t h e   m a v e r i c k s

Super CollosalSuper Colossal Smash Hits Of The 90's (USA)
 
 

things you cannot change

These days, a greatest hits package usually consists of previously released 'hits and misses', together with one or two new tracks (so die-hard fans, who have already got everything rush out and buy it). Well, The Mavericks have taken this a few steps further, of the 15 songs, five are brand new songs, and one is extracted from the Babe 2 soundtrack album - at least for the Europeans/Australian release!. Uunfortunately, only four of the new tracks appear on The Mavericks'  homeland edition.
(The big question to ask the money-hungry record company is - WHY?????)
The new tracks flesh out a collection of past hit singles together with those songs The Mavericks' themselves have chosen to represent the band at it's best.

Opening this collection is a new original, written by friends (and oft touring members) of the band Jaime Hanna / Dennis Britt / Alan Miller, called Things I Cannot Change. While being released as one of the leading singles, it is not really top-drawer, single material, but more of an emerging album track that takes a few listens to really appreciate it's musical attributes.
It opens with joint acoustic and ever so slight twang guitars, setting the scene for for some sort of dusty roundup, before heading into the familiar beefy Mavericks 'drum and bass' territory. An interesting start leads into a very subdued melody that makes up the core of the song. With lyrics that have no lasting consequence (the title itself  being the strongest line) Raul, to his credit, does his usual best to get the most out of the slow creeping melody and adds some nice harmony work reminiscent of The Hollies. While not striking an immediate impact (essential for singles) the song's melody does eventually seep slowly into your consciousness over repeated listenings, while closing with some 'beatlesque' guitar pickings (presumably from Nick Kane), and some slight and barely audible piano tinklings.
The end result is a feeling that it could have been much, much better - something appears missing. Unusual for a Mavericks' song; almost as if the track was not quite finished. Maybe we have got too used to the presence of the mighty Havana Horns?  Possibly a tight and strong 'string' section to weave in and out with some counter melody, could have lifted the song dramatically, and made it much more memorable! After the tremendously original and fresh sounding reworking of Hot Burrito#1 (which by the way, Mr MercuryNashville - would make a stonking great single!), Things I Cannot Change is somewhat of a let-down, for an album opener.

Next up is the first Lennon/McCartney song (although really a Paul McCartney only song, written when he was 16), The Mavericks have committed to vinyl. The hit Paul gave away to Peter And Gordon (after being foolishly rejected by Billy J Kramer), World Without Love* is a song with an absolutely beautiful and divine melody. Peter and Gordon's original joint harmonies leaned more toward the gentle and wistful, while Raul treats it more as a torch song, with a very powerfully clear and melancholy vocal performance.
The band provides a musical canvas in the form of a laid-back shuffle, with a wash of a light strings intertwined with Raul's, 'Missing You' style guitar pickings. Why this hauntingly essential Mavericks' recording was not included on the USA version of the album is beyond all reasonable comprehension! (Then again, we are talking about 'record company', money driven logic).

Next up, the resurrection of the swinging safari known as Are You Lonesome Tonight*, by that hip hopster Raul Malo and his 'band of renown', The Mavericks. This time, the boys have donned pinstripes and transported themselves back to the forties for a very horny, yet soulful rendition, that would have made even the grumpiest of old singing detectives ecstatically happy.
The Havana Horns kick some serious bottom, and there is some 'cheesy' backing vocals, including Raul double-tracked. Just a small gripe - it would have been nice to have heard a hell of a lot more of Nick Kane's virtuoso guitar in there, like his wonderfully inventive licks in A Man Without Love from the RAH show! Are You Lonesome Tonight could very well indicate what Raul's solo 'standards' album may sound like (if that ever eventuates!); but only if  Raul uses the pumping rhythm section of Paul and Robert!

Buck Owen's, Think Of Me (When You're Lonely) is next. The Mavericks return to their 'crying shame' territory, but lassoing in the Havana Horns to give it that rocking, samba feel that was just one of the many highlights of the Trampoline tour de force. Nick Kane gets to brand the song with a quick burst of his trademark licks during a short breather for the Horns in mid-song. Another great little throw-away party song, Mavericks style.

The 'other' leading single (depending on what time-zone and space you happen to exist in), Here Comes My Baby is possibly more in line with what we have recently come to expect from The Mavericks, with a lively and enjoyable romp through an old 60's favourite, mostly associated with The Tremoloes (but written, and also performed superiorily, by Cat Stevens). While the subject matter is very similar to Things I Cannnot Change, the young and brash Cat Stevens' lyric has some sort of dark and dangerous edge to it, even when in one of his lighter moods (try his Here Comes My Wife for a more sinister side of the man).
The songs starts with party noises (out-takes from the Trampoline sessions?), before Paul hits the drums with a sort of 'ballroom blitz' introduction. (I was waiting for the "are you ready Steve?"). This kicks of  the real party with trumpets blaring and finds Raul beside himself ; as his 'baby' is beside another man! The trumpet arrangement is very similar to Cat Stevens' original - but here we have some responses from the saxophone. This song is made to be played loud, and a great advertisement for the album - that's if it makes it to radio at all! A much better addition to The Mavericks catalogue and all rather rippingly good fun.

The last of the new recordings is Pizzirico, a Raul Malo/Kostas composition. Having very young children allows Raul to indulge in a bit of  "this one's for my kids" simplicity, and possibly just getting away with it (as Harry Nilsson often did so remarkably well). With a very catchy (and somewhat familiar?) melody, this ode to 'naughty little boys', bops along quite nicely with the Havana Horns once more donning those Ricci Ricardo shirts to provide another large dose of infectious samba.
Try to ignore this at your (childhood's) peril!!

For the 'older' songs - the selection does actually include their biggest hits from opposite sides of the planet, with the perfection of What A Crying Shame (big in the USA) and the absolutely fabulous Dance The Night Away (flipping huge in the UK and Europe), respectively. And the one that should have really been a wopping hit, the mighty mega production sounds of I've Got This Feeling*.

We also get to visit their magnificent and classic ballads, the forgotten This Broken Heart and the absolute pinnacle, I Should Have Been True. We are then presented with the very 'Beatlesque' and wonderful pop-song, Here Comes The Rain, the closing (and ever-expanding) 'live' favourite, All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down, and the most 'countrified' article, There Goes My Heart.
And finally, and most fortunately, no 'Best Of'  The Mavericks would ever be complete without their real signature song, the tremendously poignant and spirit raising, From Hell To Paradise. Good choice!

So is it really a Best Of ? Are they Super? Collossal? Smash Hits (or Smashing Misses!) Who gives a damn about the title? Any collection of 15 (or 12) Mavericks' songs could be considered a 'Best Of', especially when compared to a very large chunk of the drabness emminating from commercial radio and TV these days. What this collection does achieve is the wrapping up of their first 10 years very nicely, and hopefully attracts the attention of many new listeners, who may then look forward (with the rest of us) to the next 10 years of The Mavericks!
It also means that those fans who have already own their complete back catalogue feel a lot happier about paying for five (or four - sorry again USA folks!) new songs instead of one or two!
Either way, everybody wins (especially the record compay) - and the world will be dancing the night away to the beat of a very different drum.

* Only on the European/Australian release; simply called The Best Of The Mavericks

   © 2000 chris swann
The Best Of The Mavericks (UK + AUS )