Eddi Reader

Seventeen Stories: The Best of Eddi Reader

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In putting together this single-disc distillation of her '90s output, the compilers of Seventeen Stories: The Best of Eddi Reader do an admirably consistent job of selecting the three or four strongest tracks from each of Reader's first four albums. One could quibble about the songs that didn't make it on to this collection (how about the Nilsson-esque album track "Hummingbird," or the non-album single "Nobody Lives Without Love"?), but as Eddi's '90s albums are all so strong, it's inevitable that some good material wouldn't make the final cut. In fact, since this is a best-of and not a greatest-hits package, only three of Eddi's four solo U.K. chart entries appear on Seventeen Stories: "Patience of Angels," "Joke (I'm Laughing)," and "Town Without Pity." (The pretty-but-slight number 48 chart hit "Dear John" is the odd song out.) All in all, the first 15 tracks on this album really do present Eddi Reader at her considerably charming, passionate best -- and these 15 tracks are intelligently sequenced, to boot. However, Seventeen Stories stops short of being an unqualified success because the two rarities that conclude the album aren't, unfortunately, top-drawer Reader. Eddi's version of the Kinks' "Wonderboy" is a droll, tongue-in-cheek romp through a very slight song -- acceptable for a B-side (which it originally was), but not really worthy of "best-of" status. More interesting is her loving take on a song her brother, Frank, co-wrote (the Trash Can Sinatras' "Earlies"), but even so, there are several other uncompiled Reader performances out there that are more worthy of inclusion on this album. Still, for casual fans who want to experience the cream of Eddi Reader's brand of warm, honeyed folk -- without, for whatever reason, acquiring her very fine original albums -- Seventeen Stories is a more-than-acceptable way to go.

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