Good Book/Gather Me

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Melanie's back catalog has long been something of a mess on CD, with a number of key albums either out of print or never available in the digital format, but this, the third and last in a series of two-fer reissues from the U.K.'s Edsel Records, helps to rectify this by featuring two of her key albums in one set. 1971's The Good Book is dominated by songs which concern Melanie's dissatisfaction with the music business, but while she was clearly weary of the mechanics of stardom, her muse was in fine fettle, and despite the album's sometimes downbeat tone her performances here are fine, and her covers of Judy Collins' "My Father" and Phil Ochs' "Chords of Fame" rank with her most compelling interpretive work. After completing The Good Book, Melanie left Buddah Records and founded Neighborhood Records with her producer and spouse Peter Schekeryk, but while one of their key criticisms of working for Buddah was the label's constant demand for product, they managed to get Neighborhood's first LP, Gather Me, into stores a mere ten months later. However, Gather Me was clearly no rush job -- it's one of Melanie's most satisfying LPs, beautifully produced and arranged and featuring the star at the top of her form as both a singer and tunesmith. Thanks to the goofy "Brand New Key," it also spawned Melanie's biggest hit, which makes its long absence on CD all the more baffling. Both albums have been given a solid remastering for this set, with Gather Me sounding especially impressive in this form, while most of the artwork from The Good Book's accompanying booklet has been restored for this release. No bonus cuts have been added for Gather Me, though the non-LP B-side "We Don't Know Where We're Going" is tagged onto The Good Book. And finally, Alan Robinson includes a fine liner essay for this reissue. All these years after these albums were first released, Melanie sounds increasingly like one of the unsung pioneers of freak folk, and those with an interest in her work would do well to start with this excellent collection. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi