When one thinks of the singer/songwriter style of popular music, one thinks inevitably of the defining artists of the early '70s: James Taylor, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, Jackson Browne, etc. None of these names appear on The Ultimate Singer-Songwriter Collection, which tends to call the claim made by that title into question. But in the wake of those top-drawer artists came a whole raft of second-echelon performers who took the singer/songwriter style into the pop singles charts during the '70s and beyond, and it is they who turn up here, acts like Seals & Crofts, Harry Chapin, and Jim Croce (each of whom is represented by two songs). There are also precursors like Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Laura Nyro, and Donovan, as well as late entries such as Rickie Lee Jones, Elvis Costello, and even Marc Cohn (whose inclusion allows the set to claim a stretch from the 1960s to the 1990s, though most tracks dates from the '70s). Although every song was written or co-written by the person or people performing it, many of the artists are ones few would place in the singer/songwriter category. (Todd Rundgren? Daryl Hall & John Oates? Christopher Cross? Michael McDonald?) They belong, instead, to a broader adult contemporary, "Lite FM," or soft rock style. Especially for a listener who longs for the kind of soothing pop music of the mid- to late '70s, the album is ideal. It is available through the Columbia Music Club, and though the running time could have fit onto two CDs instead of being stretched over three, the release price of $19.99 (plus tax and a hefty shipping/processing charge, of course) made the set a reasonable value.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann