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4.2 out of 5 stars
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4.2 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 15 June 2007
Teaming Cat Power with the Hi team who recorded behind Ann Peebles and Al Green was an unexpected and brilliant idea. A special alchemy took place at Ardent Studios in Memphis which enhanced both Cat Power's gorgeous smoky voice and the soulful groove the band has laid down. I would say that that it was worth the price of the album just for the majestic opening song, The Greatest, were it not that it is also available as a single, but that would be to unfairly demean the rest of the record. Of course Cat Power does not need embellishment, as is demonstrated on the unadorned song Hate. Cat's most accomplished album to date.
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#1 HALL OF FAMEon 26 April 2006
appears to be the subtext of every review of 'The Greatest'- recorded with musicians from Al Green's band, these soulful elements have got critics, fans and on-line types citing 'Dusty in Memphis' - sure you can see where they're coming from, but there are differences - Marshall writes, plays, arranges and sings - and there's the suggestion that this is the Cat Power Sells Out LP. When you can really here the same artist found on 'Moon Pix', 'The Covers Record' and 'You Are Free'- just more developed down the line...

The album blends the highlighted soul elements with the prior piano-lead joy of Cat Power, offering something between 'Dusty in Memphis' and Patti Smith. The sophoric/transcendental qualities Power offers recall Mazzy Star/Hope Sandoval too - it's been a good year or so for talented females incidentally: Neko Case, Fiona Apple, Vashti Bunyan, Joanna Newsom, Candi Staton, Marissa Nadler, Kate Bush, Bjork, Laura Cantrell, Isobel Campbell...which is not to same that being female they are all the same - but to point out that many great records are being made by females.It should be easy for people to get lost in the shuffle...

'The Greatest' is (predictably) the Greatest- not really a dud here and I kind of feel cheated that I waited a few weeks before getting it - we've lost hours together. 'The Moon' and 'Islands' are moments of poetic joy - you can see why someone mentioned 'Astral Weeks' in an earlier review - while the conclusion of 'Hate' and 'Love & Communication' offers up something close to a concept sequence, Cobain cited on the former ("I said I hate myself and I want to die")- while the latter is more surreal with the use of 'Cuz' suggesting Chan's a Slade-fan!

This album seems to have opened Cat Power up a bit more - I was quite shocked to hear 'The Greatest' being played by Wogan on Radio 2 one morning (...perhaps I imagined that...) I'd say it features as many great songs as Marshall has recorded before - 'Lived In Bars' perfectly blending her soulful aspirations and her caustic confessional - the lyrics of 'Lived In Bars' belong more to a Paul Westerberg world than a Ryan Adams one. The best song here, and the track I'd justify buying the album for alone is 'Living Proof' - which is to be a single and has had a promo made by Harmony Korine ('Gummo','Julien Donkey-Boy'). This has a gorgeous soul groove nailed to Chan's piano, while an emotive organ recalling Al Kooper adds to Marshall's perfect phrasing (the fade out too soon as Chan begins to testify in vain is the kind of thing peak Dylan would have done...). The lyrics are brilliant and given pristeen delivery to fantastic musicianship and arrangement - I've listened to this song on repeat over and over and over again ('Like a Rolling Stone'? - PAH!!) It's one of those songs like Robert Wyatt's 'Sea Song', Dennis Wilson's 'Time', Neko Case's 'Tightly', My Bloody Valentine's 'Loomer' & Scott Walker's 'Farmer in the City' I can just get lost in...Just listen to those words sung that way with that voice: "It's not your face or the color of your hair/Or the sound of your voice my dear that's got me dragged in here/(change in phrasing)It's the ice in the seam, the scheme of you/(another shift)You're supposed to have the answer/You're supposed to have living proof...Yes I was jealous- cos you are sworn (you're sworn...)/How could you come undone to a word so strong?/(another change in emphasis)My beating heart the anchor to a ship so warm/(building on the previous conclusion)/You're supposed to have the answer/You're supposed to have living proof - Well I am your answer/I am living...Will you terrorize this with your perfect lips?/I watch you eat and feed this mess to the running wind [Dylanesque in its obliqueness!]/(the change...)But I know you from before and after until then/Do you have your answer?/Do you have living proof?/Well I am your answer - I am living...(...and the song builds to a testimonial climax)You're supposed to have an answer/You're supposed to have living proof/Well do you have your answer?/Well I am your answer/I am living..." A perfect song and number one for eternity in my happy utopia...

