April 2006

Cat Power - The Greatest
Matador OLE 626-2
Format: CD
Released: 2006

by Michael Galvin

Musical Performance ***
Recording Quality ***
Overall Enjoyment ***

If you are familiar with Cat Power, you might think that after six albums a greatest-hits collection was in order. The Greatest, however, is not that album. Unexpectedly, it is unlike anything that Chan Marshall, aka Cat Power, has released before. This album will come as a surprise to the hard-core, wrist-slitter fans of Cat Power. The recording quality is a quantum leap over previous albums and the arrangements are complex stuff, with songs featuring backing vocals, horns, and layered tracks. Chan recorded the album in a famous Memphis studio and employed many well-known Memphis musicians. The result is a collection that has a sprawling quality to it. This works wonderfully on tracks like "The Greatest" and "Where is My Love." Chan’s voice is very well suited to this material, and at times it is reminiscent of Dusty Springfield.

The Greatest seems not to work on material such as "Hate," in which Chan sings "I said I hate myself, and I want to die." What’s weird is that even though it is just Chan, her guitar, and her misery, so much like her traditional stuff, the words just don’t sear their way into heart or head. I get the sense that she is just singing this stuff, not truly torn up over it. Toward the end of the song, she sings "Do you believe she said that?" That’s the thing. I’m not sure.