Various Artists

Singers & Songwriters: The 1960's

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Time-Life Music's Singers & Songwriters series, its title a mild corruption of "singer/songwriter," is devoted primarily to the singer/songwriter movement of the early '70s, at least as far as that movement can be traced by sticking almost exclusively to major hit singles, which has meant that the series also has incorporated other styles of soft rock. The point, though, is to chronicle the music of performers inspired by Bob Dylan and the Beatles in the 1960s, who began writing their own songs in a more individual, personalized manner than the romantic pop songs generally written for singers earlier, and who performed them in arrangements that merged elements of folk music and rock & roll, a style dubbed "folk-rock" in 1965. This volume of the series looks back at that formative period, gathering tracks from 1964 to 1969, and within the parameters of the series it's a reasonable collection. There are even a couple of tracks that were not hit singles -- Gordon Lightfoot's "Early Morning Rain" (a chart entry for Peter, Paul & Mary) and Bob Dylan's "To Ramona" (an LP track from Another Side of Bob Dylan). The inclusion of this particular Dylan track is hard to understand, unless it's the only one the compilers were allowed to use, which may well have been the case, since a folk-rock number such as "Like a Rolling Stone" clearly would have fit the bill better. One can easily cite other obvious omissions. There's nothing by Simon & Garfunkel, whose "The Sounds of Silence" among other songs would have fit perfectly, nothing from Peter, Paul & Mary or Crosby, Stills & Nash. Though there are socially conscious songs like Janis Ian's "Society's Child (Baby I've Been Thinking)," the protest element of folk-rock is underrepresented. Not only are non-hitmakers like Phil Ochs and Tom Paxton missing, but so is Barry McGuire's chart-topping "Eve of Destruction." The no-shows are even more noticeable given the album's brevity; at 75-and-a-half minutes, the material could have been fit onto one CD instead of being spread across two. Still, one gets a good sampling of the most popular folk-rock music of the second half of the 1960s, from well-known names like the Byrds, the Mamas & the Papas, and the Lovin' Spoonful to one-hit wonders like Scott McKenzie ("San Francisco [Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair]"), Bob Lind ("Elusive Butterfly"), and Thunderclap Newman ("Something in the Air"). With its thoughtful, vaguely philosophical tone, this is strikingly different popular music from what went before it, and it led directly to the singer/songwriter movement of the 1970s, some of whose participants (David Crosby of the Byrds, John Sebastian of the Lovin' Spoonful, Jesse Colin Young of the Youngbloods, Joni Mitchell, author of Judy Collins' "Both Sides Now") actually appear on the disc.

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