CD The Essential Collection [Ian Matthews] [CD] [1 disc] (CD 4602335),
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The Essential Collection [Ian Matthews] [CD] [1 disc]

  • Additional Info
    Manufacturer Part Number (MPN): HMNCD 014

  • Credits
    Producer
    Engineer

    Sometimes an album requires one review for the contents and another for the packaging. Such is the case with the British discount compilation The Essential Collection by Matthews' Southern Comfort. The contents of the album are excellent. The disc, running over 70 minutes, contains 19 tracks, which is three more than the earlier release The Best of Matthews' Southern Comfort (although curiously that album has seven tracks not found here). Four are drawn from the debut album Matthews' Southern Comfort (1969); six are from the sophomore release Second Spring (1970); and seven are from the third and final LP Later That Same Year (1970). Also included are both sides of the band's 1970 single "Woodstock"/"Scion." ("Woodstock," the Joni Mitchell song, a number-one hit in the U.K. and Top 30 hit in the U.S., appeared on American copies of Later That Same Year.) The sequencing of the tracks is a bit odd. The disc begins with three songs from the first album, followed by the seven from the third album, then "Woodstock." Next are the six tracks from the second album, followed by "Scion," and then the album ends with "Colorado Springs Eternal," the lead-off track from the first album. But at least the selection includes many of the group's best original compositions along with its excellent covers of material by Carole King, James Taylor, Jesse Winchester, Neil Young, and, of course, Joni Mitchell. The packaging is another story altogether, and the problems begin with the cover, on which the band's name is rendered as "Matthew's [sic] Southern Comfort." Poor Ian Matthews then has his name misspelled again in the songwriting credits, which call him "Mathews." Then there are the unsigned liner notes, which appear to have been written by someone unaware of the final track listing. After misspelling Brinsley Schwarz, the author claims that the compilation includes "Dream Song" from Matthews' Southern Comfort, which it does not. (And it should. Matthews himself has been quoted describing the song as "the only track I can still bear to listen to from that album.") The author then writes that Later That Same Year "somehow lacked the sureness of footing of its predecessor." If so, then why, one wonders, does the compilation draw more tracks from this album than from either of its predecessors? The Essential Collection is recommended to Ian Matthews fans, but it is also recommended that the liner notes be skipped and that the listener resequence the disc or simply set the CD player to random play, which almost inevitably will result in a better sequencing than the one on the album. ~ William Ruhlmann

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