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Folk/Americana - Released March 29, 2005 | Rhino - Elektra

The recordings Tom Paxton made at the beginning of his career for Elektra Records in the 1960s and early 1970s are inarguably his most important and influential. Those Elektra albums have been out of print for quite some time, and this 26-track survey of his 1964-71 recordings for the label, I Can't Help but Wonder Where I'm Bound, is an overdue compilation of his most significant work. The original versions of all of his most famous songs are here: "Ramblin' Boy," "The Last Thing on My Mind," "Bottle of Wine," "Lyndon Johnson Told the Nation," "I Can't Help but Wonder Where I'm Bound," and "Goin' to the Zoo," just for starters. His acoustic mid-'60s period is more heavily represented than his mild, later electric folk-rock material -- there are seven songs alone from his 1964 debut LP, Ramblin' Boy -- but that's an appropriate decision, as Paxton's most durable songs were produced when he was recording acoustically. In addition to zeroing in on Paxton's best music, the track selection also ably illustrates several facets of his gentle and warm (if not always brilliantly melodic or compellingly sung) repertoire: anti-war protest ("Lyndon Johnson Told the Nation"), love songs ("The Last Thing on My Mind"), original compositions that sound like folk standards ("Ramblin' Boy"), comic satire ("Forest Lawn"), and kids' songs ("Goin' to the Zoo"). © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Pop - Released February 8, 2008 | Rhino - Elektra

Paxton's fourth album occasioned his first, albeit quite tentative, ventures into tracks employing some full band backing and orchestration. Among the session musicians were some notable players, including David Grisman on mandocello, Paul Harris on keyboards, and Herb Brown on bass. His songwriting, too, was becoming more diverse, from character sketches ("Victoria Dines Alone," about a lonely elderly woman) to comedy ("The Hooker") to languid introspection ("So Much for Winning," which ran almost seven minutes). The expected political commentary was present in "Talking Vietnam Pot Luck Blues," and as much as U.S. involvement in Vietnam cried out for protest, this was a card that Paxton had arguably overplayed by this time. Unfortunately the best song, the odd "Mr. Blue" (whose protagonist is something of a Kafkaesque figure), isn't served too well by the almost tuneless arrangement and under-emoted vocals. The psychedelic cover by Clear Light (which actually preceded the release of Paxton's own version) absolutely tears it to pieces, and Judy Collins' interpretation (heard on a 1967 TV special, although not included on her albums) was also considerably superior. "Now That I've Taken My Life" rates as a highlight for its mordantly lighthearted and slightly surreal suicide note, complemented by mock-jaunty brass and orchestral fanfares. Another modest album, with modest updates on his original format, by a 1960s singer/songwriter whose very musical persona was defined, too much really, by modesty. Only one of these songs was selected for the CD anthology The Best of Tom Paxton, so if you're hungry for more from his Elektra era, this is one of the more desirable places to begin. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Pop - Released February 8, 2008 | Rhino - Elektra

Six albums into his Elektra Records contract, Tom Paxton's songwriting muse does not fail him on the appropriately titled Tom Paxton 6. (Counting his poorly distributed debut live album I'm the Man Who Built the Bridges, it's actually his seventh LP, but never mind.) On the contrary, this is his best and most varied collection for the label yet. Paxton's primary influences remain obvious. The jovial "Forest Lawn," referring to the highly commercialized Los Angeles cemetery for celebrities, easily could have come from the pen of Tom Lehrer, complete with the sly rewrite of "Rock of Ages" in midsong. "Annie's Going to Sing Her Song," in which a man tells of a woman who keeps leaving him and coming back (and confesses that he always takes her back), is reminiscent of the work of Jacques Brel and comes off as a calmer version of Brel's song "Mathilde." But neither Lehrer nor Brel could have written the leadoff song, "Whose Garden Was This," a futuristic take on the logical results of disastrous ecological trends in which flowers exist only in pictures. Paxton may seem a bit prudish on "Molly Bloom," in which he mocks James Joyce's Ulysses and comes down on the side of those finding it obscene. But he remains a friend to coal miners on "Dogs at Midnight" and finds yet another way to decry war in "Jimmy Newman," about a wounded soldier who dies in the hospital. In every case, whether his tone is mocking or sincere, whether he's making fun or casting scorn, Paxton creates believable characters in striking situations using few words. He is abetted musically by keyboardist David Horowitz, who helps to create varying arrangements that range from chamber pop delicacy to jug band zaniness. But the songs would be just as good with only Paxton's voice and guitar, which is no doubt the way most listeners will hear them in concert. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Country - Released March 10, 2015 | Pax Records

