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Prime Time / Chain Lighting / Believers

Don McLean

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Album Review

This British two-fer combines the contents of Don McLean's seventh, eighth, and ninth albums, Prime Time (originally released in October 1977), Chain Lightning (initially released internationally in December 1978, but not in the U.S. until January 1981), and Believers (October 1981). (Each of these albums was reissued on CD in the U.S. in 1997 by Hip-O Records with an added bonus track, and those tracks, the McLean original "If You Can Dream" and covers of Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind" and Bobby Darin's "Dream Lover," are included here.) Well past his early-'70s commercial breakthrough with "American Pie" and "Vincent," McLean in the late '70s and early '80s was an assured writer and performer with an eclectic taste in musical styles, as willing to cover an old favorite as to write a new song. The American hits that emerged from these sessions included covers of Roy Orbison's "Crying" and the Skyliners' "Since I Don't Have You," as well as McLean's remake of his own "Castles in the Air." McLean named each album after an ambitious title song that examined the world critically in social ("Prime Time"), romantic ("Chain Lightning"), or philosophical ("Believers") terms, but filled the rest of the LPs with love songs often set to pop-country arrangements and covers of oldies rendered affectionately, if sometimes a little too carefully. Throughout, he stuck to a world view developed on his earlier albums, with a downcast, nearly Biblical attitude toward present times and a sense of warm nostalgia for the musical past of his teens, as romantic love offered the possibility of refuge from the crass commercialism, greed, and pollution of contemporary life. And he always maintained a practically curatorial sense of taste and craft, making these albums highly listenable decades after they first appeared.


Born: 02 October 1945 in New Rochelle, NY

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Famed for — and ultimately defined by — his perennial "American Pie," singer/songwriter Don McLean was born October 2, 1945, in New Rochelle, New York. After getting his start in the folk clubs of New York City during the mid-'60s, McLean struggled for a number of years, building a small following through his work with Pete...
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