song movement centered on Broadside magazine that advocated scouring the day's newspapers for suitable subjects to be turned into lyrics with a left-wing perspective. The result was plenty of original material that made its way into the repertoires of better established singers. "Ramblin' Boy" and "What Did You Learn in School Today?" had been taken up by Pete Seeger, for example, and "The Marvelous Toy" had become a minor chart hit for the Chad Mitchell Trio, which probably helped Elektra Records' head Jac Holzman decide to sign the songwriter despite not being impressed at an audition, as Paxton recalls to Peter Doggett in this collection's liner notes. It was a good decision. Ramblin' Boy contained "The Last Thing on My Mind" and "I Can't Help but Wonder Where I'm Bound," both of which quickly became much-covered standards, while Ain't That News! included "Bottle of Wine," later covered for a hit by the Fireballs. But such romantic and reflective material, and drinking songs, made up only part of Paxton's catalog, much of the rest consisting of biting social commentary, most of which remained striking decades later. In some cases, the names would need changing (the indictment of the kind of journalism found in "Daily News," for example, could, by 2001, be better applied to the right-leaning New York Post or television's Fox News), but the overall viewpoint, favoring union workers, Civil Rights, and opposing war, would remain timely.
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