March 25, 2007
February 1, 1994
It has to be frustrating for a label to see an artist that they never had success with go on to another label in town and become a big star right off the bat. All they can do at that point is try to capitalize on the newfound success by releasing material the star had recorded before making it big.
Such is the case with Warner Brothers Records and Pam Tillis. Their pop division had released Pam’s first studio album, and after that tanked, the Nashville division signed her to a country singles deal. Tillis released six singles for the label, five of which reached the lower half of the country hit parade. Ignoring the pop project completely, Warner Bros. issued Collection in early 1994, a budget compilation of her six country singles for the label, along with four other previously unreleased tracks.
Don’t let the enticing cover fool you. Yes, there are four songs on this collection that were top ten hits, but two of them were by different artists and the other two hit when they were re-cut by Pam during her early years at Arista. All four of the versions here by Pam are inferior to the eventual hit recordings.
One thing that becomes obvious as soon as you listen to this compilation is that Warner Bros. had no idea what to do with Pam. She’s singing in too low a register and while the material is usually excellent, the production doesn’t even reach the heights of a mediocre demo. “Maybe It Was Memphis” doesn’t have a hint of the passion that would power the hit recording, and “One of Those Things” lacks the confidence that makes the hit version sound empowered rather than pathetically resigned.
“Five Minutes” would be a #1 smash for Lorrie Morgan, and Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris hit the top five with “Those Memories Of You”, so Pam clearly had good taste in outside material. Her own compositions here, particularly “Goodbye Highway” and “Sometimes a Stranger Will Do”, are at least on par with the album filler of her first two Arista albums. But the problem is that she hasn’t found her voice yet, or rather, has yet to assert it in the studio.
It’s interesting that the only song of the ten included that sounds anything like the Pam Tillis who would become a star is her cover of the Buck Owens tune “There Goes My Love.” It was the last single she would send to radio for Warner Bros., and she sings the hell out of it, though the background she sings in front of is tepid as ever. She shows her ease with traditional material that would later surface most prominently on It’s All Relative and Rhinestoned, but by that point, Warner Bros. had already lost whatever little interest they had in her, and cut her from the label.
I suppose it’s only fitting that WB would capitalize on Pam’s success as clumsily as they handled her when she was on their roster, but it must be noted that this collection makes some unfortunate omissions. In addition to excluding everything from Above & Beyond the Doll of Cutey, the ten-track set fails to include “Drawn to the Fire”, which was the B-side to no less than four of her WB country singles and was featured in the film Thelma & Louise. Also left off was “Sidewinder’s Symphony”, Pam’s contribution to the 1985 soundtrack Rustlers’ Rhapsody.
Collection was reissued in 2000 as Super Hits, not to be confused with two other BMG budget collections from Tillis with the exact same title. It’s no longer in print physically, but remains available digitally. Follow the link if you’d like to sample or buy it.
Track Listing: Maybe It Was Memphis/One of Those Things/I Thought I’d About Had it With Love/There Goes My Love/Sometimes a Stranger Will Do/Those Memories of You/I Wish She Wouldn’t Treat You That Way/Tennessee Nights/Five Minutes/Goodbye Highway
Buy Now: Super Hits