The Best of the “Best of”(s): The Cure (1986 and 2001)

Didn’t I say this was not going to happen again? After the one and only Leonard Cohen, I didn’t think there could be another artist/band that would inspire me a double “best of” post, about two “best of” compilations! And yet here I go again, this time, with The Cure.

First off, let’s talk about the classic album “Staring at the sea: the singles”, released in 1986 and comprising The Cure’s biggest hits ranging from the 1970’s to the first half of the 80’s. This album is a must. I won’t even start naming songs on that album because I’ll just keep adding title after title as they’re all good. It’s also a wonderful album to get to know this band by listening to some of their coolest songs, with their typical introspective and dark lyrics, their minimalist, hypnotic, and ultra-catchy sound, combined with the clear and mysterious voice of Robert Smith. Ok, that’s enough, I’m putting on the CD right now. There you go. Nice little background music.

Next: “The Greatest Hits” album from 2001 is a double-CD set, including one CD with 18 songs, and one CD with acoustic versions of these songs. The latter is what’s really cool here. The guitar-lovin’ me likes this little feature. Personally, I wouldn’t have thought of The Cure’s songs as good acoustic songs, but I like it. It just goes to show once again that when you have good melodies and lyrics – and a charismatic and intense frontman, as well as great musicians, of course – then it’s probably worthwhile to try to go acoustic, whatever the genre. I also appreciate the fact that this best of compilation, in addition to several songs which also appear on “Staring at the sea”, comprises songs from 1986+ albums such as “Lullaby” and “Love song”. Those two songs, by the way, sound wonderful in their acoustic versions.

Incidentally, I invite you to listen to a great live performance of “Love song” here: https://songsuneedtohear.wordpress.com/2013/10/17/robert-smith-of-the-cure-50-years-old-and-the-voice-is-still-perfect/

When I was younger, a lot of guys used to have the Robert Smith’s haircut… But who among them ever bothered to read “L’étranger”, the classic French litterature novel from Albert Camus which inspired “Killing an Arab”? That’s an unfair question, I know. Was I even close myself to reading classic litterature novels in my early teenage years?… Do I dare quote South Park again? “Robert Smith of the Cure is the coolest person that ever lived!”.

The Best of the Best of(s) Series: Leonard Cohen (1975 and 2002)

I don’t think this will happen often : posting about two “best of” compilations at the same time… But Leonard Cohen isn’t your usual singer/songwriter/musician. With this many great songs, it’s no surprise that at least two compilations made the list.

Let’s start with the first one: the 1975 release “Leonard Cohen, the Best of”. While I was enjoying “The Future” album from 1992, a friend of mine told me that I absolutely had to listen to Cohen’s 60’s and 70’s stuff before I could even start saying that I knew about and enjoyed Leonard Cohen. So I borrowed this compilation from another friend, and indeed, only then did I start to understand the kind of unbelievable wonders that this Montréal-born artist could create. This “Best of” compilation comprises some of his greatest older tunes, classics like “Suzanne”, “So Long, Marianne”, “Sisters of Mercy”, “Famous Blue Raincoat”, “Chelsea Hotel”, “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye”, …  Simply put, there just isn’t one bad song on this album. BTW, in addition to the links below, you can also find many of these songs on these previous posts: https://songsuneedtohear.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/how-to-start/ ; https://songsuneedtohear.wordpress.com/2013/11/30/famous-blue-raincoat-leonard-cohen-vs-tori-amos/

In 2002, a 2-disc compilation intitled “The Essentials” was released. Practically all of the songs on the 1975 best of compilation are included on this one as well. But a few cool ones were added, like “The Stranger Song”, an all time favorite of mine. And then, there’s a few great classics from the 80’s: “Everybody Knows”, “I’m Your Man”, “Tower of Song”, “First, We Take Manhattan”, “Dance Me to the End of Love”, and of course “Hallelujah”, a wonderful song that was covered by just about everyone (Willie Nelson, Elton John, Bono, Rufus Wainwright, John Cale, K.D. Lang, Jeff Buckley, …). “The Essentials” compilation continues with some nice hits from the 90’s: “The Future”, “Waiting For a Miracle”, and also “Anthem” which brought us the wonderful phrase “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in”. The album finally ends with four songs from the 2001 CD “Ten New Songs”, which he made with Sharon Robinson (a frequent collaborator of his).

