Greatest [Slipcase Edition]

Greatest [Slipcase Edition]

4.5 2
by Cat Power
     
 

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While it's not a best-of set -- or even a concept album about the life of Muhammad Ali (who does get name-checked on the title track, a boxing tale) -- this disc actually lives up to its title, given that it's easily the most powerful outing to date from the enigmatic Chan Marshall. Recorded in Memphis, The Greatest could be described, in shorthand, as CatSee more details below

Overview

While it's not a best-of set -- or even a concept album about the life of Muhammad Ali (who does get name-checked on the title track, a boxing tale) -- this disc actually lives up to its title, given that it's easily the most powerful outing to date from the enigmatic Chan Marshall. Recorded in Memphis, The Greatest could be described, in shorthand, as Cat Power's soul album, but that's only part of the story. Employing Al Green's stalwart rhythm section -- and a passel of the town's better horn players -- adds a burnished, Hi Records feel to soul struts like the misty "Lived in Bars," but that's only one of the ways Marshall dips into the essential Memphis zeitgeist. Sounding far more assured than usual, she forays into the blues on the austere (and aptly titled) strummer "Hate" and even allows herself a moment of basking in the sunshine -- during "Love and Communication," an organ-tinged ditty that could've appeared on a lost Box Tops album. Marshall doesn't always manage to muster up the sort of swing that would truly drive these songs out of the park, but that's not a major hitch. In fact, it only underscores the vulnerability that keeps her devotees coming back for more.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Heather Phares
The Greatest (no, it's not a hits collection) makes it clear just how much Chan Marshall grows with each album she releases. Three years on from You Are Free, she sounds reinvented yet again: Marshall returned to Memphis, TN -- where she recorded What Would the Community Think nearly a decade earlier -- to make an homage to the Southern soul and pop she listened to as a young girl. Working with great Memphis soul musicians such as Mabon "Teenie" Hodges, Leroy "Flick" Hodges, and Dave Smith, she crafted an album that is even more focused and accessible than You Are Free was, and pushes her even closer toward straightforward singer/songwriter territory. The title track is a subtle but powerful statement of purpose: with its lush, "Moon River" strings and lyrics about a young boy who wanted to become a boxer, the song is as moving as her earlier work but also a big step away from the angst-ridden diary-rock that her music is sometimes categorized as. Likewise, on the gospel-tinged "Living Proof" and the charming "Could We," Marshall is sexy, strong, and playful, and far from the stereotype of her as a frail, howling waif. But the truth is, sweet Southern songs like these have been in her repertoire since What Would the Community Think's "They Tell Me" and "Taking People" (You Are Free's "Good Woman" and "Half of You" are also touchstones for this album); The Greatest is just a more polished, palatable version of this side of her music. This is the most listenable Cat Power album Marshall has made, and one that could easily win her lots of new fans. It's also far from a sell-out -- The Greatest sounds like the album Marshall wanted to make, without any specific (or larger) audience in mind. And yet, the very things about The Greatest that make it appealing to a larger audience also make it less singular and sublime than, say, Moon Pix or You Are Free. The productions and arrangements on songs like "Lived in Bars" and "Empty Shell" are so immaculate and intricate that they threaten to overwhelm Marshall's gorgeous voice. And, occasionally, the album's warm, soulful, laid-back vibe goes from mellow to sleepy, particularly on "Willie" and "The Moon." Two of The Greatest's best songs show that she doesn't need to be edgy and tortured or gussied up with elaborate productions to sound amazing: "Where Is My Love" reaffirms that all Marshall needs is a piano and that voice to make absolutely spellbinding music. On the other hand, "Love & Communication"'s modern, complicated take on love gains a quiet intensity with judiciously used strings and keyboards. For what it is, The Greatest is exceedingly well done, and people who have never heard of Cat Power before could very well love this album immediately. However, it might take a little more work for those who have loved her music from the beginning.

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Product Details

Release Date:
09/12/2006
Label:
Matador Records
UPC:
0744861074328
catalogNumber:
743
Rank:
41850

Related Subjects

Tracks

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Cat Power   Primary Artist
Doug Easley   Guitar,Pedal Steel Guitar
Leroy Hodges   Bass
Mabon "Teenie" Hodges   Guitar
Jim Spake   Saxophone
Scott Thompson   Trumpet
Roy Brewer   Violin
Rick Steff   Organ,Piano,Keyboards
Chan Marshall   Guitar,Piano,Vocals
David Smith   Bass
Jonathan Kirkscey   Cello
Beth Luscone   Viola
Steve Potts   Drums

Technical Credits

Stuart Sikes   Engineer
Chan Marshall   Composer,String Arrangements
Harlan T. Bobo   String Arrangements

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