Calling this collection of Don McLean's signature songs American Troubadour
seems more than apt, since McLean's left-field 1971 hit, "American Pie," was a surreal song that captured rock & roll, cars, America, us, them, seemingly everything at once, into a mock epic narrative that was both hopeful and ominous, both at once, and completely a campfire singalong -- if anyone could remember all the words -- ah, but it had a chorus anyone could sing, the clear mark of a great song. McLean never flew quite so close to the sun again as a songwriter, if indeed he even tried or wanted to, although "Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)" evoked a similar sense of wistful artistic loss, but much like Jimmy Webb
, he has written sturdy, intelligent songs for over some 40 years now, and if it's his biggest one, "American Pie," that gives him the title American Troubadour
, well, the title still fits. This two-disc set is part of a multimedia package that also includes a book and a DVD centered around a McLean documentary produced by film director Jim Brown, who also produced the documentaries Pete Seeger: The Power of Song
, The Weavers: Wasn't That a Time
, and A Vision Shared: Tribute to Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly
. The CD set features several live tracks, including those of "American Pie" and "Vincent," and the lack of the original single versions is what keeps this from being a definitive "best-of" collection, although it does span McLean's entire career and does a very good job of showing the artistic arc of his work from 1970 to 2010.