Spectrum Music, the British reissue division of PolyGram Records, had only four Liza Minnelli albums to draw upon in assembling its compilation, The Collection. Those albums -- Liza Minnelli (1968), Come Saturday Morning (1970), New Feelin' (1970), and Live at the Olympia in Paris (1972) -- cover Minnelli's tenure at A&M Records, since acquired by PolyGram, and they constitute only a narrow slice of the catalog of an artist who worked for Capitol Records earlier and Columbia Records, among others, later. They also mark a somewhat troubled time in Minnelli's recording career. Born in 1946, she was only 22 in 1968, but her musical sensibility derived from before the rock era, and she tended to make records similar to those of artists 20 or 30 years her senior. Like the LPs of those middle-of-the-road pop singers, hers were not selling by the late '60s, and A&M at first took the same tack that other labels saddled with such artists did, requiring her to record then-current soft rock hits like "The Look of Love," "Leavin' on a Jet Plane," and "MacArthur Park" (heard here as a medley with another Jimmy Webb standard, "Didn't We"). As was true for those other singers, the gambit didn't work. A&M then tried a different approach on Minnelli's third LP for the company, New Feelin', an album that is tapped for nine of the 20 tracks on The Collection. Hiring arranger/producer Rex Kramer, A&M had Minnelli go back to evergreens from the Great American Songbook -- "The Man I Love," "Stormy Weather," "Come Rain or Come Shine," "Love for Sale," "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man," and the like. But Kramer came up with incongruent blues-rock arrangements for the tracks, played by the famed studio musicians in Muscle Shoals, AL. Cole Porter might have been turning over in his grave (while George Gershwin probably would have been intrigued), but the results were even more bizarre than hearing Minnelli sing Randy Newman's "Love Story." Finally, Live at the Olympia in Paris, capturing a 1972 show, found Minnelli reprising her recent film success with the title song from Cabaret and anticipating her American TV special by singing "Liza (With a 'Z')" (aka "Say Liza") in French. Spectrum takes these source albums and, in typically offhanded budget compilation fashion, makes haphazard choices (the omission of "Come Saturday Morning" is a big mistake) and then sequences the songs almost randomly. The approach does no favors to a portion of Minnelli's catalog that had problems to begin with and needed to be presented carefully to show it in its best light.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann