Michael McDonald

Sweet Freedom: The Best of Michael McDonald

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For too long, there wasn't a Michael McDonald compilation available domestically. Rhino/Warner Archives' 2001 release The Very Best of Michael McDonald corrects that situation, offering a generous 16 tracks, including duets and a previous unreleased version of Higher Ground. The collection concentrates solely on his solo recordings for Warner/Reprise, which means it ends in 1993 and doesn't include anything from his long-delayed 2000 album. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, because McDonald stopped having hits in the late '80s, so there's nothing missing (even though casual fans can be forgiven for wondering why latter-day Doobie Brothers singles aren't here; at a certain point, those became indistinguishable from McDonald's solo work). At its best -- which would be "No Lookin' Back," "I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)," "Yah Mo Be There," "On My Own," and "Sweet Freedom" -- this captures everything that's good about laid-back, West Coast, soul-tinged soft rock. At its worst, it's professional, well constructed, and listenable, lacking only songs that work their way underneath your skin. In a way, the length works against the compilation, since the merely pleasant feels like padding, but McDonald's greatest hits remain sterling examples of finely made, soft blue-eyed soul.

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