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Those Were Days
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  • It might amaze anyone who only knows her for "Those Were the Days" to realize that of the 17 songs on this imported CD, only four appeared on either of Mary Hopkin's albums, and that only "Those Were the Days" has been available elsewhere on CD since the mid-'90s. Who would have thought she'd released that much music in just three years? This collection is partly related to the similarly titled 11-song LP compilation of Hopkin's work that appeared during 1972. That release was premature, a result of Apple Records' thrashing about trying to generate revenue, but time has made the need for such a collection a little more clear. Hopkin ended up leaving behind a considerable number of singles that never made it onto albums, all of which are featured here along with most of their B-sides; the latter are extremely important, because Hopkin usually preferred the B-sides, feeling they represented what she was really about as a singer far better than her A-sides. Almost all of the material is eminently listenable and much of it is extremely enjoyable. Hopkin may have regarded herself as a folksinger, but her intonation and articulation made her a very formidable pop talent as well, as revealed in her smoothly elegant version of "Que Sera Sera." Whether she was singing in Italian or English, or in a folk or a pop idiom, Hopkin brought beguiling sensitivity and emotion to her recordings, and is consistently interesting to hear for her finely nuanced diction. And just when listeners think they know what to expect from her, along comes her country-styled "Jefferson," which, with its gentle, good-natured whoop of delight from Hopkin and some careful overdubbing, sounds like a rehearsal take from the Emmylou Harris/Linda Ronstadt/Dolly Parton trio album. A few places drag, such as the overproduced 1971-vintage single "Let My Name Be Sorrow," which demands more drama than Hopkin can comfortably bring to the song, but it is balanced by the presence of "When I Am Old One Day," a previously unreleased outtake from Earth Song/Ocean Song -- which, with the three songs off of the latter album, comprise the best material on this collection -- and "Kew Gardens," a Ralph McTell song that was previously only available as the B-side of a single. The sound is state of the art circa the mid-'90s, with a lot of warmth and detail, and the notes are reasonably thorough and accompanied by a detailed release history of each song. ~ Bruce Eder
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