Paula Cole

Greatest Hits: Postcards from East Oceanside

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M.I.A. from the charts since the turn of the century, it would seem that Paula Cole was, in fact, due for a greatest-hits album -- if she had actually placed more than two singles, one album track, and two albums on those charts during her brief run in the '90s. With the exception of two previously unreleased tracks -- "Tomorrow I Will Be Yours" and this Greatest Hits' title track, "Postcards from East Oceanside" -- and one stray soundtrack tune, Johnny Mercer's "Autumn Leaves," all of the material assembled here comes from Cole's three Warner Bros albums: Harbinger, the Top 20 This Fire, and Amen. The questionable "greatest hits" marketing tool aside though, the 16-track compendium accomplishes what it sets out to do: rounds up all you need to know about Paula Cole into one tidy package. The 1997 Best New Artist Grammy winner's sole Top Ten single, "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" with its simple, insistent beat, remains as seductive as it did on the radio in 1997, and the follow-up hit, "I Don't Want to Wait," exhibits the best that Cole's supple voice had to offer. Unlike the melisma-obsessed screechers who dominated pop in the years following her run, Cole was familiar with the concepts of dynamics and control, and when she slipped from a breathy Kate Bush-like soprano whisper to a bold shout, she did so with grace and subtlety. Lest it be forgotten, Cole was also working overtime as an intuitive, tech-savvy producer, a talented keyboardist, and a creative songwriter who skillfully avoided clich├ęs in her often intimate storytelling. So Postcards from East Oceanside may not realistically qualify as a greatest hits, but had it instead been subtitled "the best of" Paula Cole, there could be no quibble.

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