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John Haitt
Alternative Folk


John Hiatt finally achieved some sort of fame in 1987, when his comeback album Bring the Family sparked a career renaissance. For the next decade, his albums sold well and his songs were continually covered by other artists, all of which earned him acclaim as one of the finest songwriters of his era. Despite its title, The Best of John Hiatt 1973-1998 is a chronicle of those successful ten years. Only two songs -- "Riding With the King" and "Take Off Your Uniform" -- date from before 1987, which means that the collection effectively sidesteps Hiatt's years of searching for a style; it chooses to ride with him once he settled on roots rock. Of course, that's where he did the bulk of his best work, and The Best Of does offer a good overview of his prime period. Since much of his best work was recorded for labels other than Capitol, the label releasing The Best Of, Hiatt entered the studio to record two new songs ("Love in Flames," "Don't Know Much About Love") and cut his first version of "Angel Eyes," the song he gave to Jeff Healey, who turned it into a hit in 1989. He also re-recorded "Have a Little Faith in Me" and "Drive South," two of his best songs from the late '80s. Although these new versions are OK, they don't compare with the originals and only hammer home the fact that this is merely an acceptable compilation, instead of the perfect one that it could have been. Nevertheless, it's a good sampler for the curious, and the hardcore fan will not be disappointed with the new material, even if they're frustrated that they have to purchase a whole new album to acquire it. Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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