Robert Palmer

The Essential Selection

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The Essential Selection Review

by William Ruhlmann

"Special thanks to Robert Palmer for his help in compiling this collection," reads a sleeve note on this Dutch compilation, and while you can understand Disky's desire to acknowledge the artist's own involvement in the set, you also can't help thinking that it's a way of shifting responsibility for the choices. The Essential Selection consists of recordings Palmer made for EMI Records between 1988 and 1996, including his work with the Power Station. Drawing from his albums Nova, Don't Explain, and Honey, from the Power Station album Living in Fear, and from one-off singles, it features some of his hits from the period, notably "Simply Irresistible," which made the U.S. Top Five, and "She Makes My Day" and "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" (recorded with UB40), which made the U.K. Top Ten. But this is not a hits collection; it ignores other successful singles in both England and America in favor of album tracks from albums that were not commercially successful, such as Honey, which spent only four weeks in the U.K. charts and did not chart in the U.S. at all, and the marginally selling Living in Fear. With this selection, Palmer seems to be arguing that his EMI work was misunderstood and inadequately appreciated, which may be true at least in part. Certainly, there are many other hard rock tracks in the style of "Simply Irresistible" that could have been just as big. Potential buyers can read the contents on the back of the album or on a website before purchasing it, so they are unlikely to be fooled into thinking this is more of a greatest-hits set than it is. But nobody should buy this album expecting a full-scale look at Palmer's recording career or even the popular highlights of his late-'80s and '90s work.

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