The contractual obligatory ‘Best of’ released by Echo.
01. You’re Gorgeous
02. Bad Old Man
03. Back Together (remix)
04. Eyes in the Back of My Head
05. The F-Word
07. In the Country
08. Atomic Soda
09. The Way You Are
10. Candy Girl
11. If You’ll Be Mine
12. Cornershop (single Version)
13. Out of Sight
14. Bad Habit
16. You Will Always Love Me
17. One Dead Groove
UK: Echo: ECHCD51
Released 16th February 2004
This mid-price CD is Echo’s idea of the best songs Stephen (and the band) did for the label in the course of three albums and nine singles (plus one licensed to Animal Noise) between 1996-2000. To no surprise, the selection is determined by some reasonably unmistakable commercial considerations, and in reality this CD is in fact The Singles plus a short selection of a few additional album tracks and b-sides.
There’s nothing new here for the fans – except, of course, the opportunity to go back and listen to these songs in a whole new context,. Or as a gift to someone who deserves an uncomplicated introduction to this crucial period of Stephen’s almost ten-year-old career.
Otherwise, the CD is mostly aimed at those who just loved You’re Gorgeous in the charts back in 1996 and would buy it today for nostalgic reasons alone. Something that explains why THAT SONG is the first track on the CD (but as one reviewer rightly observes, the song is handily placed here, so one can skip it with ease and get on with rediscovering the glory).
So you don’t get an introductory essay, no lyrics, no short stories by Stephen or any other kind of the rich, narrative and visual contents which made almost all BB album sleeves unique (The artwork uses two photos from Dying Happy (!) and a still of the band from what seems to be the Goodnight location).
And there’s no discography or simple pointers to where and when these songs are originally released. Even the low price status of this release should at least have allowed for something interesting in the sleeves to compensate for the lack of news on the CD. This is surely very different to the excellent re-release of the lo-fi albums last year.
Anyway, of course the music itself is obviously outstanding, and if you don’t have all the singles yet there is actually a few bits of rare brilliance here, such as the remix of Back Together, the re-recording of Cornershop and fine b-sides such as In the Country and Bad Habit. A few tracks (Bad Old Man, If You’ll Be Mine) are featured here in relatively shorter ‘single-edit’ versions and some tracks are recognised from recent ad campaigns (Eyes in the Back of My Head for Bulmer shots and Atomic Soda for Grants Whisky).
And that’s basically it. It’s hard not to have some reservations against a release that presents itself as being much more than what it is. It’s surely not a ‘real’ best of (even dismissed as being one at babybird.co.uk), and it doesn’t provide die-hard fans with anything but a chance to buy the same songs once again.