Various Artists

Singers & Songwriters Hard-to-Find Hits

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The compilers of Time-Life Music's Singers and Songwriters series of soft rock music, most of it from the 1970s, find a concept that allows them to add a coda to the collection with what they term "hard-to-find hits." In truth, half of the 24 tracks can't be called "hits" in the conventional sense, since they were never released as singles or, if they were, never made the charts. The other half figured in the Top 40 sometime between 1966 and 1980, though generally they are not among the biggest hits scored by the artists featured. The songs that really justify the title are ones like Austin Roberts' maudlin "Rocky (Your Love Is Safe With Me)" and the equally creepy "Billy and Sue" by B.J. Thomas, which made the pop Top 40 in 1966 though it actually dated back to 1964. These are not the kinds of songs that usually turn up on compilations, and they are indeed hard to find. But Chicago's "Make Me Smile," for example, which appears on many of the band's hits collections, would be better described as ubiquitous. Nevertheless, the album's title alerts potential customers (or those who have signed on for the whole series) that this is not going to be another bunch of hit singles. And that is actually a welcome change, especially when it means that key album tracks like Loggins & Messina's "Be Free" (from Mother Lode), Eric Clapton's "May You Never" (from Slowhand), and Ry Cooder's "Jesus on the Mainline" (from Paradise and Lunch) are going to be included. There are also embarrassments like Harry Chapin's "Sequel" (aka "Taxi II"), making the overall compilation uneven. But there are enough gems here to make this a worthy postscript to the Singers and Songwriters series, whatever it really should be called.

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