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The Best of Ralph McTell

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Album Review

Containing exactly twice as many tracks as the similarly packaged Definitive Transatlantic Collection, The Best of Ralph McTell is an excellent budget sampler of McTell's late-'60s albums for the label. Most of his best songs are here ("Streets of London," "Michael in the Garden"), but this two-disc set can't really be considered definitive, since later songs like "From Clare to Here" are every bit as essential, if not more so. The Best Of does well to visit all of McTell's personalities, from the street-corner guitarist of "Blind Blake's Rag" to the dreamy poet of "The Mermaid and the Seagull," but for latter-day fans looking to discover McTell's work, this may not be the perfect introduction. Great as they are, these songs were subject to the recording practices of the time, where flutes, strings, and other orchestrations were applied in thick layers to enhance the material's across-the-board commercial appeal. Not all the songs suffer from this, but newcomers may want to get their first dose of McTell's art via the excellent concert album Ralph, Albert, & Sydney, which features many of his very best songs in the acoustic, intimate setting in which they were intended.


Born: December 3, 1944 in Farnborough, Kent, England

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

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

Although he's best-known for his classic folk song staple "Streets of London," which first appeared on his Spiral Staircase album in 1969, Ralph McTell is a multi-dimensional guitarist and singer/songwriter who's influenced hundreds of folk singers in Great Britain, Europe, and the U.S. Fortunately, people in the U.S. and Europe are beginning to connect to his vast body of excellent original work, and not just "Streets," which has been recorded more than 200 times by artists as diverse as Bruce...
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