The prolific Harcourt has seen little reason to change his style since 2001�s Here Be Monsters, though if anything now he seems more assured than ever of his delivery. New song You Put A Spell On Me, tagged on at the end in typical �best of� exploitation, is as keenly felt as the other fifteen on this collection.
Harcourt sings with a smile on his face – often at odds with the lyrics he writes. Hence Loneliness is one of the cheeriest songs here, and also the furthest reaching in production values, with Harcourt�s vocal half way to U2. Apple Of My Eye is the flagship of four from the solo debut Here Be Monsters, a lightly swaying rhythm accompanying a subtly uplifting paean to a lover.
Harcourt is often compared to Tom Waits – no bad thing, you might think – and the prime inspiration behind his songwriting is love. His voice may not be obviously strong but it has always conveyed basic human emotions when it comes to relationships – love, loss, being loved, being lost, or some way between those states of mind. Gentle he may appear, but he gets to the heart of the matter in a way more obvious singer/songwriters fail to address.
Choice inclusions in the best of are Visit From The Dead Dog, All Your Days Will Be Blessed, with its yearning verse and affirmative chorus, then the spirit of adventure that rears its head in Shanghai. These more outdoors-y tunes are nicely balanced with the warm, easy amble of This One�s For You, Watching The Sun Come Up and the twilit Shadowboxing.
A feeling of easy bonhomie runs through the collection, but it would be wrong to dismiss Harcourt�s delivery as lightweight. These are choice everyday songs that relate on a level that is easy to understand. All sung with feeling.
Appropriately beginning with Born In The 70s – Harcourt came into this world in 1977 – the best of marks the passing of his first career chapter. It�s to be hoped it gains him new fans, as this is songwriting of a quality markedly superior to much of the contemporary fare on offer.