Drawing from fewer albums (but more labels) than one might ever have expected, Kirsty MacColl's twenty-year career spreads out over three discs, consolidating her growing reputation as the finest English songwriter of her generation; confirming her status as one of the finest singers, as well, and leaving the listener aghast at the foul injustice of a life that should have been lived at the peak of achievement, but which has only begun to be granted its fair due in death.
From Croydon to Cuba: An Anthology is the centerpiece of a three-pronged marketing attack -- it was accompanied on to the shelves by a matching DVD and biography. They have their problems; both suffer from a paucity of available material; the book lacks understanding as well. But the box set is a marvel. Tracking MacColl's career from the 1979 single that introduced her to the world, the effervescent teen drama of "They Don't Know," through to one of the last demos she ever recorded, 2000's "Manhattan Moon," From Croydon to Cuba balances the hits and the misses, the rarities and the obscurities, the guest appearances and the glorious covers.
A fourth disc would have been nice -- there's no sign of "Boys" here, or the electrifying "A Boy Like That," and there's a batch of other rarities that it would have been pleasing to behold. But still, 65 beautifully remastered tracks include nine unreleased numbers, a bundle more that are making their CD debut, and a host of others that might take a lifetime to track down in their original format. But where that could have opened the door to a host of dodgy demos and obscure-for-the-sake-of-it outtakes, the quality control never wavers for a moment, and you're left wondering precisely how MacColl's genius passed so many people by.