The Good: Decent mix of radio hits, Good voice, Nice lyrics
The Bad: Somewhat basic instrumentals (does not capture Loeb's full range).
The Basics: Surprisingly good, The Very Best Of Lisa Loeb is a wonderful reflection of the musical artist, even though it doesn't illustrate all her truly best tracks.
It's a rare opportunity for me where I get virtually all of the works of an artist in and then their "Best of" album comes in for me to evaluate right around the same time. The reason this is a treat for me is simple: I can very easily look at my most recent music reviews and recall my favorite tracks off each album and compare them to what ended up on the "best of" album. In the case of The Very Best Of Lisa Loeb, this is a remarkably easy thing for me to compare: I've been listening to her pretty much nonstop for the last week.
The verdict on The Very Best Of Lisa Loeb is very easy for me to make simple and direct: this is an album with Loeb's most recognizable tracks off all of her albums at the time, but it in no way reflects her best-written or performed works. For example, the superlative tracks off the albums Tails and The Way It Really Is, "Hurricane" and "Now I Understand" are noticeably absent from this compilation. So, from a literal perspective, this is not, in fact, The Very Best Of Lisa Loeb. However, if one were condemned to prison with the ability to take only on Lisa Loeb album with them, this might be the best choice to meet those criteria. And, to be honest, out of all of the compilation albums I have heard in my life, this one might be one of the better ones as far as sounding like the music belongs together in the order it is. In other words, more than just sounding like a random collection of hits thrown together, The Very Best Of Lisa Loeb actually sounds like a complete album with its own messages, themes and sense of cohesion.
With eighteen tracks, clocking in at a second over an hour, The Very Best Of Lisa Loeb might be light on the "very best," but it certainly is definitive Loeb. All of the tracks are written or co-written by Loeb (the majority have her as the solo writer) and she provides the lead vocals to each and every song. As well, Loeb frequently does her own backing vocals, which is pretty impressive. She plays acoustic guitar on all of the songs and the electric guitar on "Waiting For Wednesday," the track I think this album could have passed on. As well, she co-produced all but three of the songs on this album. In other words, this album reflects - for the most part - the musical sensibilities of singer-songwriter Lisa Loeb.
Given that only one song on the album features Loeb on her electric guitar, this might well be viewed as the best of Lisa Loeb's acoustic works. The surprising aspect of many of her albums to those whose familiarity with Loeb is mostly her radio hit "Stay (I Missed You") is that Lisa Loeb has some ability to rock and sound a bit heavier, angrier or vocal than the demure poet the one single paints her as. That surprise is largely lacking from The Very Best Of Lisa Loeb, save on her track "Single Me Out." Most of the songs on this album are the more musing songs which focus on asking questions ("How," "Do You Sleep?," "What Am I Supposed To Say?"), telling musical stories ("Furious Rose," "Waiting For Wednesday") or expressing fairly universal sentiments ("Stay (I Missed You)," "Falling In Love," "Wishing Heart").
For those not familiar with the works of Lisa Loeb, she is a singer-songwriter whose general style is the lone woman with guitar who performs from the nebulous border between pop-rock and folk-rock music. She is an adept music writer, vocal performer and lyricist.
Perhaps best known for her #1 hit, "Stay (I Missed You)," Lisa Loeb started from a place where what separated her from most of the marketplace was her powerful ability to write compelling lyrics. Lisa Loeb burst out of the gate as an articulate young woman with lines like ". . . I turned the radio on, I turned the radio up, / And this woman was singing my song: / The lover's in love, and the other's run away, / The lover is crying 'cause the other won't stay. / Some of us hover when we weep for the other who was / Dying since the day they were born. / Well, this is not that: / I think that I'm throwing, but I'm thrown. / And I thought I'd live forever, but now I'm not so sure" ("Stay (I Missed You)"). I used to work with a guy who loathed popular music and when the Fugees hit it big with "Killing Me Softly," a song he had been listening to for about three months before it became a mainstream success, all he said was "Sometimes the masses get it right." With Lisa Loeb, "Stay (I Missed You)" might provided an even more potent example. There are so few pop-rock songs written with such a smart ability to express what the artist is trying to say as that.
The thing is, Loeb is not a one-hit wonder, at least not on the lyrical aspects. At least as good as her mainstream smash is the song "Bring Me Up," where she sings, "We've shared humility and orange roses. / And poking fun at all our friends / They had their barbecues, we have our arguments. / We never can agree. / You said, "when you don't talk you take it out on me." / I was quiet, I was tired. . . . I wanted you to make it stop . . . And you were wrong and I was right. and I wanted you to bring me up. / Hmmm you know me well, this is something that I shouldn't have to tell you." Loeb has a pretty incredible ability to both tell musical story-songs and to express emotions that fall along the lines of universal relationship feelings. Her ability to explore dysfunctional relationships in songs gives her a wonderful perspective and one that makes her very accessible, even if her diction is above the heads of the 12 - 15 year-old c.d. buying market.
And while she uses repetition effectively in songs like "Bring Me Up" and "Do You Sleep?," she is less effective with it on tracks like "Truthfully." This song holds up incredibly poorly - especially over multiple replays - with its refrain of "truthfully, I - / I'm finding finally. / truthfully, you - / you helped me find at last. / truthfully, we - / are finding out what's true. / and truthfully I am finding out what's you" ("Truthfully"). Combined with the singsong nature of the vocal performance, the simplicity of the lyrics rather quickly becomes annoying and tiresome. Fortunately, this is the exception to the rule on The Very Best Of Lisa Loeb, an album that more frequently surprises with its clever rhyme schemes and verbal expressiveness.
Lisa Loeb's vocals tend to fall into an alto and soprano range and the songs on The Very Best Of Lisa Loeb, there is a fair exploration of her range. She goes higher for songs like "Do You Sleep?" a song impressive also for the speed that she manages to get the lines out in. She goes a bit lower for songs like "Taffy" and this helps her to emote a bit more anger, which fits the song perfectly (it's an angry song by the lyrics, if not by the instrumentals).
Similarly, The Very Best Of Lisa Loeb has tracks that are generally more along the pop-rock sensibilities of Lisa Loeb, omitting the songs that are the most folksy from this compilation. Strangely, the opposite is true as well; The Very Best Of Lisa Loeb is lacking in a number of the tracks where Loeb plays the electric guitar and plays heavy, dramatic chords. The result is a (mostly) light pop-rock album that sounds like a Lilith Fair radio station.
While it might seem like The Very Best Of Lisa Loeb would have very limited appeal, the strength of Loeb's lyrics make her works easily accessible and enjoyable to anyone who loves great singer-songwriters. Anyone who liked the poetics of anything they might have heard by Loeb on the radio will likely feel like it is concentrated on this album and this work does have a high number of truly wonderful tracks by the singer-songwriter.
The best track is "Stay (I Missed You)," the low point is probably the repetitive and less memorable "All Day."
For other, former Artist Of The Month, reviews, be sure to check out:
Beginnings - Shania Twain
Break Every Rule - Tina Turner
Femme Fatale - Britney Spears
For other music reviews, please be sure to check out my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the albums and singles I have reviewed!
© 2012, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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