Belinda Carlisle

A Place on Earth: The Greatest Hits

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U2 did it; so did George Michael. Who is to say that Belinda Carlisle can't release a two-disc set (despite having already released a greatest hits CD)? And who would have known back in the early '80s that Carlisle, as the punk-pop lead singer of the Go-Gos, would go on to be the underappreciated queen of catchy hooks for two decades? Every song here is hummable, sweet, and as perfectly formatted and accessible as a Saturday morning cartoon theme -- which may be why some will think they all sound alike. Lacking her first solo hit "Mad About You," it can't exactly be given the title "The Ultimate Belinda Carlisle Collection," but this dance-heavy set is right up there. It is complete with most of the infectious hits everyone remembers -- "Heaven is a Place on Earth," "Circle in the Sand," "I Get Weak," "Leave a Light On" -- and those which most won't, mainly because Carlisle's popularity dwindled in America after 1989 and her marketing faded to being non-existent. She kept the music coming though, and if you liked her in the '80s, chances are you will like her later music. There are some truly worthy tunes here. "Live Your Life Be Free" is a roaring proclamation of love, an anthem along the lines of "Heaven is a Place on Earth." It would have been a big club hit had it been given any radio play. "In Too Deep" is an instantly lovable confection from her 1996 comeback album A Woman and a Man. "California" is musical rock candy with Brian Wilson on backup and trendy lyrics like "I remember I was in the tanning salon when I heard that River Phoenix was gone." Three new songs complete disc one: "Feels Like I've Known You Forever" is a polished, mature pop song; "A Prayer for Everyone" is one of her most complex songs musically, though not one of her best; and the third, "All God's Children," Carlisle had the writers tailor-make after she heard Cher's "Believe" and fell in love with that song. "All God's Children" is smooth and fast, terrifically produced, and thankfully avoids using any electronic echoes on Carlisle's vocals -- it's "Believe" inspired, but not a clone. The second CD (a limited edition disc) features eight remixes of her earlier hits as well as two B-sides from 1991: the corny but lively "Only a Dream" and "The Air You Breathe," the latter of which would have boasted well as an actual single release at the time, blessed with a powered chorus and great vocalist. Rather than releasing another greatest hits package, Carlisle could have released all of her B-sides, songs from soundtracks, and remixes. Still, if you can only have one Belinda Carlisle album, Place on Earth: Greatest Hits is as ultimate as you'll find.

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