Other volumes in this series may have more memorable hits, but volume four is one of the classiest entries, in terms of being chock-full of songs that remain respectable (and a few of which have even improved) after the 30 years that have passed. It's relentlessly tuneful AM radio but, with the possible exception of the two bonus tracks (Mark Lindsay
's "Silver Bird" and the Glass Bottle
's "I Ain't Got TIme Anymore"), nothing that would make the modern listener wonder "what we were thinking?" when millions of copies of these records were sold.
The all-but-forgotten "Yellow River" by the completely forgotten British trio Christie
makes for an upbeat catchily melodic opening, heavy on the guitars and with a beat that sounds like "Proud Mary" speeded up a notch. The crisp production and positive vibes (despite some downbeat lyrics) keep coming with country legend Lynn Anderson
's hit version of Joe South
's "Rose Garden" (a record that, ironically, according to some psychologists of the era, indirectly caused its share of unhappiness among some psychotherapy patients who, picking up the Hannah Green book that happens to use the title I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, expected to read something just as pleasant and comparatively upbeat as the song). The country songs reaching the upper reaches of the pop charts in 1970 were an astonishingly good group -- Ray Price
's "For the Good Times" and Sammi Smith
's "Help Me Make It Through the Night" were both huge hits written by Kris Kristofferson
and represented him as a major new songwriting voice among pop/rock listeners. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
's version of Jerry Jeff Walker
's "Mr. Bojangles" brought the New York-born country singer more success than his own recording and gave the Dirt Band
its only Top Ten success, helping to get a network television gig for the country-jugband-rock group.
For anyone just beginning to pay attention, this collection's one amazing cut is "One Toke Over the Line" by Brewer & Shipley
. The most overt drug song to make the Top Ten (peaking at number five), it would have been banned by most radio stations even a year earlier, and might have had a hard time 30 years later; but for a time, even in the middle of the Nixon administration and its well-known crackdown on youth culture, radio stations and the public were prepared to embrace and enjoy a country-sounding paean to the joys of marijuana use. The real question marks on this disc, however, concern some of the one-hit wonders included. One has to wonder what ever happened to the Bells
, an Anglo-Canadian outfit, on listening to the ethereal "Stay Awhile," the group's only major American success. Similarly, one wonders precisely who or what was Wadworth Mansion, a typical one-shot outfit of the period whose sole success, "Sweet Mary," graces this set; the members of Wadsworth Mansion
are known and the song is an original by one of them, but it would be interesting to know what happened to them.