Don McLean

United Artists Records, 1970


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Every musician has to make a start somewhere before they release their masterpiece. It's rare when an artist hits the bullseye on their first try - and when they do, they face the inenviable task of always trying to top their first effort.

Don McLean didn't hit the bullseye on his first effort, Tapestry. However, he did create an album that, more often than not, was entertaining. (He would hit paydirt one album later with American Pie.)

McLean quickly proves on the eleven songs contained herein that he is both a guitarist and a voice that was to be reckoned with. While I wasn't particularly fond of the rock bent to the first song "Castles In The Air," it does help to establish McLean as a powerful songwriter and one of the strongest voices in the folk movement of that time, right up there with John Denver and Jim Croce.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

McLean's talents come forth stronger on songs like "And I Love You So," "Bad Girl," "Magdalene Lane" and "General Store". The gentle intertwining of his vocals with the hum of acoustic guitar would be the signature of his music for his whole career - and frankly, it's not a bad way to be remembered. Songs like "Bad Girl" are surprisingly moving for such a young artist; don't be surprised if you find yourself close to tears on this one.

However, not everything on Tapestry is a work of art. "Orphans Of Wealth" is a very preachy song that tends to grate on one's nerves quickly. One other number, "Circus Song," features far too many style changes. This one could have been an effective number, only McLean made it far too complicated than it should have been. (I'm not against songs that challenge the listener, but if you write a song whose goal is to be complicated in structure, you usually only succeed in being confusing.)

While a lot of the music on Tapestry is fairly enjoyable, it is not the masterpiece one might have expected, especially if you've grown up (like I have) on American Pie. But to ignore this album is also not a good idea. It does present the seeds of McLean's greatness, in both his musical ability and his ability to tell a story through a song ("General Store"). It is traits like these that made '70s folk-pop some of the best music I have ever had the grace of experiencing, even if I'm experiencing some of it much later in my life. (Gimme a break; I think I was all of one year old when this one came out.)

Tapestry is still a pleasurable album to listen to, even with its flaws, and it does show that McLean was just getting warmed up for what would be the album that he will always be remembered for. Unfortunately, in the shuffle of time, albums like this one have been forgotten - pity.

Rating: B-

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of United Artists Records, and is used for informational purposes only.