'The Greatest' is a fantastic album, adding to the brilliant career thus far - shame Marshall's cancelled the tour - can we have another album recorded in some woods please? One of the albums of 2006 and includes the singles 'The Greatest', 'Lived In Bars', and 'Could We', as well as the greatest song penned since 'Like a Rolling Stone', 'Living Proof.' I recommend the new version as (i) it's cheaper and (ii) it has a pic of foxy Chan on the front...
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on 6 February 2007
As a huge fan of Chan's earlier, harsher lo-fi albums and a big fan of everything else she's produced, i was pretty shocked and... disappointed i guess... with "The Greatest", initially rejecting it ("This isn't Cat Power" i had said to a friend at the time) despite listening to it over and over.

I've now had 12months to get my head around it though and ye know what? It turns out it's pretty damn good.

At first i took it very much as "Cat Power goes to Memphis" (i've no idea how many times i've seen that written now but it's a fair description), unsure of an entire band backing little Miss Marshall, but having taken time to separate the album from her others i've come to really appreciate it.

Stand-out tracks for me are "The Greatest" (undeniably beautiful), "Living Proof" and the persistent "Love and Communication" (including a discordant guitar near the beginning harking back to those early days... - this is my favourite track on the album).

Great joy also comes from fully band-backed recordings of "The Moon", "Willie" and "Islands" after hearing early Chan-and-a-guitar versions on the "Speaking for Trees" DVD/CD.

The extra track on this edition is nice, but i'm generally not a fan of bonus tracks of any sort. An album is an album. If a track isn't on the original playlist then there's a reason for that and it shouldn't be shoved in. But hey.

It's taken a year for me to fully accept this album and i still don't like to give it 4 stars, just for the reason that i feel i'm betraying my love for her earlier work, but "The Greatest" really does deserve it.

Soulful, beautiful, at times fun, at times pretty dark.

