This release is a collection of rare and previously unreleased Don McLean recordings that includes a DVD with a mini rehearsal and a couple of extras. McLean is probably best known for his No. 1 hit, “American Pie”—a song that was recently voted one of the greatest songs of the 20th century in a poll done by the RIAA and the NEA. But Don’s had over 40 gold and platinum records worldwide and is still working on past his 60th birthday. On the CD there are some live versions of familiar songs as well as a new McLean song, “Run Diana Run.” Every song has its history and on this compilation Don worked with legendary producer Joel Dorn who worked with him on a record back in 1974. Apparently, the connection has to do with the production of “Killing Me Softly” by Roberta Flack. The song was inspired by a performance of “Empty Chairs”–a song on this collection, and a terribly sad tune about a loved one leaving. There is more to the story and much more contained in the accompanying booklet (which is worth reading and penned by Dorn).
“Vincent” is another song that marks the memories of many who have heard it. Who would have thought it was written for Vincent Van Gogh?! Other songs include Don’s take on classics like “Love Me Tender” and “(It Was) A Very Good Year,” which he does quite successfully. There are a few Western numbers and the material is not filler, but good stuff!
The DVD is 1.33:1 full frame with DD 2.0. Don plays with the Jordanaires for a 1984 Christmas concert at Carnegie Hall for about 20 minutes. The audio is uneven and Don’s voice is sometimes on the left, sometimes in middle, etc. The extra music video shows its age and is the only one ever done by McLean. The same can be said for the duet with Nanci Griffith that is also included (although it fares much better regarding entertainment value). Sound quality varies throughout and while some tracks are excellent, others are only average—track three has a lot of sibilance while track four has too much reverb. The acoustic guitar and voice are generally excellent.
Songs on CD: If You Could Read My Mind; Vincent (Starry, Starry Night); Wonderful Baby; Love Me Tender; (It Was) A Very Good Year; El Paso; My Saddle Pals and I; And I Love You So; Crying; Empty chairs; Homeless Brother; TB Blues; Magdalene Lane; Infinity; Prime Time; American Pie; Run, Diana Run; You’ve Go To Share.
Songs on DVD: Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer; Left For Dead On The Road Of Love; Slow And Easy; Rudolph 2; Tulsa Time; Deep In The Heart Of Texas; White Christmas; Rudolph 3; Don’t; Dig A Little Deeper; Headroom – Video (1990); And I Love You So – Concert Duet with Nanci Griffith (2000)
– Brian Bloom