Determined to wring every last penny out of the whole "war hero turns pop star" concept, this Warner compilation features 19 of the most popular tracks British servicemen trio the Soldiers' recorded before parting company with the label. It therefore doesn't include anything from their third studio album, Message to You, but instead concentrates mainly on material from their 2009 debut, Coming Home, and its 2010 follow-up, Letters Home. Unsurprisingly, it's packed with overwrought covers of MOR classics that can be tenuously linked to their day job, including Phil Collins' "Against All Odds," Rod Stewart's "You're in My Heart," and the Pretenders' "I'll Stand by You," all of which are drenched in Nick Patrick's schmaltzy, string-soaked production and performed in a manner which at best can be described as "seasoned pub singer." The four originals have their hearts in the right place ("I Will Carry You" features a choir made up of servicemen and women based in Helmund Province, while "Letters Home" is dedicated to a guardsman killed in action), but with their overblown key changes, fist-clenching vocals, and clichéd lyrics, they manage to make Westlife seem subtle, while the four pedestrian tracks taken from Love Songs, an album only available via the Sunday Mail, shows that any fans with an aversion to the right-wing newspaper weren't exactly missing out on anything. "Pennies from Heaven," a reworking of the '30s standard which appeared on the Chelsea Pensioners' Men in Scarlet, provides one of the album's few genuinely emotive moments, while their theme tune to the BBC drama The Land Girls, "While We're Away," is an authentic war-time ballad which suggests they might be better off exploring a '30s or '40s vocal pop repertoire in the future. But overall, this best-of isn't going to convert anyone who feels uneasy about the slight air of emotional manipulation which surrounds the whole project.
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien
feat: The Chelsea Pensioners