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Folk/Americana - Released February 8, 2005 | Rhino - Elektra

Tom Paxton's debut album sounds rather dated these days, as do many of the releases from the folk revival's army of singer/songwriters (Bob Dylan aside), and often for the same simple reason: nothing grows old faster than topical material. What keeps Ramblin' Boy from being just another period piece from the 1960s are a trio of songs in which Paxton swings away from trying to be relevant and brings a kind of restless and romantic self-analysis to the table. "The Last Thing on My Mind," "Ramblin' Boy," and "I Can't Help But Wonder Where I'm Bound" all exhibit a classic, timeless appeal simply because they work to the positive side of emotional ennui. Being lost, confused, and uncertain out there on the Great Open Road is a scenario full of potential, because you're going somewhere whether you like it or not, but not quite yet, and that pause before motion or action is what Paxton captures so well in these songs. All three are classics of a special sort, but unfortunately the rest of the album has the feel of old headlines. © Steve Leggett /TiVo
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Pop - Released February 8, 2008 | Rhino - Elektra

It was 1966, but on his third album Paxton was still holding out against the overwhelming trend among folkies to electrify. Outward Bound features just him, second guitarist Barry Kornfeld, and bassist Bill Lee. Though it was just his third LP, it had the style and song mix that listeners already had come to expect from the singer. There is material meant to inspire social change and dissent ("Don't You Let Nobody Turn You 'Round"), subtle anti-war statements ("My Son, John"), gentle love songs ("One Time and One Time Only"), dated topical satire ("Is This Any Way to Run an Airline?" and "Talking Pop Art"), and tunes about roaming and wandering ("Leaving London," "Outward Bound" and "I Followed Her into the West"). What the album does not have are compositions on the level of his best early songs, like "The Last Thing on My Mind" and "Bottle of Wine." If you want earnest romantic folk, you're much better off with Gordon Lightfoot or Ian & Sylvia; if you want stirring protest folk, you'd do much better with Phil Ochs and early Bob Dylan; and if you want humor, the Holy Modal Rounders, or for that matter, Ochs and Dylan are preferable. The best overlooked tune here might be "I Believe, I Do," on which Paxton assumes (satirically) the role of the average unquestioning American with a fervor that is slightly chilling. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released October 19, 1994 | Sugar Hill Records

Wearing the Time (1994) proved to be something of a comeback for Tom Paxton, or at least a return to form. Although he was putting out laudable CDs for kids in the early '90s, he hadn't delivered an adult-oriented set of songs since 1991. Thanks in part to the popularity of Nanci Griffith's 1993 homage to old folkys, Other Voices, Other Rooms, interest in '60s-era folk stars had reawakened among contemporary folk audiences. Paxton emerged from a self-admitted bout with depression in 1994 with this 12-song set on the Sugar Hill label. Produced in Nashville by Jim Rooney (who also produced Nanci Griffith) and sprinkled with admiring quotes from the leading lights of contemporary folk, Wearing the Time brims with mature songwriting. Paxton is settling into his golden years with grace and wit intact. A couple songs, notably "Along the Verdigris," revisit his home turf of Oklahoma, while others pay tribute to his wife, a lost love, and old timers from the folk scene and civil rights days. The title track deals matter-of-factly with getting older. A couple of topical songs make it onto the album: "When I Go to See My Son" dramatizes the pain of a broken home and "Johnny Got a Gun" deals with youths and gun violence. Paxton's lighter side emerges on the double-entendre-rich "Coffee in Bed" and a retread of his '60s classic "Bottle of Wine." Pretty much what you come to expect from a Tom Paxton album: rich songwriting, warm singing, and gentle playing. © Jim Esch /TiVo
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Pop - Released August 7, 2012 | Rhino - Elektra

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Pop - Released February 8, 2008 | Rhino - Elektra

