Folkscene [no label 1CD torrent 12865]
Live at KPFK Studios, Los Angeles, CA, 1970-1973.

Two shows (from May 1970 and Nov 21, 1973) capture Don McLean on either side of "American Pie," and what a difference an iconic hit makes. At the first, he's a tousle haired troubadour, drifting through with all the political conviction of youth; at the second, he's a sage, who says what he needs through his music. The key to his enduring magic, though, is that he doesn't rub it in.

Already known from appearances on Sesame Street and Dick Cavett (but still awaiting his first record contract), the earlier McLean comes across as frightfully earnest, discussing censorship and race relations during the five minute interview clip that punctuates his two song appearance. The shorter 1973 appearance opens with a banjo solo, and closes with the ecologically-knockabout "On The Amazon," a taster for his next album - and there's not a hint of hubris in sight.

Just 19 minutes long, Folkscene is a delightful exhumation, and a reminder of just how much more there was to McLean than driving his Chevy to the levy and whatnot. What a difference, indeed, an iconic hit makes. - Dave Thompson

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April 20, 2007