John Doe released his first solo album in 1989, and after 25 years, his career on his own is certainly worthy of an enthusiastic appreciation. Doe is still best known as the bassist and co-lead singer in X (not to mention his work as an actor in film and television), but pretty much everything that made his music with X so powerful is clear and present on his solo recordings -- tough but emotionally compelling melodies, deep focus lyrics, outstanding and soulful vocals, and gifted collaborators. If Doe's music is sometimes subtler and more cerebral than X's more straightforward punkabilly attack, it's not hard to see his more recent albums as a more mature variation on X's themes, and that certainly comes through on The Best of John Doe This Far, a 21-song overview of Doe's recorded work. This Far offers a well-balanced sampling from Doe's albums, though there are a few curious gaps -- there's nothing from his excellent 2012 collaboration with the Sadies, Country Club (perhaps because it was dominated by covers), and Doe's over-produced but satisfying 1989 debut Meet John Doe is represented by two tunes that didn't actually appear on the album, a scruffier alternate take of "Dyin' to Get Home" and a new solo acoustic version of "Take #52" (which is one of two new tracks on the album, the other a guitar-and-vocal recut of X's "Poor Girl"). But the album does offer three tracks from 1992's overlooked and underrated Kissingsohard, and it shines as an index to Doe's 21st century solo renaissance, cherry-picking the best moments from 2002's Dim Stars, Bright Sky, 2003's Freedom Is..., 2005's Forever Hasn't Happened Yet, and 2007's A Year in the Wilderness, among others. Between first-class rockers like "Never Enough," powerful love songs like "The Golden State," emotionally forceful mood pieces like "This Far," and languid journal entries like "Sueltame," this collection is a potent reminder that John Doe can write and sing as well as anyone to emerge in American rock & roll since 1980, and if you need a guided tour of his back catalog, The Best of John Doe This Far is just what you need.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming