Just a little more than ten years ago, Trisha Yearwood released her first hits collection. Entitled Songbook, it was a massive hit, selling more than four million copies to date. Ever since, MCA has been remarkably respectful of Yearwood’s catalog, not even releasing a budget collection of her lesser hits like they’ve done with every other artist from the same era.
When Yearwood decided to leave MCA for Big Machine records, it was only reasonable to expect a compilation to surface as a result. There had been rumors of a Songbook II at the end of 2006, but nothing came of them. Since the original Songbook only culled hits from Yearwood’s first four studio albums, there had yet to be a collection that covered the five that followed. It’s quite a disappointment that MCA chose to release Greatest Hits instead, which takes a handful of hits from the later works but emphasizes material that had already been included on Songbook.
Ten of the twelve tracks from Songbook return on Greatest Hits, with two omissions: “In Another’s Eyes”, her Grammy-winning duet with Garth Brooks, and “Down On My Knees”, the only track from Songbook that wasn’t a top ten hit. That’s an important distinction, since Greatest Hits takes the simple, lazy approach of compiling a track listing based on peak positions on the singles charts. Fourteen of the fifteen hits found here peaked in the top five, with “Powerful Thing” being the only exception – it stopped at #6.
It’s a reasonable approach for most artists, but Trisha Yearwood is not like most country artists. Whereas most country stars who have a lot of success at radio are essentially singles artists who happen to make albums, Yearwood has always been an albums artist who happens to have a lot of success at radio. Her biggest hits are rarely representative of her work, and while most of the hits here are of remarkable quality, you still need to buy her albums to hear her very best work.
This is most evident in the compilation’s brief exploration of her post-Songbook period. After collecting two big, wonderful hits from Everybody Knows, which actually preceded Songbook in 1996, Greatest Hits only includes three tracks from her four albums since: “There Goes My Baby” and “Powerful Thing” from 1998’s Where Your Road Leads, and “I Would’ve Loved You Anyway” from 2001’s Inside Out. From a chart perspective, that may make sense, but given that the two albums ignored on this collection – Real Live Woman and Jasper County – both went gold and received far more critical acclaim, it’s a waste for them to go completely ignored.
This would have been a much stronger collection if the Grammy-nominated singles “Real Live Woman” and “Georgia Rain” had been included, along with a few other great singles like “That’s What I Like About You”, “On a Bus to St. Cloud”, “Where Are You Now” and “I Don’t Paint Myself into Corners.” By replacing Songbook rather than following it with another volume, Yearwood’s catalog is whittled down to fifteen radio hits, a far too brief overview of sixteen years of music.
As for the two previously unreleased tracks, they do little more than prove the fact that Yearwood has exceptionally good taste in material, but also good judgment about what to leave off of her albums. Neither “Just a Cup of Coffee” or “Nothin’ to Lose” were worthy of being on a Yearwood album, and they take up valuable space on a hits collection that isn’t thorough enough in the first place.
Hopefully, MCA will revisit Yearwood’s catalog with greater depth and release a more thorough collection, which will need at least two or three discs to get the job done. This is a decent enough hits package, but listeners wanting a real introduction to Yearwood’s talent are still better off buying the studio albums. Start with Hearts in Armor and work your way forward. You’ll thank me later.
Buy: Greatest Hits