Dave Edmunds – The Many Sides Of Dave Edmunds: The Greatest Hits and more (2008)
I first became aware of Dave Edmunds when I saw the 1990 concert for John Lennon and he was part of the “house band”, doing an excellent version of “Strawberry Fields Forever”. A little later, after I became a big Elvis Costello fan, I learned that Elvis had written “Girls Talk”, a great song I remembered from my childhood, for Dave and, also, that another one of my musical heroes, Jeff Lynne, had worked with Dave, writing a song for him, “Slipping Away”. When I saw that there was a “Greatest Hits” retrospective of Dave’s work coming out, it wasn’t exactly a difficult decision to buy it, especially in the form of a newly digitally remastered bumper twenty song disc. Sadly, the whole collection wasn’t quite as good as I was hoping it would be, mainly owing to that fact that I wasn’t aware that Edmunds was primarily a singer/guitarist, rather than songwriter and I also wasn’t aware that the rockabilly style was such a big part of his music. Not that I dislike rockabilly, far from it, but, having heard this album, know that there are so many other artists who do it so much better.
The album starts with it’s best track. “Girls Talk”, from the acclaimed 1979 album, “Repeat When Necessary”, is a really great song, so good that it makes you wonder why Costello gave it away. It’s a baffling donation almost in the same league as Bowie giving away “All The Young Dudes”. “I Hear You Knocking”, the 1970 Christmas number one, is a classic rock ‘n’ roll song, but sounds a little dated stood side-by-side with the later material, which brings me to the conclusion that this would probably have worked a little better in chronological order. “Every Time I See Her”, from the 1990 album “Closer To The Flame”, is a brilliantly catchy track and is one of my favourite cuts on this compilation. Dave’s wall-of-sound cover version of The Ronettes’ “Baby I Love You” is rather wonderful, as is the brass-augmented “Fallin’ Through A Hole”.
Although the album starts well, it’s not all gold. “I Knew The Bride” is fun, but it lacks substance, as does “Crawling From The Wreckage”. There are only so many three-chord rockers you can hear in the space of 80 minutes and really enjoy. The cover of Guy Mitchell’s “Singin’ The Blues” is clunky and a little charmless despite some nifty guitar work, the Jeff Lynne written and produced “Slipping Away” isn’t exactly the best song he has ever put his name to and “I Got The Will” is just plain boring. In fact, much of the last quarter of the album finished off the compilation with country-tinged songs which are easy to tune out and tap your feet too, but they’re all quite unremarkable and don’t sound as if they belong on a retrospective claiming to be a greatest hits, seeing as most of them sound like fairly unremarkable album tracks. If I’m honest, I was very glad when the album finally finished, although it did manage to finish on a high with his adrenaline-pumping 1968 debut single (with Love Sculpture), “Sabre Dance”.
In my opinion, around a third of the material could have been trimmed from this “best of” and it would probably be a better listening experience, overall. Only a quarter of the songs here are truly excellent and some really don’t represent the artist well, especially if they are presented here as an example of his best songs. In fact, from what I’ve read, there seems to be a little disquiet amongst fans about the track listing and some insist that some of Dave’s best songs are missing. I will have to take their opinions at face value, because this is all I’ve heard of his work and there’s not enough great material on this album to encourage me to investigate Edmunds’ back catalogue beyond this single CD. It’s more than enough for me.