Four Sides Of Melanie


aec.bgo859.2 8/25/09 New
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    Four Sides Of Melanie Beat Goes On

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Review Text This double-LP anthology of Melanie's work surprised a lot of people when it first appeared in 1972 -- the singer/songwriter/guitarist had enjoyed a short string of hits, but hardly seemed ready for a compilation of this sort. In point of fact, she wasn't quite ready for it, but there it was, a result of her former record label, Buddah, deciding to capitalize on her commercial breakthrough the year before, with "Brand New Key," which had been released by Neighborhood Records. As it turned out, The Four Sides of Melanie wasn't a bad collection, despite a missed treasure or two left out from its 30 songs. The elaborately designed and illustrated package divided its four LP sides into distinct song groupings, the first devoted to her early, formative songs for Buddah, while the second focused on her own biggest hit ("Lay Down ") and her songwriting successes with "What Have They Done to My Song" (then best-known for the New Seekers' rendition) and "The Nickel Song." The third side was given over to her covers of other songwriters' work (which means her version of the Rolling Stones' "Ruby Tuesday," which did chart quite high, is represented there) -- this side has the one major gap in the collection's programming, overlooking her wrenching and haunting rendition of Phil Ochs' "Chords of Fame" from The Good Book. And side four was given over to her more fanciful songs, sometimes aimed at children and at other points expressing the songwriter's idealism. If all of this sounds a bit pretentious to readers in the 21st century, one has to bear in mind that in 1972 songwriters and performers of Melanie's sort were -- for very good reasons -- taken very seriously; the Vietnam War was still going on, and people were fighting in the streets over it (and a lot else), and those on the outside looking in (which is how a lot of people under 30 and, especially, under 20, felt) were looking for leaders and guides. Melanie might never quite have been that, even in a musical context -- compared to, say, figures such as Malvina Reynolds or Joan Baez or Odetta -- but she sure sang and wrote like she might have been, and filled the role for a time. This collection may have been put together for crass commercial reasons, but it is a reminder of that time. The original double-LP was a popular release among longtime fans at the time, though it did muddy the waters somewhat for those who'd discovered her with "Brand New Key," competing with and distracting them from her newest work. Today it sounds, at its best, as on "Lay Down" or "Peace Will Come," like a little bit of heaven in song. The 2009 Beat Goes On double-CD reissue offers state of the art remastering that's a delight to the ear, and re-creates the original artwork and design in miniature, and offers full annotation by John Tobler. ~ Bruce Eder

Track Listing

CD: 1

  1. 1. Somebody Loves Me - 1:25
  2. 2. Beautiful People - 4:38
  3. 3. In the Hour - 3:08
  4. 4. I Really Love Harold - 4:13
  5. 5. Johnny Boy - 3:43
  6. 6. Any Guy - 2:15
  7. 7. I'm Back in Town - 2:21
  8. 8. What Have They Done to My Song Ma - 4:07
  9. 9. Lay Down (Candles in the Rain) - 8:53
  10. 10. Peace Will Come (According to Plan) - 3:21
  11. 11. Good Book - 3:35
  12. 12. Nickel Song - 4:49
  13. 13. Babe Rainbow - 1:16

CD: 2

  1. 14. Mr. Tambourine Man - 4:26
  2. 15. Carolina in My Mind - 4:52
  3. 16. Ruby Tuesday - 5:43
  4. 17. Sign on the Window - 2:28
  5. 18. Lay Lady Lay - 6:18
  6. 19. Christopher Robin - 3:37
  7. 20. Animal Crackers - 3:43
  8. 21. I Don't Eat Animals - 2:16
  9. 22. Psychotherapy - 5:17
  10. 23. Leftover Wine - 5:53

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