Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Best Of . . . Two Albums?! The Best Of Sophie B. Hawkins

The Good: Good music, voice, themes, "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down."
The Bad: Exceptionally limited view of Sophie's career, Does not include rarities.
The Basics: A nice sampler of Sophie B. Hawkins' first two albums, The Best Of Sophie B. Hawkins offers little to fans and makes little sense outside the industry politics.

This album is a huge letdown. There, I've said it and I've gotten it off as the very first line. I love the music of Sophie B. Hawkins. She is a gifted singer and an amazing songwriter/poet. She is passionate, has great voice and is a creative genius - listening to her reinterpretation of Bob Dylan's "I Want You," which Sophie does right, is enough to make one believe art is alive and real in these times.

The problem here is politics and record backroom dealings. The Best Of Sophie B. Hawkins is a fluff album put out by Sony Music to try to make money off Sophie B. Hawkins as she departed from their fold. Sophie released her third album, Timbre under the Columbia/Sony aegis and the truth is, it's a brilliant album. It is a diverse album with a wide array of musical styles that assures the listener that Sophie B. Hawkins is qualified to creatively experiment and make an album that is one of the most incredible listening experiences of the past decade. Unfortunately, Columbia did not know how to market it and attempted to exert more control on Sophie's art and refused to push the album with the vigor it deserved. Despite attempting to chart the single "Lose Your Way," Timbre tanked and Sophie, her fans and her management pushed for her to be released from her contract when they refused to release a second single from the album.

Thus, in the politics of the industry, Sophie bought her freedom and was released from her contract, buying back Timbre to rerelease it under her new record company. So, Sony/Columbia only possessed the rights to Sophie's first two discs and early recordings. In order to capitalize on the artist while they still could, they released The Best Of Sophie B. Hawkins. This album solely consists of tracks off "Tongues and Tails" and "Whaler," Sophie's first two Columbia recordings. There are two additional tracks, Sophie's cover of "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" and a remix of "As I Lay Me Down." The former track almost justifies the expense of the album, the latter adds nothing of real significance.

The fundamental problem with The Best Of Sophie B. Hawkins is that it's not the best of Sophie B. Hawkins - there are too many amazing tracks on Timbre to be neglected and there are even one or two worthy tracks on Wilderness - and it doesn't exploit the fans of Sophie with genuine rarities. Sophie's cover of "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" is worthy and it's a pleasant listen for those who would find the compilation it was originally on impossible to find. But it begs the question of why Sony did not include other obscurities, like Sophie's rendition of "I Gotcha'" - a genuinely horrible track on the Mr. Wrong soundtrack (reviewed here!) -, her single only tracks "Big Beautiful Bottom In My Face" and the other one (don't have it, have wanted it for some time) or even put on the ambitious original-lyricked version of "The Ballad Of Sleeping Beauty."

In short, Sony crapped out and offers almost nothing to the genuine fan of Sophie B. Hawkins.

Conversely, this is a great album for the Sophie novice. The recognizable songs are here, including "Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover" and "As I Lay Me Down." But the truth is, for the most part, these ARE the best tracks off Tongues And Tails and Whaler. "Did We Not Chose Each Other," the best song of all time, is on here. Tracks that were not released on the radio that were worthy, like "Before I Walk On Fire" and "I Need Nothing Else" are here. Ironically, Sophie released "Don't Don't Tell Me No" from Whaler as a single in Europe and it is not on this album.

And Sophie's music here is an illustration of an incredibly talented artist starting out. She has amazing lyrics. It's easy to see why "Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover" was so successful, with poetics like "That old dog has chained you up all right / Give you everything you need / To live inside an twisted cage / Sleep beside an empty rage."

And Sophie has an incredible voice and on the majority of the tracks, it comes through clearly, without being overproduced. The truth is, this is a nice illustration of a truly great artist. The problem is, as a fan of her work and her art, I see how much more there could have be and it's impossible to be satisfied.

A great album for those who like what they hear of Sophie B. Hawkins on the radio. A poor substitute for her complete albums for fans, offering truly only "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" for diehard fans.

The best track is "Did We Not Chose Each Other" which is an incredible work of genius, the weakest track is the remix of "As I Lay Me Down" that closes the album. For the music on the album, my rating is much higher. For this compilation and what it claims to be, the low score fits.

For other works by Sophie B. Hawkins, please check out my reviews of:
"Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover" (single)
Tongues And Tails
"I Want You" (single)
"California, Here I Come" (single)
"Right Beside You" (single)
"As I Lay Me Down" (single)
The Cream Will Rise (documentary)
Live! Bad Kitty Board Mix
The Crossing


For other music reviews, be sure to visit my Music Review Index Page to see how this stacks up against other music in the world!

© 2012, 2006 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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