Holly Near

Crushed! The Love Song Collection

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Holly Near would be the first to admit that love songs are not her métier, and in fact, she admits it right up front in her liner notes to this compilation: "I was never much for writing love songs," she writes. "My passion was in social change music." But there have been a few love songs over the years, and now that she is repackaging her old Redwoods Records recordings into new thematic collections for Calico Tracks Music, she has assembled some of them here. The obvious exception to her aversion for love songs -- and the one that proves the rule -- is her 1987 album Don't Hold Back, on which she decided to try her hand at making a conventional pop/rock LP. With its synthesizers and heavy drums, its guest vocalists (Bonnie Raitt, Kenny Loggins), and its unconvincing songs, it was her weakest album. And it is compressed into the first eight tracks here, sounding no better (in fact, given the trendiness of its sound, a little worse) than it did before. After that, things improve, with songs like "The Letter" (a farewell to a dying friend) and "Backing off and Pulling Away" providing individual takes on companionship and romance. "The Right to Love," a 1963 Lalo Schifrin/Gene Lees composition previously heard on the 1998 album Fruit Cocktail, has a different tone from the originals and suggests that Near perhaps should have included more cover material. As it is, Crushed! The Love Song Collection illustrates one of the weaker aspects of an otherwise strong talent.

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