Simple Minds, the Scottish group led by Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill, has had a very different career in the U.S. from the one it's enjoyed in its native U.K., and that leads to different estimations of this compilation. As far as Britain is concerned, it is a much-needed, comprehensive collection of the band's hit singles, no less than 26 of which placed in the charts between 1979 and 1998, including eight that hit the Top Ten…
Best known for his string of late-'80s MOR blues-pop hit singles, Middlesbrough's biggest musical export Chris Rea has spent the best part of the noughties reinventing himself as a Tom Waits-esque troubadour with a series of ambitious and often gargantuan-sized albums focusing on the vintage slide guitar blues sounds that influenced his hugely successful 30-year career. More up to date than 1994's The Best Of and more extensive than 2005's Heartbeats, Still So Far to Go is the husky-voiced guitarist's first hits collection to place as much emphasis on his later more revered and prolific output as his more familiar and commercial airplay staples…
The tracks on The Best of the Chieftains are drawn from The Chieftains 7, The Chieftains 8, and Boil the Breakfast Early–three of the band's recordings from the late 1970s. This was the period when former Bothy Band and Planxty flautist Matt Molloy and vocalist/bodhran player Kevin Cunniffe joined up and finally fulfilled Paddy Maloney's vision of what the band should sound like. It also marks the last time the Chieftains recorded pure, unadulterated traditional Irish music.
Shriekback is not an easy band to classify. They borrowed heavily from funk but had a very different agenda; their music was more suited for contemplation than for parties. They combined synthesizers and drum machines with throbbing bass lines and unorthodox vocals to evoke a primordial world where the line between human and animal was blurred. The title of their fourth album, Big Night Music, might be the most succinct summation of their work: Shriekback's music was always an appropriate soundtrack for life in the dark, but with the emphasis on the possibilities rather than the dangers. Though often haunting, it was not gothic and harbored strains of pop and dance that rose to the surface from time to time. Still, however accessible they became, Shriekback cultivated an air of mystery that made them hard to pin down. Further complicating any evaluation of their career is the fact that they never made a single, brilliant album that concentrated all their strengths in one place; their best material is spread out across a decade during which they underwent a great deal of evolution.
One of China's biggest pop stars of the late 20th century, Sandy Lam rose to fame in the 1980s as a Cantopop singer before expanding her fan base significantly in the 1990s with stylistically diverse albums in Mandarin, Japanese, and English.
This 19-track compilation focuses on Elmore James' crucial sessions recorded for the Modern Records subsidiaries Meteor and Flair between 1952 and 1956. At the time of these recordings, the distorted amplified sound of James' slide guitar with his unmistakable electrified Robert Johnson lick was helping map out the postwar blues idiom with such classics as "I Believe," "Blues Before Sunrise," "Wild About You," "Mean & Evil," and the extraordinary reworking of Robert Johnson's "Dust My Broom" into "Dust My Blues." Even though roughly half of these tracks appear on the equally recommended 1986 Ace release Let's Cut It: The Very Best of Elmore James, this set is a great introduction to the dynamic slide guitarist's earliest recordings.
L7 had the sound, style, and tough-grrrl attitude to hit it big in the aftermath of grunge's mainstream breakthrough, but unfortunately, the band was too often hampered by uneven songwriting. The Best of L7: The Slash Years collects four songs apiece from Bricks Are Heavy, Hungry for Stink, and The Beauty Process: Triple Platinum (although, as the title suggests, there's nothing from the fine Sub Pop album Smell the Magic). It's a pretty good distillation of the cream of those records, even if there are still a few tunes on Bricks Are Heavy that could have made the cut on a less mathematically selected best-of. In fact, as L7's most pop-oriented record, Bricks Are Heavy is still a slightly more accessible introduction, since following that album, the band tended to rely more on sheer power than melody. Nevertheless, The Best of L7: The Slash Years does encapsulate what the group was all about, and it's a great way to dig deeper into their catalog without having to buy all the individual albums.