Botanical Gardens

Don McLean

BMG Records, 2018

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/23/2018

Don McLean will of course always be remembered for his 1971 hit “American Pie.” Not only has the song become an American classic, but the album it was on, American Pie, also hit #1 on the Billboard Chart. And though McLean hasn't rivaled his '70s commercial success, he's managed to release albums in every decade since.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Botanical Gardens, his 19th album, finds the icon blending folk, Americana, country, and rootsy rock into a very reflective listen where inspiration was derived from McLean's walks in the scenic gardens near the Opera House in Sydney, Australia.

The album starts with the title track, where's McLean's rich voice guides us through loud, soulful rock 'n' roll with a subtle orchestral slant that suits the warm guitars well. This fuller, rock sound is also evident on later tracks like the robust “Rock 'N' Roll Your Baby.”

This disc primarily involves contemplation, and songs like the introspective, key-heavy ballad “You're All I Ever Had” and the darker, haunting piano of “When July Comes” suit the cover art well. However, upbeat tunes like the honky tonk, country rock of “Waving Man” and dance friendly, rootsy shuffling of “The Lucky Guy” add a welcomed contrast to the mood. Elsewhere, McLean gets quirky on the pop influenced “Ain't She A Honey” and touches on swing music with the sweet love song “You've Got Such Beautiful Eyes.”

The album ends on a tune popularized by Frank Sinatra, and it is a fitting conclusion to a listen as thoughtful as this. McLean's interpretation of “Last Night When We Were Young” is a gorgeous, lush and inspired finisher that even brings in a string section.

It's been eight years since we've heard new music from McLean, and if you were anxiously waiting, well, it was worth it. The man does what he knows best here, and for nearly 50 years he's been doing it at an extraordinarily high level.

Rating: B-

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