According to her MySpace blog, Annie handpicked the tunage from her solo career to fill the collection, so I can't complain too much. Then again, I've spend the better part of my life buying Annie records, CDs, videos, and concert tickets, so perhaps I can. Let's start with the songs she picked from Medusa, an album of tunes covering musicians like the Clash, Paul Simon, and Procol Harem. It is her polite take on "A White Shade of Pale," in fact, that makes it onto this collection, despite her amazingly dead-on and utterly personal rendition of Bob Marley's "Waiting in Vain." This oversight is emphasized by the fact that the entertaining video of the Marley cover is a bonus video on the accompanying DVD. (More on that later.) In terms of her first solo album Diva, I have to admit she got it right. Although I always felt that "Money Can't Buy It" would be part of any Annie collection worth a damn, perhaps it is left best as a fan favorite while her more accessible tunes, like "Walking on Broken Glass" and "Why" please the common-folk (or -fans, as the case may be). The Diva songs get the best treatment in another way; "Little Bird" mixes the seemingly unfinished album cut and the overblown dancy single mix to perfection in one solid track, and the haunting "Cold" includes the very brief but mood-setting percussive intro that didn't make it onto the album originally.
Songs of Mass Destruction and Bare, like Medusa, get two tracks each, and it just doesn't seem fair. "Sing" is a perky tune from Songs, and I know Annie included it as a nod to her self-funded campaign by the same name to educate about and procure funding for HIV/AIDS in Africa, but no "Womankind"? No "Colored Bedspread"? And "Pavement Cracks" was a club hit in a different form, but where's the best song off Bare, "The Saddest Song I've Got"? Then we're presented with "Love Song for a Vampire" for reasons unknown; it's like a piece from a different puzzle that got mixed in. I'd much rather have heard her phenomenal cover of Neil Young's "Don't Let It Bring You Down" or even the raucous live version of "River Deep, Mountain High" she did for MTV Unplugged in 1991. However, she does get kudos for her shining version of "Shining Light." Yes, I called it shining, because it is. It's a great tune, simply, and she should be proud.
But, and this is a big but in my opinion, it's downright mean to tease fans with the entertaining video of a great new song but not include it on the album's bonus disc, especially since she's been promoting it like crazy. The "Shining Light" video is available only for download as an "extra special" edition of the collection (or some such nonsense), which is a disadvantage to those of us who don't do a lot of that sort of thing. Otherwise, the DVD mirrors the CD track listing except the two new songs, though it includes two other videos (one mentioned above). While it's wonderful to revisit many of the characters Annie has played over the years, we could have done without the hastily thrown-together clip for "Pavement Cracks" that consists of grainy, jumpy footage of Annie standing behind a microphone in front of a stage full of musicians and not singing or even lipsyncing. I kid you not.
One small treat for folks who buy the disc: the lyrics for all the songs of The Annie Lennox Collection are included, even the covers. As for the whole package, I'd have to say it's strictly for the novice Annie listener, and it's available with or without the bonus disc, with about a $4 difference, to meet your musical or financial needs. If you've been waiting for an excuse to buy an Annie Lennox record, let this be it. Then, after you've listened to it and gotten to know it, tell me and I'll burn you a copy of The Real Annie Lennox Collection, as presented by ewr. It will be worth it; I promise!