Theater of Cruelty

Collection under the Christmas tree

Christmas is time for collectibles. This year you can give away Erik Bye, Destiny's Child, Eminem, John Fogerty and Claudia Scott, writes Øyvind Holen.


Just as surely as the Silver Boys sing into Christmas, the record companies flood us with compilations as the Christmas spirit approaches. Cynical and calculating, perhaps, but to be completely honest: Isn't a compilation album with a solid artist with a long life a bomb-proof Christmas present? Erik Bye to grandmother, John Fogerty to father, Halvdan Sivertsen to mother, David Bowie to brother, Destiny's Child to sister and Eminem or Blink-182 to nephews and nieces. Look there, then the Christmas shopping was done.


At the same time, the assembly plate market is a potential minefield. Artists with long histories often have many collectors to choose from, while other discs face a number of limitations as to which record companies they have been associated with, their own ego and desire to show that they are still counting. Thus we get collectibles that refuse to take into account that the artist's dinner height was passed in 1982, while others insist on stuffing their "greatest hits" plates full of brand new songs that have neither been nor will be hits. And of course, we have the artists who refuse to realize that they don't actually have enough good songs to fill the triple CD they think they need to sum up their careers and give fans what they have dreamed of.

A rule of thumb for compilation records has long been that they come out when the group is dissolved or the artist leaves one record company in favor of another. Now the compilations are coming more and more often and in ever new clothes, so that you first and foremost have to be careful that you do not already have a compilation with the same artist in the collection from before. A wandering story in the record industry tells of the older lady who goes to the store and buys a new Simon & Garfunkel record every time a new variant is announced on TV, while artists such as The Police, Dire Straits and Creedence Clearwater Revival alternate between their own compilations and combi solutions where the solo careers of Sting, Mark Knopfler and John Fogerty, respectively, are also included in the inventory.


So let's take a little sightseeing in this year's collectible jungle, and see what we find. Let's start in this corner, where we find the old heroes. A sure winner is Captain. The very best 1958-2004 (Philips / Universal), which summarizes Erik Bye's musical career over two CDs and 53 songs. Maybe an overdose, but certainly a worthy and welcome tribute to one side of this giant in Norwegian cultural history. An elaborate CD booklet and a thorough, albeit somewhat pompous, text by industry veteran Mikkel Aas is a solid plus.

The biographical information is absent in The platinum collection (EMI) by David Bowie, where the music speaks for itself across three CDs. Bowie is a difficult artist to sum up, not least since he has been so terribly uneven for the past 25 years. Here they try to solve the problem by limiting themselves to the years 1969 to 1987, but cling to the experimental chronology by on the one hand dividing the CDs by year, while on the other hand throwing the songs on the records together hollow to bolts . The song selection itself, on the other hand, is excellent, although some will probably whine about many of the fresher songs. At the same time, the collector emphasizes that David Bowie is a tenacious musical chameleon that is almost impossible to summarize on a compilation album, and it feels like the hallmark of the greatest artists.

Two other artists that are difficult to summarize on one compilation album are John Fogerty and Johnny Cash. The Long Road Home. The Ultimate John Fogerty / Creedence Collection (Fantasy / Universal) shows that Fogerty and the record company Fantasy have finally smoked a peace pipe, and this is the first attempt to sum up Creedence Clearwater Revival and Fogerty's solo career on one and the same record. Which is not entirely successful, because a single CD can barely reach Creedence's giant hit series alone. The result is neither bird nor fish. Ring of Fire. The Legend of Johnny Cash (SonyBMG / Universal) tries on the impossible task of getting the entire career of "the man in black" on one CD, but succeeds to a greater extent – even though the tension goes from the debut single "Hey Porter / Cry! Cry! Cry! » from 1955 to 2002s «Hurt». Mighty things!

Artistic redress

Private Investigations. The Best of Dire Straits & Mark Knopfler (Mercury / Universal), on the other hand, fails to summarize Mark Knopfler's career in a particularly satisfactory way. The problem here is that they have weighted Dire Straits and Knopfler's subsequent solo careers almost equally, when Dire Straits' first five albums had earned a double compilation on their own. The result is a collector who runs a hare's lab over Dire Straits' underrated early career, while Knopfler's pleasant, but insignificant, solo career is overrepresented. Dire Straits was one of the most unique bands of the 1980s, and deserved a better artistic redress than this.

A band that also gets a kind of artistic redress this fall is Supertramp, in the form of the collector Retrospectacle – The Supertramp Anthology (A & M / Universal). Their mix of pop, soft rock and prog has never glowed the hottest on the trend barometer, but even though a double CD is more than most people need, it also reminds us that Supertramp was a skilled pop smith for a while – with a number of hits from the end of 1970s as evidence.

The pop jungle

We continue on to another edge of the compilation jungle, where we find some of the biggest pop heroes of recent years. # 1's (SonyBMG) by Destiny's Child suffers from both inflated egos (far from all these 16 songs were top of the list) and falsification of history (the group's former members have been retouched from history), but that does not shake the group's position as the last decade's big American girl group. The Supremes, En Vogue and TLC. The question is about the albums The Writing's on The Wall og Survivor provides better value for money.

