It’s a quality that dwells in artists who are able to filter out the superficial clutter of much of rock and pop music and focuses on what counts. Call it what you want - the soul, the core, the essence, or the heart of a song, conceived in the spirit and delivered with a brutal honesty. Artists like Bob Dylan, Keith Richards, Gram Parsons, Neil Young and Nikki Sudden.
Yes, Nikki Sudden.
For Sudden, the journey began with Swell Maps. A progeny of the late ‘70s punk movement, Swell Maps (including Sudden’s brother (the late Epic Soundtracks), Jowe Head and Richard Earl) was a noisy and shambolic pop experience, lasting for a mere five years before splitting up in obscurity. However, their shredding atonal guitar-pop style would influence the likes of Sonic Youth and Pavement.
Sudden went solo and this compilation stands as a testament to the art and craft of the man covering eight albums within 18 years. Sudden has together with engineer John Rivers taken a revisionist stance by reviewing the material and “improving” the songs where he deemed necessary. Thus, remixes and edits are employed to fit these selections better into Sudden’s current point of view (hindsight is 20/20).
According to Sudden, the basic premise was to include two tracks from each solo album plus a few extra tracks - the first solo single (“Back to the Start,”) a B-side, “Captain Kennedy”, (from the Neil Young tribute album, The Bridge) and a new song, “It’s Gonna Be Alright”.
For me, the outstanding cuts (apart from the ones mentioned above) are the appropriately titled “Jangle Town” (off Texas); the lilting country rocker “I Belong to You” (off The Jewel Thief); the grungey Crazy Horse stomper “Too Bad For You” (off Dead Men Tell No Tales); the flighty discofied “Countess” and the atmospheric “When I Left You” (off Texas); the Stonesy boogie-fied “Behind the Lines” (off Seven Lives Later); the comforting “Broken Door”, (off Red Brocade); the breezy “The Road of Broken Dreams”, (off The Bible Belt) and the majestic Dylanesque title track.
A bonus disc of seven acoustic tracks is also included, only to emphasis the value of this collection. Essential for very fan of alternative country rock and pop.