(a solo album next time would be great though)
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on 4 February 2006
I've known her name without hearing Cat Power's music before but the title track single just hit me every time I heard it on the radio and I'm really glad I bought the album on the strength of it . What a great album, deeply atmospheric and intense but - as you might suspect with Al Green's backing band on board- hugely pleasurable on the ear, with a real emotional power. I suspect this album will be keeping me late night company for a long time yet.
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VINE VOICEon 27 March 2006
It takes a certain amount of nerve to call an album "The Greatest" but in terms of Chan Marshall's fantastic catalogue, she's just about got it right with the title.
Single "The Greatest" is every bit as good as you would expect but it's by no means the only highlight on this brilliant album. "Could We" sparkles and shimmies, whilst "Willie" starts off sounding like a Ben Folds song but transforms itself into something else entirely over the course of a listen. "Hate" is earthy and raw and whilst somewhat out of place in some senses on this album, does hark back to some of her previous work.
My personal pick of the bunch is "Love And Communication." Right at the end of the album (ignoring the bonus 'unadvertised' track) I was already enthralled by the album, but this track quickly was stuck on repeat play with its blaze of guitars and strings.
You don't look to a Cat Power album for a cheery, laugh a minute, session and whist on the surface the tunes, such as "After It All" may make this seem like some kind of departure, but before you get too carried away lyrics such as "I hate myself and I want to die" remind you just who you are listening to.
It's perhaps not the leap that Marshall may have made, but this is still a fantastic collection of songs, which certainly does live up their with her greatest work and certainly defies any easy catergorisation. It's a liitle bit country, it's a little bit soul, but it's a whole lot Cat Power. She's pulled it off again.
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appears to be the subtext of every review of 'The Greatest'- recorded with musicians from Al Green's band, these soulful elements have got critics, fans and on-line types citing 'Dusty in Memphis' - sure you can see where they're coming from, but there are differences - Marshall writes, plays, arranges and sings - and there's the suggestion that this is the Cat Power Sells Out LP. When you can really here the same artist found on 'Moon Pix', 'The Covers Record' and 'You Are Free'- just more developed down the line...
The album blends the highlighted soul elements with the prior piano-lead joy of Cat Power, offering something between 'Dusty in Memphis' and Patti Smith. The sophoric/transcendental qualities Power offers recall Mazzy Star/Hope Sandoval too - it's been a good year or so for talented females incidentally: Neko Case, Fiona Apple, Vashti Bunyan, Joanna Newsom, Candi Staton, Marissa Nadler, Kate Bush, Bjork, Laura Cantrell, Isobel Campbell...which is not to same that being female they are all the same - but to point out that many great records are being made by females.It should be easy for people to get lost in the shuffle...
'The Greatest' is (predictably) the Greatest- not really a dud here and I kind of feel cheated that I waited a few weeks before getting it - we've lost hours together. 'The Moon' and 'Islands' are moments of poetic joy - you can see why someone mentioned 'Astral Weeks' in an earlier review - while the conclusion of 'Hate' and 'Love & Communication' offers up something close to a concept sequence, Cobain cited on the former ("I said I hate myself and I want to die")- while the latter is more surreal with the use of 'Cuz' suggesting Chan's a Slade-fan!
This album seems to have opened Cat Power up a bit more - I was quite shocked to hear 'The Greatest' being played by Wogan on Radio 2 one morning (...perhaps I imagined that...) I'd say it features as many great songs as Marshall has recorded before - 'Lived In Bars' perfectly blending her soulful aspirations and her caustic confessional - the lyrics of 'Lived In Bars' belong more to a Paul Westerberg world than a Ryan Adams one. The best song here, and the track I'd justify buying the album for alone is 'Living Proof' - which is to be a single and has had a promo made by Harmony Korine ('Gummo','Julien Donkey-Boy'). This has a gorgeous soul groove nailed to Chan's piano, while an emotive organ recalling Al Kooper adds to Marshall's perfect phrasing (the fade out too soon as Chan begins to testify in vain is the kind of thing peak Dylan would have done...). The lyrics are brilliant and given pristeen delivery to fantastic musicianship and arrangement - I've listened to this song on repeat over and over and over again ('Like a Rolling Stone'? - PAH!!) It's one of those songs like Robert Wyatt's 'Sea Song', Dennis Wilson's 'Time', Neko Case's 'Tightly', My Bloody Valentine's 'Loomer' & Scott Walker's 'Farmer in the City' I can just get lost in...Just listen to those words sung that way with that voice: "It's not your face or the color of your hair/Or the sound of your voice my dear that's got me dragged in here/(change in phrasing)It's the ice in the seam, the scheme of you/(another shift)You're supposed to have the answer/You're supposed to have living proof...Yes I was jealous- cos you are sworn (you're sworn...)/How could you come undone to a word so strong?/(another change in emphasis)My beating heart the anchor to a ship so warm/(building on the previous conclusion)/You're supposed to have the answer/You're supposed to have living proof - Well I am your answer/I am living...Will you terrorize this with your perfect lips?/I watch you eat and feed this mess to the running wind [Dylanesque in its obliqueness!]/(the change...)But I know you from before and after until then/Do you have your answer?/Do you have living proof?/Well I am your answer - I am living...(...and the song builds to a testimonial climax)You're supposed to have an answer/You're supposed to have living proof/Well do you have your answer?/Well I am your answer/I am living..." A perfect song and number one for eternity in my happy utopia...
'The Greatest' is a fantastic album, adding to the brilliant career thus far - shame Marshall's cancelled the tour - can we have another album recorded in some woods please?
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on 6 November 2006
I'll be honest with you, I am completely out of my depth reviewing this. Yes, I'm aware that this isn't her first album, but it's the first one that's picked up on the radar in this country thanks to the title song 'The Greatest' and 'Could We', which both charmed me and really sold this artist's album to me. The sound on this, is a rich seductive tapestry of Blue Grass Country spliced with Atlantic Soul delivered in a sultry but lived in voice.
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on 5 February 2007
This would not have been the kind of music I would listen to normally but when my brother urged me to buy it I was ecstatic. With Cat's velvet tones, her poetic songs sing from the heart. It reminds me of the kind of music that could be playing when the last but one couple stays at a smoky bar whilst everyone cleans up around them. It's perfect for relaxing but might be a little too melancholy for those getting over a relationship. If you like Norah Jones you will love this album. It's in my top 10 of chilled out poetic music.
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on 1 July 2007
The Greatest is Cat Power (aka Chan Marshall)'s seventh album. However, I had not heard this artist perform until early 2006 when I caught a radio review of this album and, in particular, a playing of "In the Bars". What caught and held my attention that morning were those lonely, sad and delicate vocals with little more than a guitar to support them. She may have caught me in a moment of weakness, but it was hard to forget that voice.