Paxton's last 1960s album was his most musically ambitious of the decade, getting into both some full folk-rock arrangements and some orchestrated Baroque-folk or symphonic folk. The expansion of musical color was admirable, with contributions from some name players like David Bromberg, Richard Davis, and Hubert Laws. But Paxton was never the most adaptable of the folkies to rock, and the songs he came up with for the LP were not among his best. The rollicking, even a bit sloppy, folk-rock of "Bishop Cody's Last Request" sounded much more forced than his gentle ballads, like "Wish I Had a Troubadour." The 15-minute "The Iron Man" might be the most unusual 1960s Tom Paxton track of all, recalling slightly earlier overly ambitious Baroque-folk poem epics like Phil Ochs' "When in Rome" and Tim Buckley's "Goodbye and Hello," though without as much melodic or vocal distinction. Ultimately, the most satisfying track was the contemplative "All Night Long," which boasted the album's best tune and (courtesy of Joshua Rifkin) understated orchestral arrangement, and which Paxton has described as a lament for the troubled times of America in general in 1968. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Country - Released January 27, 2017 | Pax Records

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Pop - Released August 19, 2016 | Private Stock Records

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Blues - Released January 1, 2006 | Shout Factory

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Folk/Americana - Released February 19, 2008 | Appleseed

Tom Paxton was one of the few New York City based singer/songwriters to get a pop hit; the Fireballs waxed his alcoholic anthem "Bottle of Wine" and took it to the Top Ten in 1968. He also contributed his share of folk standards to the canon including "The Last Thing on My Mind," "Ramblin' Boy," and "I Can't Help But Wonder Where I'm Bound." Never comfortable with folk-rock, or rock for that matter, despite the fact that rockers and folkies alike covered his songs, Paxton stayed true to the folk singer ethos, one man and a guitar delivering heartfelt, humorous, and gently political songs like 1978's "Anita OJ," a mild put-down of Anita Bryant's anti-gay activities. Although his profile outside folk circles may be low, Paxton is still a vital artist, as this fine collection shows. The songs here, delivered by Paxton and a band of pickers adept at folk, acoustic pop, and country styles, deal with love, marriage, aging, and mortality. Love songs that deal with long-term relationships are few and far between in pop music. There are more of them in country music, but they're often cloying, cliché ridden, and embarrassing. Paxton avoids all those traps with nine delicious tunes to his wife Midge. "Home to Me (Is Anywhere You Are)" is a mid-tempo country tune with an understated message of fidelity. "I Like the Way You Look" could be a rock & roll hit for someone like Bob Seger, a frisky, humorous, slyly sexy tune with a chooglin' melody and some nice solo work by Tim Crouch on mandolin and Mark Howard on guitar. "What a Friend You Are" is a poignant ode to the friendship of a supportive spouse, while "The First Song Is for You" salutes the art of songwriting and long-term relationships. These love songs will bring a glow to anyone who has ever experienced a long-term love affair or successful marriage. Paxton's playful side is evident on "And If It's Not True" a lilting waltz full of tall tales about hanging out with Ravel, meandering through smoky Barcelona bars, and watching Van Gogh and Cezanne paint their masterpieces. "Jennifer and Kate," dedicated to his daughters, is a meditation on fatherhood, funny as well as achingly beautiful and poignant. The title track pays tribute to his pals Dave Van Ronk, the Clancy Brothers, and other singers and poets who made the Greenwich Village scene so vital. Like the rest of the songs on the album it's a masterwork of unassuming poetry married to a strong, folky melody. Paxton's songwriting here is deep and affecting, touching the heart ever deeper with repeated listening. © j. poet /TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released January 1, 1983 | Flying Fish

Even a Gray Day captures Tom Paxton in a perfect setting, with the simple accompaniment of his own guitar, the acoustic stringed instruments of David Bromberg, and vocal harmonies from Anne Hills-Burda and Peggy Compton. On this collection, Paxton foregoes topical satire for the timeless beauty of some of his finest ballads, with the primary subject matter being romantic love and the complexities thereof. There are newly recorded classics from the Paxton catalog, like "I Give You the Morning," "Outward Bound," "Dance in the Shadows," and the oft-recorded "The Last Thing on My Mind." There are also new compositions, including the title track. Because the emphasis here is on his serious, thoughtful side, Even a Gray Day is one of Tom Paxton's most enduring, endlessly enjoyable recordings. © Jim Newsom /TiVo
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Country - Released January 8, 2016 | Pax Records

