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Monday, July 11, 2011

The worst "Essential" compilation yet produced

(Originally published by Channel24 here:)

I take music compilations quite seriously. There's an art to compiling a GREAT set of songs that drive home a collective message or idea or sentiment. Sometimes, someone gets it together and does a good job. This is not one of those times.

Five discs of "Essential Love Songs" really could have been more essential, given its broad sell. And observant buyers will know that when it comes to these types of compilations, few labels do it better than EMI – what with their embarrassingly underused but vast back catalogue.

Unfortunately this Universal music collection shows up its lack of depth when it comes to those classic tracks that made everyone from your grandma to your teenager writhe in adolescent agony. Moreover, some of the picks turn an innocuous and forgettable listening experience into a frustrating and even offensive one.

So, disc by disc:

Disc 1 – Movie Love Songs
The highlight of this disc is an original-sounding Platters classic "Smoke gets in Your Eyes" – The Platters' classic recordings are really something to honour. But is "What a Wonderful World" really a love song?

   1.  All By Myself - Jamie O' Neal
   2.  Say You, Say Me - Lionel Richie
   3.  Unchained Melody - Righteous Brothers
   4.  I've Never Been To Me - Charlene
   5.  She - Elvis Costello, London Symphony Orchestra, Geoffrey Alexander
   6.  The Heart Of The Matter - India.Arie
   7.  Everlasting Love - Jamie Cullum
   8.  What A Wonderful World - Louis Armstrong
   9.  Smoke Gets In Your Eyes - The Platters
   10.  Out Of Reach - London Session Orchestra
   11.  I'm Not In Love - 10cc
   12.  Show Me Heaven - Maria McKee
   13.  Love Is All Around - Wet Wet Wet
   14.  The Lady In Red - Chris De Burgh
   15.  Crazy - Patsy Cline
   16.  Will You? - Hazel O'Connor
   17.  A Thousand Miles - Vanessa Carlton
   18.  You're The First, The Last, My Everything - Barry White
   19.  Je T'Aime Moi Non Plus - Serge Gainsbourg, Jane Birkin

Disc 2 – Duets and Harmony
Sentimental folks may well like the Jennifer Warnes/ Joe Cocker throwback to the classic movie song (wasn't disc one the movie disc…  "An Officer and a Gentleman" anyone?), but the rest is ultimately forgettable Cape Talk/702 weekend B-rotation reject.

   1.  Don't Go Breaking My Heart - Elton John, Kiki Dee
   2.  Ain't No Mountain High Enough - Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell
   3.  Up Where We Belong - Jennifer Warnes, Joe Cocker
   4.  Endless Love - Lionel Richie, Diana Ross
   5.  Reunited - Peaches & Herb
   6.  All I Ever Need Is You - Sonny & Cher
   7.  If I Never See Your Face Again - Maroon 5, Rihanna
   8.  All My Life - K-Ci & JoJo
   9.  Lie About Us - Avant, Nicole Scherzinger
   10.  Two Hearts - Stephanie Mills, Teddy Pendergrass
   11.  Do That To Me One More Time - Captain & Tennille
   12.  Sugar Baby Love - The Rubettes
   13.  The Girl From Ipanema - Stan Getz, Joao Gilberto, Astrud Gilberto
   14.  Song For Whoever - The Beautiful South
   15.  You Can't Hurry Love - (Stereo) The Supremes
   16.  What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted - Jimmy Ruffin
   17.  No Matter What - Boyzone
   18.  Caravan Of Love - The Housemartins
   19.  Love Me For A Reason - The Osmonds
   20.  The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (Anymore) - Walker Brothers

Disc 3 – Pop Love Songs
It seems that when they said "Love Songs" they meant both the currently-in-love and heartbreak variety. By far the most convincing track on disc three is Vanessa Williams' sugary "Save the Best for Last". At least that track is superbly indicative of its pop era. Great arrangement and vocal performance, too. And it was a nice touch to add the Pat Boone and the Shangri-Las. Far better Connie Francis ("Where the Boys Are"), Dusty Springfield and even Swing Out Sister tracks exist that could have been included here.

