thu 19/04/2018

CD: Don McLean - Botanical Gardens | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Don McLean - Botanical Gardens

CD: Don McLean - Botanical Gardens

A most unstarry night

Flushed with fever, embarrassed by the crowd? You should be, Don

Oh dear. After a bumpy couple of years which included an all-too-public arrest for domestic violence to which he pleaded guilty, Don McLean is releasing his first new studio album in eight years. Metaphorically (and sometimes literally) it hits a lot of bum notes and often tips over into self-parody.

For a singer-songwriter whose back catalogue includes such genuine classics as “Crying”, “And I Love You So”, “Winterwood” and of course “American Pie” (the manuscript for which recently went for $1.2 million at auction), and whose talent was (according to some) is hymned in the Charles Fox-Norman Gimbel song “Killing Me Softly with his Song”, Botanical Gardens reveals a career at a pretty pass. The 72 year old singer has recently been linked to 24-year-old model Paris Dylan, who promoted herself to a career via skimpy glam Instagram photo shoots, and who may have inspired some of these lyrics. “You’re a cat that squeals/In pretty blue high-heels/You’re a ching-a-ling/With a diamond ring” he sings in “The Lucky Guy”. Or what about “Ain’t she a honey/Gonna spend all the money I got/Why not/Ain’t she a ripper/With a buckle and a zipper/She’s hot, a lot” (“Ain’t She Hot”)?

Inspired by “the beautiful gardens in Sydney, Australia near the Opera House” (according to the songwriter) and his “most reflective album to date" (according to the PR), it’s really rather a travesty, a waste of studio time and some good musicians. The best moment is “When July Comes”, a pastiche of great-American-songbook-style numbers to which McLean formally tips his hat with “Last Night When We Were Young”, the Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg number which closes the album.

“Grief and Hope” allows that McLean “knew a man who lost a lot”, a moment of self-awareness perhaps. But the key song is surely “The King of Fools” in which he acknowledges that “like Ulysses, I heard the witch’s cry/I lost my direction and still I don’t know why”. A woman cried at his song. She made him feel younger... You can picture the scene. Having made his bed he must now lie amid the tangled sheets, as “castles and mansions lie ruined in the sand/People laugh and mock me…/I lost your love, my crown and jewels/When they call my name, they call me king…The king of fools,” McLean sings, his voice wobbling perilously.

He is not the only one saddened. This could be the day the music died.

Liz Thomson's website

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