This 11-song best-of from the four years in the title may seem like an obsessive touch, or a cash-in, but in truth, it is anything but. Its separation from the rest of Monday Michiru's catalog is simple: 1997 marked the years when Michiru began to shift and expand her stylistic reach to include more music associated with the jazz, Latin, and soul genres in addition to her deep funk and acid jazz sensibilities. These years also mark the occasion of her taking more control over her music in terms of both production and arrangement. Michiru is, without doubt, among the most talented singers, songwriters, producers, arrangers, and bandleaders in the history of popular music -- and no, this isn't hyperbole, it's an opinion based on the nearly ten albums, countless singles, and compilation appearances. Though an American by birth, Michiru lives and works in Japan where she is regarded -- on the two major labels she records for -- as a soul diva (in the old school sense of the word). She is virtually unknown in the U.S. outside the underground dance music scene, despite the fact that her music has broad public appeal. This set collects a few of her many highlights, and serves as a worthy introduction to her mature style -- though her early one is bloody fine too. From the Brazilian jazz-tinged "Chasing After the Sun," with its smooth, long, loping melodic line dressed in organic hand percussion and backing vocals to the deep, dark, funky grooves at the heart of "Do It Again," with a tuba and organically drummed breakbeats, to the shimmering Caribbean soul music of "Full Bottle of Soul," where Michiru's largely a cappella opening creates its own rhythm, melody, and harmony, she reveals a range and passion uncommon, even unheard of in this day and age of specialized music production. In the easy groove of "Far Too Go," where soul, jazz, and light funk hold hands and kiss, Michiru rides the crest of the wave, content to have her vocals offer only what the song needs rather than use her full alto power. She treats her voice like an instrument and fills the mix with beautiful tones and accents, playing give-and-take with the guitars and slinky bass line. The disc closes with "Suspirar," a feral Brazilian-flavored tune with enough silky texture to satisfy a tailor; this is a love song with enough innocence to make the mothers of the world happy, enough poetry to satisfy the great poets of Brazil, and sultry enough to make the beloved swoon. With a shimmering piano and acoustic guitar backdrop, Michiru carries her message to the listener. This collection reveals, despite her outrageously varied talents, Michiru's insistence on life-affirming music and lyrics that point toward the resolution of conflict, self-discovery, and the establishment of community. You cannot ask any more from pop music. This isthe place to start if you are interested in discovering the woman who should be revered by everyone from D'Angelo to Prince to Janet Jackson.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek