I had read a few reviews of Chan Marshall’s new album as Cat Power called The Greatest. Some of the reviews praise the record as an attempt to become more accessible. Others bemoan the loss of the Cat Power that was risky, edgy, and underground. Chan (pronounced “Shawn”) packed up and went to Memphis to record this record at Ardent studios. Ardent is where Big Star did all of their greatest work. She worked with Memphis veterans such as Mabon “Teenie” Hodges and Steve Potts. These guys played with the likes of Al Green, Tina Turner, Neil Young, and Booker T and the MG’s. Teenie co-wrote “Take Me To The River” and “Love and Happiness” with Green. Pitchfork gives the record a 7.9/10– which is quite a compliment from them, however, their comment is that is sounds “outdated” or “musty” instead of timeless. They praise the album as one that will widen her audience.
So, I guess I stand in the widening row. I have heard some Cat Power in the past. I even have a live show that I traded for some Tortoise live show a couple of years back. I had always meant to listen to her covers record that she released in 2000, as I guess it was pretty good. I’ve sat through this album three times in a row (which I don’t usually do). I’ve come to the decision that I really like it. Sure, it isn’t really edgy or confrontational. It sounds like a record made by someone who was having a good time hanging out with some old school R&B guys. It is nice and laid back slightly jazzy with a really intimate small bar feel. The recording feels live to me, very little editing. The songs that stand out for me are “Moon” and “Love and Communication.” I really recommend this record. One of the reviewers for this record said that if “Adult Alternative” was going to include this kind of music then they should sign her up. The trouble with reviews is that all the best that anyone can do is compare the reviewed record to other records. Evidently she doesn’t have anything in her catalog that compares to this. At times it sounds more like a smoky, angry Dido record, or maybe a Natalie Merchant record after a night at the bars. I’d recommend this one. I plan to get the vinyl version, I think. Thanks to Matador’s very cool vinyl friendliness, we have a vinyl version! Also, there is a 7 inch single available for $.99!
Here is an mp3 of the first track on The Greatest.