The title track announces Don McLean’s 19th Studio Album, the first in eight years was it worth the wait. Yes, it was. The title Botanical Gardens is the hook that the whole album revolves around. Like all gardens, the thirteen tracks are reflective as Don puts it, “the whole album really revolves around the title song. Later on, I realized that the gardens are really a metaphorical heaven, and there’s a kind of death and rebirth.” Botanical Gardens from the first track to the closing Last Night We Were Young has an intimacy created by the easy flow of the songs. Nothing has been over processed there is the rawness of the natural below the surface this is a garden built on the song.
The album is timeless as the tones of textures from Americana, country and easy listening are woven with the insertion of boot stomping rocking tones. Don McLean will forever be instantly connected to American Pie, his biggest hit. Many years have flown under the bridge, Botanical Gardens is more reflective, with an assured delivery the voice has mellowed but the delivery still has an intensity and the tones of American Pie can be heard as an echo linking the past to the presence on many of the phrasing and guitar licks throughout the album.
The title track has been inspired by walks around the gardens in Sydney, opens with a rocky drum roll and determination. This is not loud clashing rock but a singer/songwriter catching the power of rock. A narrative that sets the tone of the album. We are going to wander through the flowers on a path of stepping stones labelled, with Trouble, Love, Life, Regrets, Relationships, Pain and Peace the garden is a journey of reflection through life so we can assess the present.
The happy sunny beat of The Lucky Guy lifts the spirits, the tempo and vocal range suiting McLean’s vocal range and the rolling driving rhythm is a wonderful detour in the garden that at times is rather serious. This is fun, he is The Lucky Guy. Waving Man is a jaunty road trip we get in the car and take a musical country journey picking up the beat adding a lightness to the album, whilst the lyrics look back showing we all have a history of memories many are sad. Now the highlight of the album a complete juxtaposition to Waving Man. Opening with the stillness of a piano, When July Comes attracts your attention immediately. Now McLean with is reliable companion his Martin guitar and his vocals at their best. The vocals pour with emotional pain looking for redemption. The tones and range give the song a melancholy air with the strings underpinning the lyrics.
The change of tempo with a good old Rock n’ Roll Your Baby, this is a number that makes you smile and tap your feet. The music flows and you are taken on an imaginative journey that can at times seem self-indulgent but this is avoided by the witty and at times humble approach from Don McLean demonstrated on Total Eclipse, an Americana fuelled number.
Closing with Last Night We Were Young, the Sinatra cover closes out the journey through the imagined Botanical Garden as we all reflect back to the days when American Pie was young and fresh.
Overall, Botanical Gardens is at times too safe, there are no unexpected but exciting weeds springing up among the at times contrived rhymes. Highlights that give the garden some of the sparkles that after a rain shower and the sun comes out again are, When July Comes and The Lucky Guy. The album is a welcomed addition to every Don McLean fans collection the gems really do sparkle,
EIGHTdoodle paws out of TEN …
- Botanical Gardens
- The Lucky Guy
- A Total Eclipse Of The Sun
- Waving Man
- When July Comes
- You’re All I Ever Had
- Rock ‘n’ Roll Your Baby
- I’ve Cried All The Tears That I Have
- Ain’t She A Honey
- The King of Fools
- Grief and Hope
- You’ve Got Such Beautiful Eyes
- Last Night When We Were Young
Pre-order now with Amazon, iTunes, Spotify and more and visit Don’s new Pledge store for exclusive signed copies of the CD, vinyl and tour posters.