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The gardens near Sydney Opera House inspire Don McLean's 19th album representing a 'metaphorical heaven' where you can witness life, love, youth and death. This seasonal inspiration takes in the stages of life, hitting each landmark

with some exquisite observations that are delivered with McLean's unrivaled lyrical genius. Eight years after his last studio album, he's lost none of his skill. Just like the botanical gardens of the title, the album is a flourish of tonal variety and creative colour. If you stop long enough to smell the roses, you'll find McLean's acerbity, melancholia, grief and lust woven into glorious a musical bouquet. The opening track Botanical Gardens is the fulcrum of the album, with each song opening like a flower and revealing a story. Like all the best storytellers, McLean is expertly able to bundle a whole life into under five minutes.

The title track sways like a child skipping through a meadow on a spring day, and the melody is more addictive than a box of Pringles. Total Eclipse of the Sun is another moreish song that you'll be singing along with before the first chorus is over. Even though his rhymes are sometimes predictable, they are delivered with style; there's also the odd surprise that borders on Bacharach levels of brilliance. When July Comes is an emotive chanson that’s sandwiched between the senility of Waving Man and the reverie of You’re All I Ever Had. Regardless of whether he’s tacking the inevitable decline from a life well lived, or mourning the one that got away, McLean is an expert at summing up the human condition in song. He has an uncanny ability to strike at the heart of the emotion lyrically, and offers a musical accompaniment that subliminally gets under your skin whether you want it to or not. If he were a TV salesman, you’d have maxed out your credit card by the end of the first song. Fifty years after Don McLean released the mother of all earworms, American Pie, he's proved that he is still king of the lyrical hook and there are not many songwriters who are as gifted at putting life under the microscope.

Groupie Rating 5/5

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