The far-reaching lexis used to describe Buffalo, New York, singer/songwriter Ani DiFranco includes "influential," "persistent," and "cutting-edge." And 18 albums released in the 18 years since the launching of her own Righteous Babe record label means "prolific" must also be high on that list. DiFranco commemorates her nearly two decades in the business with a two-CD, 35-song retrospective that offers a sequential glimpse into the socially conscious messages and punk/folk articulation that has made her an international paladin. From early recordings such as "God's Country" (1993) and "You Had Time" (1994), where DiFranco took aim at religious autonomy and failed partnerships, to later songs that tackled violence against abortion providers (1999's "Hello Birmingham") and a pair of '80s-era presidents (2002's "Your Next Bold Move"), DiFranco's poetry-fraught lyrics are the unfeigned star of the compilation. Can't-miss selections like "32 Flavors," "Untouchable Face," and "Cradle & All" make the cut, while staunch DiFranco followers will be seduced by five new renditions of old favorites, including the intrepid "Napoleon," which blasts the rock-biz elite, and "Shameless," with its candid discourse on infidelity. The divinely packaged set includes a booklet thoroughly lined with lyrics and a recording dossier. --Scott Holter
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As for the five song "remakes", Both Hands and Overlap are awful when compared to the exquisitely beautiful originals. Shameless is interesting in that this is Ani's trademark rock-out song, but this version is played by just Ani and an electric guitar, sans drums. You can hardly tell that the other instruments are missing until the drum solo section (which is now a guitar solo). I found both Napoleon and Your Next Bold Move to be acceptable remakes, but unremarkable. Ani has done several other, better versions of Napoleon.
In general, the remakes were disconcerting to me because I'm not used to hearing Ani play an electric instead of acoustic guitar, and she sings the remakes in an unusually high-pitched voice (not sure why). Of the 5 remakes, Shameless is the most appealing, and I really hate the new Both Hands. Oddly, Ani's 2007 Canon tour featured a new arrangement of Untouchable Face that's fantastic and superior to any of the remakes on the Canon album. On her Canon tour, Ani's actual live performances of the "5 remakes" are both different from and far better than the versions on the Canon album.
As with all the recent albums from the Righteous Babe, the CD packaging (with complete lyrics and liner notes) is excellent and the sound quality is superb (My early Ani albums were on cassettes not CDs, so I may be comparing apples to oranges). So, Canon is a great compilation which provides an overall feel for the breadth of Ani's music, but should be treated as a starting point and not a comprehensive "best of" collection.
BUT, if you can only afford one CD, this collection shows the diversity and uniqueness that is DeFranco.
Her style is at times brash, gritty, romantic, sexy, angry and range from folk, rock, ballad-esque, jazz.. she has influenced so many artists that you have to get to know the original.
If you like early Tegan & Sara, Melissa Ferrick, Catie Curtis et al.. you have to listen to Ani.
I already own everything available by her, but I also like compilations, new ways of listening to what has become too familiar through addictive listening. Even though this compilation does not contain all of my favorites,(Rush Hour ?)... I was sort of pulled in by the advertised alternative versions of songs available here, (they are cool), but I was mostly hoping there might be an up gragde to cutting edge standards of the sound quality. Yippie eye aye, the sound quality met and surpassed all of my hope, uniformly clear and beautiful.
As a long time fan of Ani, I am really glad to own this compilation.
Folks, for me this is one of the technically and artistically best CDs I have ever heard.
I have a home music recording studio and record and sound edit myself.
That does not make me any expert, but IMHO, the technical quality of this CD is "to die for!"
The artistic ability of Ms. Difranco is at its zenith (IMO).
If you are an admirer of Ms. Defranco, IMO, it doesn't get any better than this.
Her support musicians are amazing.