The album was recorded in Memphis, Tennessee - "home" to soul legend Al Green and a style of soul music that was noted for its use of melancholic horns, organ, bass, and drums. Marshall keeps this link to the city's great past by enlisting the likes of "Teenie" Hodges and Steve Potts to be her backing band. These men would have recorded in the past with many of the great artists to record in Memphis in the 60s and 70s.

Despite the album's name, any notion of superiority or swagger that this may suggest is stripped away by no later than the opening verse of "The Greatest", which is also the album's opening number. It is a song about a man remembering the time in his youth when all he wanted to be was the greatest boxer of them all:

Once I wanted to be the greatest

No wind or waterfall could stall me

And then came the rush of the flood

Stars of the night turned deep to dust

Naturally, to speak of "The Greatest" in boxing is to speak of the sporting colossus that was Muhammad Ali. I especially like the following verse in that respect:

Once I wanted to be the greatest

Two fists of solid rock

With brains that could explain

Any feeling.

Indeed, in his fantastic biography on the man, David Remnick recalled a poignant moment when the two were watching a recording of Ali beating Sonny Liston in 1964 to become heavyweight champion of the world for the first time:

"But wasn't I pretty? I was twenty... twenty what? Twenty-two. Now I'm fifty-four. Fifty-four." He [Ali] said nothing for a minute or so. Then he said, "Time flies. Flies. Flies. It flies away." Then, very slowly, Ali lifted his hand and fluttered his fingers like the wings of a bird. "It just flies away", he said.

I recall this incident, as what was to befall Ali in terms of illness is the fragility of human nature that this song captures. We dream, we aspire, we may even achieve what we set out to do. However, life is a path of many turns and none of us can see how things will necessarily work out.

The music on "The Greatest" is haunting slow-tempoed strings and piano, that give Marshall's brittle and husky voice full rein over the song. This style is repeated on "Lived in Bars", Where is My Love" and "Hate". Of the twelve songs on the album, these also constitute the four that I like best for that reason. "Hate" is more like Marshall's previous work. It is a troubled song that ends with the lines:

I said I hate me myself and I

I said I hate myself and I want to die

"Where is My Love" is a simply constructed song that sees Marshall plaintively cry out for her absent lover to return. "Lived in Bars" is a song with religious connotations of hope and salvation:

And nothing like ending it all for the world

We're so glad you will come back

Every living lion will lay in your lap

It also features the novelty of Marhsall throwing out the question of who will play "drums, guitar or organ with chorus" and being answered within a few lines by the band providing a clearly contrasting double-time ending to the song.

The remaining songs are worth a listen, as they show the greatest interaction between Marshall and her backing band (especially the likes of "Living Proof", "Willie", and "Love and Communication"). However, they do not hold my attention as much as the others. I suspect the reason is that I have always appreciated classic soul and RnB, without truly liking it. However, I suspect that there is much there too for others to hear and enjoy.

A purchase well worth making.
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on 18 January 2006
I love the music of Cat Power, and I love the way she changes style with every record she makes. From the Sonic youth collaboration Myra Lee, with all its angst and anger, through Moon Pix, with the sparse Dirty Three arrangements and the even sparser solo Cover Record with nothing but amateurish piano and guitar, to You Are Free with the rockier sound borrowed from drummer Dave Grohl.
Now she teams up with Memphis musicians, big brass arrangements and choirs that sound unexpectedly like Las Vegas glamour. It’s a change again, but for the first time I wish she had picked another direction.
The title track is still lovely, and recalls much of Moon Pix greatness despite the new sound. Where Is My love is slightly monotonous but pretty, and Hate with its Cobain loan ‘ I hate myself and I want to die’, sounds almost like the old sultry Chan from the very first records.
But generally Chan Marshall sounds more confident and secure in her voice than ever before. The Chan that hid behind the piano in foetus position is long gone, and she sounds like an experienced performer. Everything is perfect, cool intros: a radio voice, a whistle, and Lived In Bars has a bluesy lyric about dancing on tables. Willie Deadwilder from the DVD release Speaking for Trees, which used to be a 20 minute narrative, repetitive and hypnotic, is stripped down to merely ‘Willie’ now, and holds little more than a refrain.
It’s all very well made, and probably it will reach my top five album list of 2006 for its peaks, but nevertheless I am disappointed. Cat Power sounds mature, and some of the times even boring. There are tracks that sound so middle aged and brassy I tend to skip them. And the immature part of me is selfish enough to wish that Chan still had her nervous system on the outside, like an anxious doll turned inside out, with emotions making her voice the subtlest instrument on earth.
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