As its title infers, this 18-track collection is a recap of the recorded career of soulful rocking singer Christine Ohlman, aka the Beehive Queen. A handful of tracks is sampled from each of her three studio releases (1996's The Hard Way, 2000's Wicked Time, and Strip from 2003), but the real fun comes courtesy of the smattering of live, demo, and alternate takes along with two newly recorded blues covers, all debuting here. Ohlman never sings a tune halfway. She injects soul and inspiration through every note, wringing the last drop of emotion out of material tailored for her husky voice. Her tough, urban approach to originals swaggers like a street punk looking for a rumble on the rough side of town. She's the distaff side of Willy DeVille, strutting down the avenue with a sassy attitude hiding a heart of gold. Her rugged Rebel Montez band is primed for its supporting role, acting as the swampy rock heart that pumps blood into the veins of songs that never overstay their welcome. Versions of Dan Penn's "It Tears Me Up," Howlin' Wolf's "Killing Floor," and John Lee Hooker's "Dimples" highlight the blues influences underpinning Ohlman's originals, which dominate the disc. She's the leader of the pack, and if the Shangri-Las were making rock music in the '90s, it would likely sound something like "Sugar Melts," a sexed-up story that exudes all the spunk of Mary Weiss in cougar mode. Throaty ballads such as the Springsteen-styled "The Hard Way" don't lessen the tension, either, even if the guitars lay back a bit more. Why the public never caught on to Ohlman's albums is hard to say, but this generous compilation is a terrific introduction to a singer/songwriter who owns everything she touches.
by Hal Horowitz