Ah, the nineties. What seemed so perfect back then, time has taken the shine away from. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about the quality of the music, which remains excellent. But when Pam Tillis released her Greatest Hits album back in 1997, more than a million consumers were gladly willing to pay for what seemed like a definitive collection of hits. After all, the ten previous hits included on the set are all top-notch, and she included two new singles that outdid many of the old hits on the charts. But expectations of what a compilation should accomplish have changed with time, and with this still being the most complete Tillis compilation available, a discussion of what it’s missing becomes unavoidable.
Greatest Hits attempts to summarize the first four albums Tillis released for Arista records, which produced sixteen top twenty hits. Choosing only ten of them for this project created a challenge, and one of the compilation’s shortcomings is its lack of balance in representing the four albums. Arista chose to take the bulk of the material from Sweetheart’s Dance and Homeward Looking Angel. Seven of the ten old tracks come from those two albums, leaving off only one single from each project: “Do You Know Where Your Man Is”, Tillis’ channeling of Tammy Wynette, and “I Was Blown Away”, which was racing up the charts until the Oklahoma City bombing prompted Tillis to ask radio stations to stop playing it.
So where does that leave All of This Love and Put Yourself in My Place? Two fantastic singles from All of this Love are nowhere to be found here – “Deep Down” and “It’s Lonely Out There”, and trio of hits from her Arista debut (“One of Those Things”, “Put Yourself in My Place” and “Blue Rose Is”) are also missing in action.
None of this would be a problem if Tillis’ catalog had been revisited to make a more definitive compilation, but as of now, this is still the most complete collection of her hits. Thankfully, the two new singles are among the best of her career. “All the Good Ones Are Gone” is a now-classic rumination of a woman who is turning 34 and losing hope of finding love, and “Land of the Living” is another woman-to-woman number in the vein of “Spilled Perfume”, which finds Tillis pushing for her friend to get back out there after a painful breakup.
So in the end, if you’re in the market for a Tillis sampler, this remains your best option, even ten years later. But the time has long since past for a more comprehensive hits collection. All of her hits could easily fit on a single CD, given the brief running time of many of her singles. Collect every single from her first four albums (with the exception of the bomb “Betty’s Got a Bass Boat”, the two new singles from this project, and her only two hits since – “I Said a Prayer” and “Please” - and you’ll have a solid 21-track collection that could still squeeze in a track or two from her tribute album to her father. Include the radio versions of “Memphis” and “River”, which were remixed, and “Mi Vida Loca” and “In Between Dances”, which were given new vocals, and you’ve got a package worthy of the Tillis name.
Track Listing: Land of the Living/All the Good Ones are Gone/Don’t Tell Me What To Do/Maybe it Was Memphis/Shake the Sugar Tree/Let That Pony Run/Cleopatra, Queen of Denial/Spilled Perfume/When You Walk in the Room/In Between Dances/Mi Vida Loca (My Crazy Life)/The River and The Highway
Buy Now: Greatest Hits