My attempt to blog all of the entries from the book 1001 Albums to Hear Before You Die
Brief Background: American Pie is McLean’s second album and was recorded in May and June of 1971 and released in October of that year.
What I think:
The obvious focus of this album is the eight and a half minute title track which takes up almost a quarter of the ten song album. It is an obvious choice for one of the best songs ever, but I believe it fits the bill. As a teen, I had a bit of an obsession with the song and it’s lyrics. I used to hear the edited five minute single version almost daily on the local radio station while working at a drug store and never tired of it. Though McLean has always been quiet about the meaning of the lyrics, I see it as a progression from the fifties though the early seventies and a perceived loss of innocence and idealism. Whether that innocence was ever there in the first place can be debated, but it makes for an amazing song of nostalgia.
Listening as a teen, I never was able to get into the rest of the album. I think it was just too slow for my ears. Listening twenty years later I have to say most of the album is really beautiful. “Til Tomorrow”, and “Vincent” are highlights, but it’s “Empty Chairs” that is the really amazing song. And it is a shame it is not more well know than it is. After that though things drop off as McLean gets away from the beauty and goes for something else that something does not work for me. Maybe in another twenty years, those songs will be just my thing.
One last note…. I don’t know if McLean has ever been noted as an influence on Michael Stipe, but the way McLean sings songs like “Vincent” really remind me of him and Stipe’s one sided conversation style.
Do I agree or disagree with the writers as to this being an album you must listen to? I was skeptical when coming into listening to it. I certainly didn’t remember it being a great album and was worried that the title track would have to pull it along. It turns out that about 80% is really stellar.
Rating (Out of 5): 4
American Pie Amazon Review (Out of 5): 4.5
Is this my first time hearing this album? No (47/231)
Percentage of Albums that are new to me: 80%