First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2005, Volume 12, #10
Written by John Metzger
Following Campfire Songs, last yearís career-spanning compilation from Natalie Merchantís former group 10,000 Maniacs, comes Retrospective 1995Ė2005, a collection that gives similar attention to her solo work. While a deluxe edition that adds a second CD of rarities and concert cuts is also available, the basic set not only paints a sufficiently accurate portrait of her endeavors, but it also feels remarkably cohesive. In chronologically presenting a blend of hits and well-chosen highlights drawn from her quartet of studio efforts (Tigerlily, Ophelia, Motherland, and The House Carpenterís Daughter), it immediately becomes apparent that Merchant never lost her knack for crafting seductive melodies (Carnival) or making poignant political statements (Motherland). However, itís also easy to see how the frivolity of songs like Jealousy and Kind & Generous, pleasant as they are, served mostly to stifle her growth and to circumvent some of the lyrical potency of her albums. Indeed, outside the blues-inflected etchings that guitarist Jennifer Turner lent to several of the selections from Tigerlily, itís the lesser-known material that provides Retrospective 1995Ė2005 with its most affecting moments. From the beautiful, jazz-inflected ethereality of Break Your Heart to the heartbreaking majesty of Life Is Sweet to the moody, fiddle-laced drone of Sally Ann, itís Merchantís expressive voice that proves to be irresistibly captivating as she speaks for those without a voice and shines a bright light of hope upon those who need it most.
Retrospective 1995Ė2005 is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box