The Best of What's Around, Vol. 1

by: Dave Matthews Band

For those just joining the cult surrounding the Dave Matthews Band, The Best of What's Around, Vol. 1 is actually a stellar introduction. There are two discs in the package, one compiled from the group's studio offerings and a live disc of previously unreleased material (at least "officially" unreleased). But then, this set is unique in another way also: the tracks were selected by DMB fans via the band's website. This is the way best-of and compilation recordings should be issued -- by fans, not the suits upstairs. The studio disc contains two cuts from each RCA-issued album, from Under the Table and Dreaming straight through to Stand Up. To everyone's credit, there are two picks from Busted Stuff, a record that was undeserving of the ire it received from some members of the music press. Beginning at the beginning: "What Would You Say" and "Crash into Me" are obvious picks. (The latter is a track well deserving of its smash success, and one of those songs listeners will be hearing in whatever form radio goes for a very long time.) A thoroughly modern love song, its simple melody, hook, and chorus are memorable from the first time through. Other standouts from the first disc include "Crush," "Grey Street," "Grace Is Gone," and "Hunger for the Great Light." The live platter is wonderfully assembled, jumping back and forth across time from 2000 to 2006. All but one of the selections were recorded in the States, and the performances are stellar -- even the version of "Ants Marching," the most over-recorded song in DMB history and one listeners should all get a break from, is wonderfully refreshing here. There are a couple of tracks with guest performances: "Everyday" with the great Vusi Mahlasela on vocals, and a scorching read of "Louisiana Bayou" with the inimitable Robert Randolph on pedal steel (if you've never heard Randolph, get ready for a mind-blowing treat). Those uninitiated who are wondering what all the fuss has been about for the past decade get a real opportunity here to check out the very best of what's been recorded, and get a small taste of the band live as well. Longtime fans who don't already have the shows referenced here will want to pick it up for the live set alone. ~ Thom Jurek

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