[26 June 2008]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
The title Greatest Love Songs is of course a misnomer, a marketing gimmick to justify the release of yet another repackaging of music from the past. “Just in time for Valentine’s Day”, the promotional copy proclaims. Certainly most of these songs deal with love in some way, whether it’s infatuation (“Hello Mary Lou”), the dream of perfect, everlasting love (“Sweeter Than You”), or heartbreak (“Lonesome Town”). Seeking love, finding love, losing love…in other words, the same basic themes covered by a cross-section of pop-music hits from any era. What this album’s theming mostly means is we get a decent overview of Nelson’s teen-idol period, but without any sense of historical or biographical context. The songs themselves, especially classics like “Poor Little Fool” and “Lonesome Town”, are spectacular, showcasing the way he turned a rather ordinary, everyman singing voice into something expressive. He turned lack into something special, giving more resonance to the emotions of the songs, and to the universal human story of love and loss that’s within them. That the album carries that aura is a tribute to Nelson himself, not to the people who somewhat haphazardly put this together.