Don McLean Botanical Gardens
Now approaching the age of 73 and with a full 8 years since his last release, Don McLean is back with a new album and a 14 date UK tour. Finding inspiration in the "Botanical Gardens" of Sydney near to the Opera House has certainly got his creative juices going and at times delivers songs with a verve and a gusto that someone a third his age would be proud of.
It is the bluesy title track that open up the album, and we get a feeling of the joy Don finds "away from the noise and the dark city canyons".
Songs like "The Lucky Guy" shows Don to be in a good place romantically even hitting a high note to close out the song with.
Of the stand out tracks "A Total Eclipse Of The Sun" sees Don in rocking form, again belying his age as he tells of a chance encounter in July 1963, i'm fairly sure that from the opening 20 seconds or so no-one would imagine it to be a Don McLean song. Another of the more successful tracks is "The King Of Fools" which has a somewhat epic feel about it, and has some harsh realisations, "People laugh and mock me who once obeyed commands" and it reflects on a love lost and the effect that it as on him.
"Waving Man" behind its jaunty country tune is actually quite an affecting story about an elderly man with dementia who sits in his wheelchair, and all he can do is now is wave. The song gradually reveals little details such as him going to war where he lost a lot of his friends. On a personal level he waves goodbye to his kids as they leave home and his wife as she dies.
"Rock 'n Roll Your Baby" is a surprising country rocker as the band get a lot of space to show off their talents over which Don puts down a suitably rocking lyric. As one of the worlds great lyricists, it is interesting seeing him getting in the rhymes that make up "Ain't She a Honey" a lighter jazz styling that certainly raises a smile.
The one area of the album that perhaps is not as engaging is Don's reinvention into a jazz crooner. The tunes may be there, "When July Comes" certainly has an orchestral cinematic swirl but Don's voice on the sustained notes does start to show his age. Similarly "You're all I Ever Had" is another song from a bygone era, it has the beauty and style of a late night jazz cafe in the 1950's but does sound a little anachronistic and slightly at odds with the rest of the album.
Only on the final song, noticably the one song that Don did not pen "Last Night When We Were Young" does he sound more at ease in this new guise as crooner.