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VINE VOICEon 8 February 2007
Technically a band, "The Divine Comedy" is centred around singer-songwriter Neil Hannon. Hannon was born in Northern Ireland in 1970 and models his singing style on Scott Walker. Aptly enough for the son of a Bishop, his band provided the theme tune for the classic sitcom "Father Ted". They also recorded a version of "My Lovely Horse", the song Ted and Dougal entered into the Eurosong Contest. (Unfortunately, it isn't included on the album !!). "A Secret History" is the band's greatest hits package, was released in 1999 and covers the band's time on the Setanta label. Two of the tracks had been previously unreleased - "Gin Soaked Boy" and "Too Young to Die".

One of my favourite tracks - "National Express" opens the album. Mocking a British coach firm, it's Neil and the band at their best. A very catchy tune, the witty lyrics and Neil's crooning all add up perfectly. (The song's video was also very funny.) "The Pop Star's Fear of the Pollen Count" is another excellent tune. It's an up-tempo number, with the brass section really adding to the mood of the song. It's immediately followed by "The Frog Princess", apparently about a French ex-girlfriend. Containing snippets of the French National Anthem, the stinging lyrics are so at odds with the gentle tune, I can't help laughing at it. "Everybody Knows (Except You)" and "Gin Soaked Boy" - one of the album's "new" tracks - also deserve special mentions.

Sometimes you find an album so good, it would be easier just to list the occasional 'bad' or slightly average track. While the tracks I've listed above are my favourites, there just aren't any bad tracks here to list. It's an excellent album from start to finish - with a runing time of seventy minutes, it's filled with catchy tunes, very cleverly written lyrics and it will prove to be money very well spent.
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on 29 May 2000
This album is an interesting collection of songs taken from the myriad of Divine Comedy albums. Well known songs such as 'National Express' reside alongside lesser known ones such as 'Lucy'. Neil Hannon specialises in grand operatic melodies and these certainly do not disappoint, 'The Certainty of Chance' being a diverse blend of strings and brass, backed up by Hannon's fine vocals. In my opinion, 'The pursuit of happiness' is one of the finest songs that Hannon has written, closely followed by 'The Summerhouse'. The long oboe refrains in 'The Summerhouse' are fantastically well put together. Other notable songs are 'Becoming more like Alfie' and 'Generation Sex'. The songs on this album all have one thing in common: they are great to sing along to! Put this on in your car, and the journey will fly by. Whats more, the tightness of the compositions will have you humming parts of the songs for days afterwards... In conclusion, this album is a worthy introduction to the Divine Comedy for people who have not had the pleasure of hearing the bands music.
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on 25 March 2000
I am a fairly recent convert to the idiosyncratic genius of Neil Hannon, and for the uninitiated this album provides the most easily accessible of his work. The synthesis of clever ideas, quirky lyrics, beautiful music and outstandingly passionate delivery make The Divine Comedy one of the greatest outfits of the pop world there has been for quite some time. From the catchy "National Express" & "Generation Sex" to the classics - "Becoming More Like Alfie", "Something For The Weekend" etc... this album's infectious melodic beauty cannot fail to capture the imagination. In my opinion, "Everybody Knows (Except You)" is the highpoint of this toweringly powerful album. Phenomenal!
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on 14 July 2009
Plenty of artists only release a 'Best of' when they know their time is over. Not so Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy, who released this compilation at the height of his popularity back in 1999, and yet is still going strong today (there's a new album due at the start of 2010, and the brilliant Duckworth Lewis Method, a collaboration with Thomas Walsh of Pugwash, has just been released at the time of writing).

'A Secret History' is a joy from start to finish, and although it leaves out some true DC classics, that's forgivable as this was clearly designed to be as commercial and accessible as possible, and to be an introduction to their eclectic range of music. Indeed, I first discovered The Divine Comedy with this album - and I promptly went out and bought their entire back catalogue within the same week!

