Chan Marshall's gorgeous, evocative albums as Cat Power have gained even more critical and popular attention than her idiosyncratic on-stage behavior (and that's saying quite a bit). MOON PIX (1998) and YOU ARE FREE (2004), the two albums of all-original material preceding 2006's THE GREATEST, were spellbinding affairs that pitted Marshall's haunting voice against a stirring m‚lange of spare, low-key indie rock and atmospheric balladry. THE GREATEST, however, one of Marshall's most focused and impressive efforts, surpasses those two superb albums.
The album is characterized by elaborate horn and string arrangements and a warm, polished feel, much of which stems from the old-school Memphis soul musicians Marshall has backing her (guitarist Teenie Hodges and bassist Leroy Hodges, both of Al Green fame, appear, as does MGs replacement drummer Steve Potts, among others). The sweet, earthy sheen may lack some of the raggedness that pleased Marshall's indie fans, yet the artist has lost none of her incisive songwriting ability, whether on moving narratives (the title track), countrified lopes ("Could We"), or spare meditations on loneliness ("Where is My Love"). More immediately accessible that previous Cat Power releases, THE GREATEST is no less distinctive or engaging: it sounds less like selling out than buying in.
Rolling Stone (p.60) - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "[U]nsettling but intimate....[A]n album full of bittersweet love and tiny pleasures."
Rolling Stone (p.103) - Ranked #6 in Rolling Stone's "The Top 50 Albums Of 2006" -- "[S]he cuts deep soul with Memphis session men..."
Spin (p.62) - Ranked #07 in Spin's "The 40 Best Albums of 2006" -- "An R&B album recorded in Memphis with soul-session greats..."
Entertainment Weekly (p.p.80) - "Marshall recorded the album in Memphis with songwriters and musicians who've worked with the likes of Al Green....She's inching her way toward expressiveness..." - Grade: B+
Entertainment Weekly (p.131) - Ranked #9 in Entertainment Weekly's "Top 10 Records Of 2006" -- "[A] conflicted, haunting masterpiece."
Q (p.121) - Ranked #37 in Q Magazine's "100 Greatest Albums of 2006" -- "[A] career-defining triumph..."
Uncut (p.74) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[T]his is the real thing: a shy, emotionally naked white girl finding common cause with her region's neglected musical greats, delivering an album of perilous depth....An understated masterpiece."
Magnet (pp.88-89) - "[Marshall] brings sound and sentiment together on 'The Moon,' an understated evocation of loneliness."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.116) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "For all their intimacy, there is still something otherworldly about these songs....By putting some warm flesh on her musical bones, Chan Marshall is punching her considerable songwriting weight....THE GREATEST lives up to its gold-plated name."
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