Where Destiny's Child took control of the market at the crossroads of r & b and modern pop, rapper Eminem took a good grip on the hip-hop industry in the late 1990s. His breakthrough was so total that most competitors faded in comparison, and in parallel he managed to expand the kingdom with the help of his own record company, production work, film success 8 Mile and prostheses such as 50 Cent. In the end, the pop star job became too much for Eminem, and this autumn he has kept a very low profile – with the news of extensive pill abuse as one of the explanations. Now the Detroit rapper says that he thanks for himself, but an industry farewell of this kind usually ends with the artist returning in a short time. Only time will tell if Eminem is serious, but in the meantime the compilation album reminds Curtain Call – The Hits (Aftermath / Universal) tells us about how visible the rapper has been on the charts in recent years.

Unfortunately, the memory among the hip-hop audience is very short, so then two other compilations from the 80s and 90s, perhaps the best hip-hop bands, are useful reminders. Power to the People and the Beats. Public Enemy's Greatest Hits (Def Jam / Universal) by Public Enemy is a cash and solid proof that the group in the late 1980s managed to fulfill the goal of becoming a mix of The Clash and Run-DMC, and the music here is some of the most hard-hitting , engaged and innovative music from the last 20 years. Home Grown! The Beginner's Guide To Understanding The Roots (Geffen / Universal) could has been a testament to how The Roots in the 1990s showed how funky, hard and melodic hip hop also came in band format, but unfortunately the band has fallen for the temptation to clean up the mess, giving us two records that are best suited for fans who want have everything but the beginners title alludes to.

Fresh heroes

As both Destiny's Child and Eminem show, it does not take a career spanning decades to release good compilation albums, and there is plenty to choose from among the most famous names of the 1990s. The Prodigy reminds us of the time when people thought rock was before death, while the ravers danced on the grave. Today, it is rather the death of techno that is predicted, but, Their Law: The Singles 1990-2005 (XL / Playground) shows that The Prodigy was behind a surprisingly long series of evergreen hits.

Alanis Morissette gives us his best known songs, combined with a bunch of soundtrack tracks, on The Collection (Maverick / Warner), while Anastacia is honestly a few years too early with the collector Pieces of a Dream (Sony BMG).

Blink-182 has long been seen by the Norwegian music press as the empty little brothers of Green Day, but as they point out Greatest Hits (Geffen / Universal) they have plenty to offer both bouncy punk pop and more ambitious cases. Perfect for anyone who has played Green Death to death American Idiot. Limp Bizkit and Nightwish are not in high demand among Norwegian music critics either, and the former shows Greatest Word (Geffen / Universal) how short the road is from numetal pioneers to today's somewhat side-butt version. The collector emphasizes first and foremost how Limp Bizkit lost the common thread when guitarist Wes Borland thanked him, and how vocalist Fred Durst has since tried to keep the band afloat with the help of cover versions. Finnish Nightwish and their theatrical opera metal are also hugely popular among the more dramatic and black-clad segments of the population, and the collector Highest Hopes: The Best of Nightwish (Universal) is a decent inventory – which also turned out to be a kind of point when vocalist Tarja Turunen was fired in public earlier this autumn.

Norwegian heroes

Finally we take the trip to Norway. Erik Bye's extensive compilation album has already been mentioned, but neither Halvdan Sivertsen, Inger Lise Rypdal nor Vazelina Bilopphøggers will be any worse. They are all current with double manifolds, respectively 40+ (S2 / Playground), In my life – Inger Lise's 40 best (VME) and Better luck 'all medicine! (Opal / Universal). A double CD release easily brings with it the most important thing, so the quality of these collectors is simply determined by what kind of relationship you have with the artist from before. Most people know the singer Sivertsen from Bodø, and as the title reveals, these are 40 old acquaintances and one new song. Inger Lise Rypdal's musical history is, to put it mildly, varied and confusing, and on the collector we get everything from dubious cover versions, mysterious Grand Prix contributions and forgotten classics, in a blissful mix of elegant pop and nauseating kitsch. My award for the most entertaining compilation of these three goes to Vazelina, who shows that they are far more than funny revue actors with a long list of catchy Norwegianizations of classical rock and also a solid dose of self-composed songs.

Where Sivertsen, Rypdal and Vazelina go deep into Norwegian music history, Claudia Scotts holds Collection (Lovely Monster / Bonnier Amigo) and Silje Nergaards Be Still My Heart – The Essential Silje Nergaard (Universal) itself in the 1990s. These two ladies are leading on their respective musical tues in Norway, respectively country and jazz pop. Scott's record covers her solo records from her solo debut in 1992 to the 1999s Soul On Soul, as well as three brand new songs. Nergaard concentrates on his recent successes, that is, almost all music from before the album Port of Call from 1995 has not been let into the heat. It is a nice and comfortable collection of music for those who do not have any Nergaard records before, but as a summary of a long and eventful career, it feels somewhat amputated.

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