Aimee Mann

Aimee Mann

The Ultimate Collection

Hip-O

Known almost as much for her well-publicized bouts with record labels who either wouldn’;t release her albums or wouldn’;t release her from their contracts — and sometimes both — as for her music, Aimee Mann has still amassed a substantial body of work since her early years as the voice behind •til tuesday’;s “Voices Carry.” Even though this disc predominantly covers work from two post •til tuesday solo albums, along with a smattering of soundtrack tunes and her duo of best known tracks from that band, it’;s a relatively comprehensive and well-rounded portrait of the gifted singer/songwriter.

Unfortunately, licensing restrictions prevented music from Mann’;s work on the Magnolia soundtrack from being included. Hence, the magnificent “Save Me,” which through its Oscar and Golden Globe nominations, is Mann’;s most popular tune, remains MIA from this otherwise thorough anthology. Interestingly, the magnificent “Wise Up,” which played a central part in Magnolia, was also included on the Jerry Maguire soundtrack, which Hip-O could obtain the rights to, so thankfully it’;s here. It’;s also one of Mann’;s most heartfelt and sadly beautiful compositions. Otherwise, the disc features four tunes from her first solo album, 1993′;s Whatever, a whopping seven from the 1994 follow-up, I’;m With Stupid, and a smattering of rare tracks that originally appeared only on difficult to find promotional singles.

Of these, Mann’;s cover of Badfinger’;s “Baby Blue” and a live version of “The Other End (of the Telescope),” co-written with Elvis Costello but never released by Mann (it’;s on Costello’;s All This Useless Beauty release) are the most interesting, but everything here is a keeper. Boasting 20 cuts encompassing almost 76 minutes of music and a 16-page book with full song details and an incisive essay, there’;s not much more you can ask of this well-constructed anthology. Mann’;s work with •til tuesday is best appreciated on Sony’;s compilation of that band’;s work, Coming Up Close: A Retrospective, and even the few tracks that appear here with their new-wave ’80s synths and production don’;t gel with the rest of this disc, which is far less forced, and considerably more organic.

Otherwise, Aimee Mann’;s sure sense of melody, touching and literate lyrics as well as unique edgy-honeyed voice, make her one of the most talented singer/songwriters of her generation. Look no further than this consistently enjoyable recap of her work through 1999 to hear why.

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