It's a must-have for any fan of real, intelligent music, played with real instruments and with a truly powerful voice at the helm.
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It's true, 'Best Of' compilations are often a pain in the left knee. Either they're in a terrible order or they feature a Christmas hit slap bang in the middle. I'm yet to buy a John Lennon collection that doesn't feature Happy Xmas (War is Over) as track 6, and when you're listening in July, hearing John and Yoko whisper 'Happy Christmas' is quite depressing. Luckily, there is no Christmas song on this album and I can safely say that it's the best 'Best Of' I've ever bought. Generous in its amount, all the songs stand out as 'the best Divine Comedy song'. The fact is, there is no best Divine Comedy song, but if I were held at nasty-carrot point 'Songs of Love' and 'Frog Princess' would be my choice. I'm also unaware of a fun alternative to listening to 'I Went to a Marvellous Party' which is listener-friendly to all those who think Rave is real music. The question is, 'right, what's next?'
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on 23 July 2008
This is the sound of the Divine Comedy pre-major label (Parlaphone) deal. Originally released on the small Irish indie Sentata, these are the singles and album tracks that made Neil Hannon's reputation as a clever, erudite and totally unique songwriter. Then of course there is THAT voice - near operatic at times and able to handle everything from straight ahead beat-group pop to string drenched Scott Walkeresque melodrama.
Hannon is also a lyricist of great skill and wit - something that is often overlooked - and these songs are enthused with his offbeat take on life, love, loss and the absurdity of the human race.
All the major hits are present - 'National Express', 'Generation Sex', the lovely 'Everybody Knows and the lyrically vicious 'Frog Princess'. 'Becoming More Like Alfie' still manages to raise a smile with it's swinging 60's arrangement and mirth enducing lyrics and no one but Hannon could take a song about hayfever (Pop Singers Fear Of The Pollen Count) and turn it into a rollicking top 30 hit. The jewel though is still the magnificent 'Something For The Weekend' - a true classic.
Lesser known tracks 'Your Daddy's Car' and 'Tonight We Fly' also shine as does the dark 'Certainty Of Chance'.
The Divine Comedy aren't to everyone's taste - Hannon can often be too arch and overly fussy with arrangements and his smart arse take on the world does occasionally grate - but when he gets it right there isn't anyone in the current music scene to touch him. The drum n bass cover of Noel Cowards 'Ive Been To A Marvellous Party' is absolute rubbish though !
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on 12 July 2004
Plenty of bands only release a 'Best of' when they know their time is over. Not so The Divine Comedy, who released this compilation at the height of their popularity back in 1999, and yet are still going strong today (in fact, their latest album 'Absent Friends' is possibly their best yet).
'A Secret History' is a joy from start to finish, and although it leaves out some true DC classics, that's forgivable as this was clearly designed to be as commercial and accessible as possible, and to be an introduction to their eclectic range of music. Indeed, I first discovered The Divine Comedy with this album - and I promptly went out and bought their entire back catalogue within the same week!
It's a must-have for any fan of real music, played with real instruments and with a truly powerful voice at the helm, in this age of manufactured pop.
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on 5 March 2001
This is the first Divine Comedy album I bought and I love it....after having a surf around the reviews of all their other albums on here I want all of them!!! Too Young To Die is amazing, as is Frog Princess, and Everybody Knows and Songs of love will also be favourites for ever. In this era of manufactured bands with lifespans of a year, dance music that all sounds the same and Italian DJs feat. Whoever, this is wonderfully original and Neil Hannon's voice rules the world!!!
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on 15 September 2004
I bought this album on a whim, remembering the 'Everybody know's That I Love You' track was annoyingly catchy.
Then I fell in love with the quirky/dark lyrics and composition. They use instruments other than guitars!!(not that I don't love good guitar rock, but this is an exquisite blend of musicianship!)
I'm now a devoted fan but I would recommend this music to anybody who likes indie/quirky feelgood tunes. However I think this is music that grows on you and so I would recommend that you spend some quality time with the less famous tracks. Learn to love them, as I did.
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on 19 January 2000
With so many classic songs on one CD this was bound to be a real treat. Along with the more well known songs such as 'National Express' and 'Everybody Knows (Except You)' are gems such as'The Frog Princess' and 'Tonight We Fly'. Neil Hannon's voice makes listening to this cd somehow akin to the experience of drinking Honey and Lemon when you have a sore throat - bliss! This is the first Divine Comedy album I have bought and I'm sure it won't be the last.
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