Two heartbreaking omissions on “The Essentials” compilation: “Teachers” and “Master Song”. How could those two masterpieces from his first album not be considered essentials?!! But it’s OK, I forgive you, Leonard Cohen. In a world dominated by insipid sorta-dance music about cheap booty-calls, this timeless music fills the heart and mind. Leonard is an artist who can accompany you your whole life. His genius, poetic and touching lyrics about human desires, his beautiful melodies, and his distinctive hypnotic voice, constitute quite the musical work of art. While I think that his first albums are unforgettable and comprise some of the greatest lyrics I have ever heard in my life, I do agree that all of his albums are worth listening to.

 

The Best of the “Best of”(s) Series: Sinead O’Connor (1997)

This intriguing Irish artist is internationally known perhaps mainly for her famous version of Prince’s “Nothing Compares to You”, and perhaps also, in the US, because of the SNL controversy in the 1990’s. But there is much much more to know about Sinead O’Connor. Unfortunately, I won’t have time to get into it today, not that much anyway, as I’m focusing on her “best of” album intitled “So Far… the Best of Sinead O’Connor”.

This album released in 1997 contains songs from her first four albums. So yes, this compilation has a quite an 80’s/early 90’s feel to it (a bit too much synth here and there), but some of her best songs are on this CD (like the breathtakingly intense “Troy”). Indeed, her great lyrics and amazing ability to convey emotional intensity, are all over this album.

Sinead O’Connor collaborated with tons of artists and reinvented herself quite a few times, so this compilation doesn’t necessarily reflect her entire body of work, but it’s a great way to start.

She’s had a bit of a rough life, and whether you agree with the way she expresses her strong social and political beliefs, she is a truly unique artist, immensely talented and creative, who had the guts to be different and lived with the consequences, both negative and positive.

Enjoy a few goodies below.

The Best of the “Best of” Series: Radiohead (2008)

And one more series to enhance this blog: The Best of The “Best of”(s)! And I’ll start with my favorite one: the 2008 release of the 2-Discs Best of Radiohead. A truly wonderful way to rediscover and enjoy Radiohead. A classic in the making?

Let me begin by a little quote from the booklet: “It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time when Radiohead didn’t seem in the least bit destined for greatness. When it would have seemed laughable that, some day, people would argue and agonize over which tracks could be squeezed onto their first career retrospective. In fact, a time when the suggestion that the band might become the most ground-breaking, influential and downright brilliant act of their generation may well have ellicited a puzzled look and the response, sorry, Radio who?” (EMI Records Ltd, 2008).

I remember those days, the early grunge days, when “Creep” was released somewhere between Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, Beck’s “Loser”, and others, while not necessarily attracting as much media attention, although no one at the time really realized the true angst conveyed in that song and the greatness that was to come (that part, I guess, could be said about all three above mentioned bands). But I started to get just how great Radiohead was when “The Bends” and “OK Computer” came out. When “Kid A” managed to top the charts in the early 2000s, when all we could ever hear was insipid generic boy/girl-bands, it became apparent that this band really had something special. With “Amnesiac” and “Hail to the theif” in 2001 and 2003, Radiohead proved that they would last and that their music would never lack quality (BTW I haven’t heard their latest CDs, so if you have, please share your opinion!).

One of the great things about the 2008 best of, is that, while enjoying classic radio hits like “Just”, “Karma Police”, “Street Spirits”, “The Bends”, and “No Surprises”, we can enjoy some relatively less-known smooth (or even acoustic) songs, which show Radiohead’s immense talent when it comes to both writing and performing. Like the extraordinary “How to Disappear Completely” and “True Love Waits”, the two last songs, which you can listen to below, along with “Paranoid Android” and “Idiotesque”. By the way, I saw their show in 2008 in Montréal’s Jean-Drapeau Park: we were all soaked from the incessant summer rain and couldn’t be happier to enjoy the insane performances, notably “Idiotesque”. So I was happy to find an almost-equally amazing live performance of that song in Glatonsbury. Thank you youtube!