John Hiatt


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As of its 2001 release, there are at least three other single-disc compilations of John Hiatt's prolific career available, but none truly does justice to his immense body of work. Until now. This intelligently collected, sequenced, and annotated double pack delivers 40 tracks covering 15 of Haitt's albums from his inauspicious yet refreshingly naive debut (1974's Hangin' Around the Observatory) to 2000's all-acoustic Crossing Muddy Waters, a return of sorts to his rural roots. Fans may quibble with the song selection, lack of previously unreleased material, and the inclusion of only one rarity ("Spyboy," his Jack Nitzsche-produced contribution to the obscure Cruising soundtrack), but this is as close to a perfect summation of Hiatt's career through 2001 as one could hope for without expanding to the box set he probably deserves. Hip-O thoughtfully licenses tracks from Sony, Capitol, Reprise (for Little Village's "Don't Think About Her..."), and Vanguard, in addition to including hefty chunks of his defining A&M years as well as the more spotty yet essential MCA and Geffen work. The overall effect is staggering in its stylistic diversity and sheer volume of ruggedly melodic singer/songwriter tunes. Whether it's his vaguely new wave rockers like "Doll Hospital," country weepers such as "The Way We Make a Broken Heart," the twangy pop of "Memphis in the Meantime," heartfelt, emotionally tugging ballads like "Lipstick Sunset" and "Feels Like Rain," or the Stones-y crunch of "Paper Thin," there are precious few clinkers here. Each disc maxes out at 78 minutes, the 16-page book is filled with an informative essay, quotes from the artist, and rare pictures (but surprisingly lacks specific track personnel, a major omission considering Hiatt has worked with a stellar assortment of talented musicians), and the 24-bit remastered sound is crisp, lean, and clean. As of its 2001 release date, the modestly titled Anthology is the definitive portrait of one of America's most talented, respected, and eclectic songwriters.

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