Review: "Botanical Gardens" - Don McLean

by Andy Snipper, Music-News.com

72 years on this earth tends to come with a few plusses as well as a few negatives for Don McLean.

On the plus side he has a wealth of life histories to draw on for his inspiration but on the negative side he no longer has the strength in his voice to carry the longer notes that came so easily back in the 70’s.

That have been said though, this album is an excellent example of his songwriting talents and his ability to carry a story and the reflective and inward-looking tone of the songs can be an education to many. Quoth McLean “The inspiration for the project started years ago when I would walk in the beautiful gardens in Sydney Australia near the Opera House. I would dream young dreams and it was a comfort and an inspiration. I was always young inside, like we all are, and I felt it again there.”

This has the feel of an autumn/winter period – a looking back and kindly remembering the events and the pleasures of the past mixed in with soft regrets and a wistful reverie. McLean has said that the songs here represent the different parts of his botanical gardens – “a metaphorical heaven with a kind of death and rebirth” – and the elegiac nature of most of the songs clearly represent that view.

Musically he crosses over all of the country and roots boundaries with touches of pure country blues – ‘Waving Man’ – or rock & roll – ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Your Baby’ – but for me, he is at his best on a track such as ‘A Total Eclipse Of The Sun’ which has an almost Zombies feel to it as he remembers first meeting with an old love.

It is probably his best work for many years, not perfect but filled with elements of wonder and intrigue – which takes us right back to his walks through the botanical gardens of Sydney Australia.


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