The Annie Lennox Collection
limited edition 2CD & DVD set
2009: Sony Music 88697368082
Since I already have Lennoxs four main albums, it would seem unnecessary for me to add this to my collection. However, at least in this three-disc edition, this is a bit of a treasure trove. Is it a good introduction to Lennoxs music? I can only speculate, as Ive been enjoying her musical output since 1983 and tend to prefer her stranger sides to her more commonly-heard hits.
Having said that, I note that this isnt quite a greatest hits collection; its more of a Singles compilationsome of the singles became hits, and indeed No More I Love Yous is now identified with her even though its a cover version, but this is hardly a gallery of familiar radio fare aside from some of the biggies from Diva. Thankfully it has the U.K. version of Sing rather than the U.S. one (which, lacking the Jikelele chorus in the middle, which is after all the core of the song, sounds almost pointless by comparison to the proper full version). And the two new tracks, Pattern of My Life and Shining Light, both cover versions, are certainly welcomeShining Light so uncharacteristically cheery yet totally working for her, and Pattern of My Life sounding musically unlike Lennox but lyrically very appropriate.
Disc 2 is a mixed bag but a welcome one! Only the duet with Alicia Keys on r.e.m.s Everybody Hurts bombs, and that partly because the song itself is rather boring and partly because Lennox gets stuck on the ineffective repetition thing she sometimes does in live performance. Lennoxs dynamic range really shows on these tracks, starting with Into the West which demonstrates nearly the whole range just under five minutes. Id only heard a few of the recordings on this disc before they were gathered hereLadies of the Canyon, her 1995 cover (which Ive long loved) of Joni Mitchells 1970 song, Into the West, and Evry Time We Say Goodbye from Red Hot + Blueso some of these were (and still are) a thrill to hear after years of reading of their existence. Her cover of Björks Mama I find especially fascinating, as it brings together Lennoxs vocal style with Björks own rather than remaking the song as just a Lennox track. Ive not heard Paula Coles original of Hush, Hush, Hush, so I cant say whether it does the same, but it certainly is a tear-jerker. But oh! is Dream Angus a treat!! Sometime before this collection came out, someone posted a video on YouTube which had the track playing while a pre-dawn brewing of coffee (or tea, I forget which) took place lit only by the stoves light, to strangely moving effect. Many Rivers to Cross I have mixed feelings about overall I like it, but something about it just doesnt quite work for me.
The bonus disc of videos is the second big payoff of having this collection, because it includes not only the hilarious self-referential Little Bird one but also a very strange one for Pavement Cracks that really makes you think. The others I had on one CD or DVD or tape or another, except for the new Shining Light and Pattern of My Life (which is a surprisingly interesting montage of Lennoxs Bare-era self-portrait photography) and a rather limp pastiched-live-footage-atop-studio-recording one for A Thousand Beautiful Things. I think this DVD is probably a better introduction to Lennox (as a solo artist anyway) than is its audio-only counterpart in the same collection, because in the videos her sense of humor is much more evident, as are her acting ability and her visual aesthetics.
The package design deserves special mention! The balance of photographic content and text and white space is really nice and not obvious. The few featured photos are all well-chosen and make quite clear that this is no fleeting bit of pop-fluff, this is an Artist for whom some pretty intense extremes come readily to the surface but best of all is the end page of the booklet, featuring the closing image of the Little Bird video, with Lennox looking especially unhinged.
Comments © 2010 Mark Ellis Walker, except as noted, and no claim is made to the images and quoted lyrics.