January 17, 2012
Hits and More
The smooth powerful voice of Martina McBride has been a welcome radio presence for two decades now. After eighteen years of hit singles, top-selling albums, and industry awards, November 2010 brought the news that McBride was exiting the RCA Nashville label roster. In the wake of her departure from her longtime label home, her hitmaking days on RCA are summarized on the career retrospective Hits and More, featuring seventeen of McBride’s best-known hits arranged chronologically, plus three new recordings. All of her RCA albums are represented except for her 1992 debut The Time Has Come (which produced no significant hits) and her 2005 covers album Timeless (which produced only one minor Top 20 hit with McBride’s rendition of Lynn Anderson’s “Rose Garden”).
It’s a generally acknowledged fact that McBride released her best and most significant material during her nineties career heyday, with her 2001 Greatest Hits package having covered this era thoroughly. On this new set, that era is condensed into the first nine tracks. Regrettably, this results in a few mighty fine songs – notably “Safe In the Arms of Love” and “Wrong Again” – getting squeezed out. It’s also worth noting that McBride has released several singles over the years that scarcely dented the charts, and thus have been repeatedly passed over in compilation albums, but that rank among her best work, and would make fine additions to any compilation album - See “Cheap Whiskey,” “Phones Are Ringin’ All Over Town,” “Cry On the Shoulder of the Road.”
Inevitably, the album starts to sag a bit once we get into the new millennium material, though for the most part, the collection doesn’t dwell on this era any more that necessary. “This One’s for the Girls” and “In My Daughter’s Eyes” both post-dated McBride’s original Greatest Hits collection, but have gone on to become top-tier McBride hits, and are rightly included on Hits and More. Several less-memorable singles, such as the lukewarm hits “How I Feel” and “I Just Call You Mine,” are omitted. The only “issue song” included is 2002′s “Concrete Angel,” and while glass-half-full anthems like “Anyway,” “Ride,” and “Wrong Baby Wrong” are enjoyable, they do lose some luster when they have to follow songs like “Independence Day” and “A Broken Wing.”
The three new tracks are largely superfluous, serving no real purpose other than buyer temptation. “Surrender” starts out fairly strong with a lyric about giving up a marital fight, but the chorus sounds like it doesn’t know what to do with itself, and the rest of the song just runs around in circles. “Straight to the Bone” benefits from a restrained vocal and a decent lyric, but suffers from a weak melody. “Being Myself” has a pleasant musical arrangement, but the title immediately tells you what kind of song you’re getting, and it’s not good enough to warrant inclusion at the expense of the far superior material that was left off.
Ultimately, however, Hits and More accomplishes its titular objective: to offer a summary of McBride’s biggest hits, along with a modest helping of new material – and of course to continue making money for RCA long after McBride has left the label. It falls a degree short of being a definitive collection, though to be fair, such would probably require two discs instead of one. It’s an adequate career introduction for the new Martina convert, even if her 2001 Greatest Hits album is still an overall better value. If you’re looking for a good place to start your Martina collection, you will likely find Hits and More to be a satisfactory purchase, but if you’re a longtime fan who already owns most of her material, you can safely pass on it.
Track listing: 1. My Baby Loves Me 2. Independence Day 3. Wild Angels 4. A Broken Wing 5. Valentine (with Jim Brickman) 6. Happy Girl 7. Whatever You Say 8. I Love You 9. Love’s the Only House 10. Blessed 11. Where Would You Be 12. Concrete Angel 13. This One’s for the Girls 14. In My Daughter’s Eyes 15. Anyway 16. Ride 17. Wrong Baby Wrong Baby Wrong 18. Surrender 19. Straight to the Bone 20. Being Myself