You know you are getting old when your childhood idols start coming out with Best Of albums. The Collection is Annie Lennox’s first official compedium and spans 15 years of the Aberdeen singer’s career.
It picks up her story in 1990, when Dave Stewart and Lennox ended their 10-year-old Eurythmics association. Annie, already a mother of one by then, decided to take her chances with a couple of songs she’d written, and contacted producer Stephen Lipson.
They recorded the album Diva, since when Lennox has been a recognized and highly respected solo artist. It’s a testament to her career that the press release mentions her Oscar and two Golden Globes in passing, for from then, she released a solo album every four to five years. Yet none of these repeated the critical and public acclaim of her debut.
From the late ’90s Lennox has been heavily involved with Greenpeace and Amnesty International, and this has had an audible effect on her music. Eurythmics’ comeback album Peace and her collaboration with 23 other divas (including Madonna), Sing, pointed out that up-to-date political issues were becoming ever more important for La Lennoxa than her poetic self.
Medusa in 1995 was a collection of cover versions, made so she didn’t need to write songs and could devote the time saved to her children. It showed us that Lennox can turn great and even not-so-great songs into fantastic and overwhelming. As a last display of her emotions she came out with Bare in 2003, a dark album that is difficult but rewarding to listen to in one go.
In 2007 Songs Of Mass Destruction appeared, and proved mainly one fact – Lennox no longer cares about finding a broad audience but only about speaking or singing about what she chooses. In an interview she put this as “I can feel proud of (it), no matter if it sells 10 copies or 50 million.” Safe to say, it did not sell anything like 50 million.
The album included the aforementioned single Sing, which, if nothing else, could win the award for the worst executed good intention in music history. Sing, which was supposed to earn money for women living with HIV in Africa, had no impact on sales charts, radios or TVs, mainly because it was musically poor, lyrically commonplace and came with a video which had the quality of a home tape from 1980s Eastern Europe.
On to 2009 and this Collection attempts to give a summary and to let her move on, mainly from RCA. The artwork gives us the usual goose pimples – Annie Lennox, at her best, stylish, simple and authentic. A woman of many faces, but unlike Madonna not all and only about the surface; instead, musically talented and authentic, fueled by innuendo.
But this is about as far as the good points go. The basic edition’s track listing order is as if someone has pulled the titles from a hat, without reference to logic, chronology or an attempt at completion. It is complete, with all the hits – except for the Academy Award winner Into The West, which is shunted on to the 2CD edition. Yet it’s incomplete too, failing to give the listener a feeling of overseeing a valuable, precious career, despite the presence of those hits, notably Why and No More I Love Yous.
The album closes with two cover versions, one less relevant than the other. A woman that proved to be able to cover songs in a magnificent way could surely have afforded something better than Ash‘s Shining Light and Keane singer Tom Chaplin’s contribution, Pattern Of My Life. For all her surface over substance, even Madonna managed to put out two new tracks on her first Immaculate Collection.
Here’s hoping it’s not setting a pattern of the rest of her life. Now she’s free from her major label obligations and can do what she pleases, maybe she can spend some time pleasing her fans.