Artist: Album (label, release date) 1-5 stars
Blind Melon: The Best of Blind Melon (Capitol, September 27, 2005) ****
The Yardbirds: Very Best of the Yardbirds (Metro, September 27, 2005) ****
Natalie Merchant: Retrospective 1995-2005 (Rhino, September 27, 2005) ****
The Clash: The Essential Plus (Legacy, September 27, 2005) *****
Blind Melon: The Best of Blind Melon
It's not easy to cobble together a best-of from a band that only released two albums in their lifetime. However, Capitol tries its best, taking six songs from Blind Melon, six from Soup, adds "Three is the Magic Number" from the Schoolhouse Rock Rocks! "tribute" album, and a handful of tunes from the posthumous Nico odds and sods collection. You can buy this with or without the bonus DVD of concert and video clips. The package is beautifully constructed, with revealing, and sometimes sad, liner notes by guitarist Roger Stevens. Blind Melon were an anomaly in their day; a product of late 80's Sunset Strip, which was all glam-metal in those days, Blind Melon kept an earthy rootsiness to their music that bore some metal influence, but also southern rock, jam-band, and traces of Neil Young; the doomed Shannon Hoon's high-pitched expressive voice remains one of the most distinctive of the 1990's. Soup, an excellent album, largely tanked when it was released in 1995, but it was a fine album, even though its sessions were famous for chaos, a drug arrest, and Hoon's downward spiral. Here's a chance to hear the full range of this band in one place; it's a pity things turned out as they did.
The Yardbirds: The Very Best of the Yardbirds
Nice try. No, this isn't the "very best" of the Yardbirds; it's mostly selections from the 1964 album Five Live Yardbirds, the 1965 album Having A Rave Up plus "For Your Love", Chuck Berry's "Talking 'Bout You" and Jimmy Reed's "Baby What's Wrong". Missing is anything from Roger The Engineer (Over Under Sideways Down in America) (1966) or Little Games (1967). Thus, this compilation touches on the Clapton era, and is weighted towards the Beck era; Jimmy Page's era is absent, unless "Stroll On" (from the film Blow Up) counts (Page isn't on it, but he appears with the band, as does Beck, in the film). Of the group's 9 singles to chart in America, 5 are missing. "Heart Full of Soul" is not the hit version, but the rarer version with sitar. Is this collection worth it? Not if you want a thorough overview on the band's notoriously confusing discography. However, there's nothing wrong with the 20 cuts it includes, and they do cover the band's best period. One wanting a complete picture should get Rhino's pricier 52-track Ultimate!, from 2001, which cross-licenses all Yardbirds material from the beginning to the end. If you want a cheap fix, this will do.