The word in the largest print on the cover of this album is neither the title nor the names of the artists. It is "souvenir," running vertically along the right side. Annotators Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer (who also produced the disc and earned their co-billing by singing background vocals and playing banjo and mandolin on most of the tracks) are at pains to point out that there was no intention to produce an album when Tom Paxton embarked on his 39th British tour in the fall of 2003, even though "each concert was recorded direct to mini-disc, simply as documentation." The point is that "this is not a pre-meditated live concert recording," but it's hard to imagine that a veteran like Paxton would have performed any differently if it were. After all, he's made a lot of albums, including a lot of live albums. And this, in a sense, is just another one. Paxton performs some of his best-known songs -- "I Can't Help But Wonder," "Bottle of Wine," "Whose Garden Was This?," "The Last Thing on My Mind," "Ramblin' Boy" -- along with a few of recent vintage and some of his "short shelf-life" topical numbers, including ones that make fun of U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and televangelist Jerry Falwell ("Tinky-Winky"). His engaging stage remarks reflect not only his political views, but also his reflections on the state of his career as he approaches his 66th birthday. He notes on more than one occasion that a song of his is now being considered an old anonymous folk song rather than an original composition, taking an accepting posture by singing some of the lyrics of "Bottle of Wine" in French and repeating a parody of "The Last Thing on My Mind" that he found on the Internet. This is a 21st century Tom Paxton, who announces that his songs are available for download from his Web site, www.tompaxton.com, but in nearly the same breath recalls the days of tube radios. Similarly, his repertoire remains a combination of old favorites (his own originals, whatever the ignorant might insist) and up-to-the-minute comments on current events, and he sings them with his usual assurance, the performances filled out by the accompaniment of Fink and Marxer. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Pop - Released August 7, 2012 | Rhino - Elektra

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Folk/Americana - Released February 19, 2008 | Appleseed

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Folk/Americana - Released October 22, 2002 | Appleseed

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Folk/Americana - Released February 8, 2005 | Rhino - Elektra

Tom Paxton's second album was one of his most earnest efforts, and that serious narrative tone, combined with the fading of the issues it addresses (the Vietnam War, the draft, the Civil Rights movement) off the national radar, makes much of it dated and some of it stilted. Nonetheless, it does have one of his most effective anti-war pieces; "Lyndon Johnson Told the Nation," in fact, is one of the better anti-Vietnam folk songs of the 1960s. There's also "Bottle of Wine," one of Paxton's best and most tuneful compositions, and one of his most-covered ones (by Judy Collins at the tail end of her folk era and then by the Fireballs a few years later for a pop/rock hit). Felix Pappalardi (on bass) and Barry Kornfeld (on second guitar and banjo) do add a bit of depth to the arrangements, yet many of the songs are a dry listen, though Paxton's observations are consistently well-thought out and well-intended. He could have used more lighthearted moments like "Bottle of Wine," or more romantic ones like "Hold On to Me Babe" (which Sandy Denny covered on an unreleased 1967 recording). And, in fact, he would use more such moments on his subsequent albums. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Rock - Released July 10, 2001 | Blue Plate Music

An icon from the '50s and '60s folk revival, Tom Paxton remains a living embodiment of the ideas and music of that era. In the best sense, he's an idealist, using his music to take a closer look at the world around him. His songs range from directly political ("Who Will Feed the People") to broadly social ("It Ain't Easy") to deeply personal ("Getting Up Early"). Recorded between 1994 and 2000, Live From Mountain Stage works like a greatest-hits package, with good versions of Paxton's signature songs from "Bottle of Wine" through "Yuppies in the Sky." Like Pete Seeger, another revivalist, Paxton thrives in a live setting, providing humorous introductions to songs and inviting the audience to sing along. Simple, tasteful arrangements perfectly support classics like "My Ramblin' Boy" and "The Marvelous Toy." Eliza Gilkyson adds fitting harmony on "(I Can't Help but Wonder) Where I'm Bound," while Julie Adams and Deni Bonet add lovely background vocals to "Last Thing on My Mind." It will perhaps seem odd to more cynical listeners, hooked on world-weary singer/songwriters, that performers like Paxton have continued to endure for 40 years with their idealism intact. Perhaps this endurance, like the meaningful music he continues to make, offers a reason to believe. Live From Mountain Stage is a fine recording, perfectly suited for Paxton fans old and new. © Ronnie D. Lankford Jr. /TiVo