Various - The Best Acoustic Album in the World... Ever!

2006-03-30 04:48

If they used to be alternative (read: truly cool to know) until they made it to No 1 on the UK or USA Billboard charts, they're likely to be on this CD. Coldplay, Radiohead, Dandy Warhols, Oasis, Blur, The Thrills, Supergrass and Gomez are just a few of those whose acoustic work features.

The Best Acoustic Album in the World... Ever! (sic) could be accused of failing to choose an audience, and thereby really not really pleasing any audience.

Rather than only seeking out the new and the rare, it also packs on Sarah McClachlan's irritatingly obvious pop, Joss Stone covering White Stripes, Soul from Amos Lee and other items that, while they make the mood less monotonous, indicate a failure to take the plunge and trust in its niche audience. That said, the pop stars included may help sell the rest of the song selection, and K.T.'s version of "Big black horse and a cherry tree" really kicks.

So what's to sell? Well, some of the mainly acoustic* versions of tracks are relative rarities. Supergrass do an even more David Bowiesque version of their hit "Caught by the fuzz". REM's slowed up acoustic live version of "The one I love" sounds great on headphones. Everclear's "Heroin girl" (not to be confused with Walter Becker's very similar "Junkie girl") is wonderful without the studio mash to make it a mere shoutathon. And the best thing about it might be that it's not normally included on compilations like this, which also has some fun with the Dandy Warhol's version of the Beatles dumbass classic, "Eight days a week".

Compilations like this one serve three main purposes for record companies. One: they make them money without the development costs of signing and recording new bands and Two: they help them introduce new artists to their listenership. So someone buying it for Joss Stone might discover that the song she covers was written by Jack White from White Stripes, and buy them next** (and they're in for a shock!) Thirdly, compilations like this introduce the back catalogues of artists who've just made it big. So a Doves fan might hear "Willow's song" and go get Lost Sides (a compilation of great B sides from the band's first two albums.)

But a good compilation must also work as an album, not just an oddities collection.

This does. It flows pretty smoothly from track to track - a sign that the person choosing what went on it, and which song followed the next, had a modicum of musical talent. Even though he wasn't the bravest of the brave when choosing what to include, Compiler Ian Wolf maintains an emotionally blue and genuinely acoustic tone throughout. And it's interesting to hear how older songs by bands and some of the currently charting tracks survive being stripped bare of their studio gloss. It's the real test of a good rock tune.

This album exemplifies a rare case in which it's worth buying a compilation, rather than making your own - even fans of the featured bands won't have bought most of the tracks on CD already.

In fact, the only truly terrible thing about this CD is its title. It has almost 40 tracks to offer, and there's more sparks than stubble.

- Jean Barker

* Actually, they're not all acoustic. Gomez's "In My Gun", which closes the compilation, has a very far from acoustic electronic creschendo.
** Actually, this wouldn't help EMI much as the White Stripes are released through another label.

DJ Barney Simon is wrong. Sometimes it's not a case of "If it's too loud, you're too old". Sometimes it's just too loud. But sometimes a rock fan doesn't want to have to betray her very fibre, by playing something called "The best rock chill out remixes in the world... ever!" And that's when this double CD set, featuring EMI's more famous artists doing their moping, comes in handy.

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