The MCA Years: A Retrospective

by: Nanci Griffith

This single-CD compilation from 1993 features a dozen and a half sides from Texas singer/songwriter Nanci Griffith (guitar/vocals) during her four-year/five-disc deal with the Nashville branch of MCA Records, offering a well-balanced selection of her best-known and loved works as well as a few equally seminal deeper tracks. Lone Star State of Mind (1987) is signified by over a quarter of the album, including "Trouble in the Fields," "From a Distance," "Ford Econoline," and a remake of the heartfelt life saga "There's a Light Beyond These Woods (Mary Margaret)," which had originally appeared as the title composition from Griffith's debut LP, There's a Light Beyond These Woods (1978). Half of the tunes from the critical and commercial breakthrough Storms (1989) are featured on MCA Years: A Retrospective. "Listen to the Radio," "I Don't Want to Talk About Love," the international hit "It's a Hard Life Wherever You Go," "If Wishes Were Changes," and "Drive-In Movies and Dashboard Lights" are here, and each would respectively remain among the core seminal sides from her performance repertoire. One Fair Summer Evening (1988) -- Griffith's first live album -- is meagerly represented with Eric Taylor's (who is also Griffith's ex-husband) "Deadwood, South Dakota." Sadly, the hauntingly beautiful "More Than a Whisper" is not on this collection. By contrast, a healthy sampling of her next studio release, Little Love Affairs (1988), is included with "Outbound Plane" and "I Wish It Would Rain" as well as the deeper "So Long Ago" and "Gulf Coast Highway." Although the uniformly excellent Late Night Grande Hotel (1991) would be her final full-length release on MCA, Griffith goes out in style with help from a notable knob-tweaker, former Zombies' leader Rod Argent. While "Just Another Morning Here" and the title song, "Late Night Grande Hotel," are incorporated, sadly absent is her stellar rendition of Tom Waits' "San Diego Serenade" or the dark and powerful "The Sun, the Moon & the Stars." There are several anthologies available from Nanci Griffith's mid- to late-'80s and early-'90s material, and without question, this is an adequate compilation. However, From a Distance: The Very Best of Nanci Griffith (2002) includes an additional four selections, while the double-CD package Complete MCA Studio Recordings (2003) has all four long-players as well as three bonus selections -- which make their first domestic North American appearance. That said, however, MCA Years: A Retrospective is more than sufficient for the average listener. ~ Lindsay Planer

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