   1.  Love Is A Losing Game - Amy Winehouse
   2.  One Day In Your Life - Michael Jackson
   3.  LA LA (Means I Love You) - Swing Out Sister
   4.  Big Girls Don't Cry (Personal) - Fergie
   5.  Save The Best For Last - Vanessa Williams
   6.  Achy Breaky Heart - Billy Ray Cyrus
   7.  (Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher And Higher - Rita Coolidge
   8.  Baby, I Love Your Way - Peter Frampton
   9.  As Time Goes By - Bing Crosby
   10.  Love Letters In The Sand - Pat Boone
   11.  Leader Of The Pack - The Shangri-Las
   12.  Release Me (And Let Me Love Again) - Engelbert Humperdinck
   13.  I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself - Dusty Springfield
   14.  Who's Sorry Now? - Connie Francis
   15.  Wives And Lovers - Jack Jones
   16.  Your Lies - Shelby Lynne
   17.  If I Can't Have You - Yvonne Elliman
   18.  Love And Affection - Joan Armatrading
   19.  Big Big World - Emilia
   20.  Beautiful - Mandalay
   21.  Love Is Blue - Paul Mauriat

Disc 4 – Rock Love Songs

Way to start a "Rock Love Songs" set with a New Romantic synth-pop tune there. "Wind of Change" by Scorpions? Really? "Luka" by Suzanne Vega? REALLY?

   1.  Tainted Love Original 7" - Soft Cell
   2.  If I Could Turn Back Time - Cher
   3.  Lovesong Remastered - The Cure
   4.  Valerie 2010 Remaster - Steve Winwood
   5.  Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone) - Cinderella
   6.  Is She Really Going Out With Him? - Joe Jackson
   7.  You Wear It Well - Rod Stewart
   8.  Pale Blue Eyes - The Velvet Underground
   9.  Heartbeat - Buddy Holly
   10.  Wind Of Change - Scorpions
   11.  You're The Best Thing - The Style Council
   12.  Lessons In Love - Level 42
   13.  The Reason - Hoobastank
   14.  Wonderwall - Ryan Adams
   15.  Linger - The Cranberries
   16.  Luka - Suzanne Vega
   17.  Up The Junction - Squeeze
   18.  She's A Star - James
   19.  Always The Last To Know - Del Amitri

Disc 5 – Urban Love Songs

This disc destroys it all. "Urban" must mean "black" in the compiler's dictionary - that's the only way you can explain Shirley Bassey (yes, the Welsh one),  The Jackson 5 and Etta James on a disc with the description of "urban". What was going to be a two-star disc just lost any sympathy with that bit of lazy and offensive labelling. Don't insult my intelligence, nigga.

   1.  End Of The Road A Cappella - Boyz II Men
   2.  Back At One - Brian McKnight
   3.  Down Candle Light Remix - Jay Sean
   4.  Rub You The Right Way - Johnny Gill
   5.  Thong Song - / Explicit Version Sisqo
   6.  Cherish - Kool & The Gang
   7.  Three Times A Lady - Commodores
   8.  Kiss Me Honey, Honey Kiss Me - Shirley Bassey
   9.  You Make Me Feel Brand New - Stylistics
   10.  How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) - (Stereo) Marvin Gaye
   11.  I'll Be There - Jackson 5
   12.  Reach Out, I'll Be There - (Stereo) Four Tops
   13.  The Tracks Of My Tears - (Stereo) Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
   14.  Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye - Ella Fitzgerald
   15.  I Just Want To Make Love To You - Etta James
   16.  With You I'm Born Again - Billy Preston, Syreeta
   17.  That Ole Devil Called Love - Billie Holiday
   18.  Touch Me In The Morning - Diana Ross
   19.  Teardrops - Womack & Womack
   20.  Words - Anthony David
   21.  Stickwitu - The Pussycat Dolls

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