Album Details

Time/Life Music
Pop/Rock, Singer/Songwriter, Soft Rock, Country-Rock, Early Pop/Rock, Folk-Rock, Adult Contemporary, Psychedelic, Album Rock, Contemporary Pop/Rock, Contemporary Folk, AM Pop

Album Review

The emergence of the Beatles and Bob Dylan in the '60s caused a profound change in the way popular music was prepared, ending the long-standing separation between non-performing songwriters and non-writing performers. Starting in the mid-'60s, it became common to expect recording artists to develop compositional abilities (which led to a lot of bad songs) and for songwriters to record their own songs (happily for them, Dylan's limited vocal abilities lowered the bar on what constituted an acceptable singing voice). One result was a more personal approach to songwriting, with the new crop of self-writing performers becoming more interested in expressing their own thoughts and feelings than in creating the generalized romantic statements that had dominated popular songs' subject matter in the past. By 1970, this trend had been dubbed "the singer/songwriter movement," and it had begun to dominate the softer side of the pop spectrum, replacing the middle-of-the-road music made by tuxedo-clad classic pop singers, who began to disappear from the rosters of the major record labels, to be replaced by bards in blue jeans strumming acoustic guitars. Time-Life Music's Singers & Songwriters, a 40-track, four-LP set, is a sampling of such music. The compilers have hedged their bet somewhat with the title, which allows them to include not only the major figures of the movement, such as James Taylor, but also the crop of interpretive singers who grew up to offer their own versions of songs written by the performing songwriters, notably Linda Ronstadt. The core of the collection is soft rock music from the first half of the 1970s; though the album's date range is 1965-1982, 23 of its tracks date from 1970-1974. The album is a co-production with Warner Special Products, which explains a preponderance of selections from the catalogs of the Warner labels Warner Bros., Elektra/Asylum, and Atlantic Records; they account for 22 of the tracks. It is as easy to question what was included as it is to complain about what's missing. Bonnie Raitt's "Runaway," Richie Havens' "Here Comes the Sun," Linda Ronstadt's "Blue Bayou," and Judy Collins' "Send in the Clowns" are all cover versions that seem to have only a tangential relationship to the theme, while numbers like Jim Croce's "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" and John Sebastian's "Welcome Back," though self-written, seem like conventional pop rather than real singer/songwriter music. At the same time, some major participants have been excluded; Jackson Browne, John Denver, and Cat Stevens are all missing, while Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Neil Young are represented only by songs they wrote that are performed by others. As such, this is hardly a perfect compilation of the singer/songwriter movement. But it does include many of the movement's biggest hits ("You've Got a Friend," "A Horse With No Name," "You're So Vain," "Fire and Rain") -- in fact, all 40 selections were chart singles -- and even by straying back to the '60s for Donovan and Janis Ian or skipping forward to the '80s for Karla Bonoff's "Personally," it suggests the beginnings and influences of the movement. (Though Singers & Songwriters was an isolated release for Time-Life Music in 1990, the company resurrected the concept for a series of albums beginning in 1999.)
William Ruhlmann, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Domino
  2. Sundown
  3. Love Is a Rose
  4. Summer Breeze
  5. Both Sides Now
  6. Mother and Child Reunion
  7. Time in a Bottle
  8. Poetry Man
  9. Year of the Cat
  10. That's the Way I've Always Heard It Should Be
  11. Everybody's Talkin'
  12. Runaway
  13. Love the One You're With
  14. Midnight at the Oasis
  15. You've Got a Friend
  16. Catch the Wind
  17. Maggie May
  18. Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)
  19. Here Comes the Sun
  20. Taxi
  21. Bad, Bad Leroy Brown
  22. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
  23. City of New Orleans
  24. Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues
  25. Blue Bayou
  26. Horse With No Name
  27. Personally
  28. Welcome Back
  29. Society's Child (Baby I've Been Thinking)
  30. Get Together
  31. Mr. Bojangles
  32. Cat's in the Cradle
  33. If You Could Read My Mind
  34. We're All Alone
  35. Abraham, Martin and John
  36. You're So Vain
  37. Fire and Rain
  38. 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover
  39. Short People
  40. Send in the Clowns