The Good: “Fancy,” Decent voice
The Bad: Short, Overproduced, Generally unmemorable song selections
The Basics: A pretty dismal anthology, Greatest Hits Volume Two features Reba McEntire's early pop-Country outings which are largely unmemorable.
When an artist or performer has a certain number of albums out, it seems only natural for record companies to anthologize the works and exploit the radio-listening audience with “Greatest Hits” compilations. In the case of prolific artists, there are often many “Greatest Hits” collections and “Best Of” works. I tend to prefer the “Best Of” anthologies because they allow the artist or performer to declare “this is what I think is best of what I have made” and can include tracks which were not commercially successful without garnering much in the way of debate from fans or pundits. Reba McEntire has three “Greatest Hits” collections in addition to several “Best Of” albums and the one that has left me least impressed in every possible way so far has to be Greatest Hits Volume Two.
Greatest Hits Volume Two is culled from the late 1980s and early 1990s c.d.s of Reba McEntire and features two new songs. The thing is, I’ve been immersed in the early works of Reba McEntire and until I started listening to this album, I had heard none of the songs. In fact, only one song stood out positively – “Fancy” – largely because my partner loves the song and had tipped me off to its presence on the album. It’s a good, if problematic, song. But the two original tracks are unmemorable and the “hits” are hardly her greatest ones. After listening to fourteen of McEntire’s albums before this one (one is waiting to reappear in the database by magic), I feel I have some authority to say that.
With only ten songs occupying a meager 37:04, Greatest Hits Volume Two is hardly the most creative endeavor by Reba McEntire. She was not involved in the writing of any of the tracks, which guts the emotional resonance of songs like “The Greatest Man I Never Knew,” which sounds like it is deeply personal. Only “Does He Love You” and “They Asked About You” are unique to this album and it is hard to say they are reason enough to pick up the album. McEntire performs all of the lead vocals on Greatest Hits Volume Two, but she does not play any of the musical instruments. She is, however, credited as one of three co-producers on the album.
Greatest Hits Volume Two is, in every way, generic pop-Country which is exceptionally blasé and poppy, so fans of traditional Country are likely to feel a bit cheated by this endeavor. From the very first song, a duet with Linda Davis called “Does He Love You,” Reba McEntire establishes this as a pop-driven outing. Instead of sounding particularly like a mellow Country album, this sounds like a Barbara Streisand/Celine Dion duet. The instrumentation is electric guitar and keyboard driven, so what makes this “Country” is completely a mystery to me.
The rest of the songs tend to have a similar pop sound to them, though they occasionally use fiddles or the steel guitar. More often than not, though, this is a guitar and keyboard driven album and songs like “You Lie” sound like generic 1980s soundtrack music. In fact, all of the instrumentation is pretty unremarkable and outside “Fancy,” I doubt I’ll be able to pick out a single tune I’ve listened to (now nine times today!) in a week. Most of the songs feature very limited percussion and a heavy sense of production.
The production elements are, for the most part, kept away from McEntire’s vocals. While she stretches higher out of her comfortable alto range on songs like “You Lie” and “They Asked About You,” most of the songs have McEntire in her alto register. What is impressive about McEntire’s vocals is her lung capacity (most notably on “You Lie”) and the way she can articulate at great speed (as she does on the up-tempo “Fancy”). But there are plenty of other, better, albums to get Reba McEntire’s amazing vocals on.
On Greatest Hits Volume Two, I am forced to wonder about the Country community. After all, one of the “Greatest Hits” is “Fancy,” a Country-folk song about an eighteen year-old whose mother sells her into prostitution. With a musical storysong with lines like “We didn't have money for food or rent / To say the least we were hard pressed / Then Mama spent every last penny we had / To buy me a dancin' dress . . . Then I stepped into a satin' dancin' dress / That had a split on the side clean up to my hip / It was red velvet trim and it fit me good / Standin' back from the lookin' glass / There stood a woman where a half grown kid / had stood / She said here's your one chance Fancy don't let me down” (“Fancy”) it is a darker, desperate song that is horrifying in its thematic content.
Far easier for most listeners to empathize with would be the lost love song, “They Asked About You.” A very typical Reba McEntire pop number, “They Asked About You” has McEntire singing about getting on with life after being abandoned. The sentiments when she sings “I was doing OK / Until they asked about you / How could they know / What it would do / All they did was mention your name / And just like that / The hurting was back / That's when I knew nothing had changed / What a time for old memories to find me / Just when I thought I'd put 'em behind me” (“They Asked About You”) are universal to anyone who has had such a loss in their life. Most of the songs on Greatest Hits Volume Two are songs about love and loss, which only enhances the sense of being a generic listening experience.
On c.d., Greatest Hits Volume Two could have been combined with the first Greatest Hits and given that there are other compilations which have more than this one does, it is exceptionally easy to recommend passing this one by.
The best song is “Fancy,” I didn’t much care for any of the others.
For other Reba McEntire works, please check out my reviews of:
Feel The Fire
Heart To Heart
Just A Little Love
Have I Got A Deal For You
The Best Of Reba McEntire
Whoever’s In New England
What Am I Gonna Do About You
It's Your Call
Greatest Hits Volume III: I'm A Survivor
Room To Breathe
20th Century Masters: Christmas Collection - Best Of Reba
For other music reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2011, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.