Ian Brown - The Greatest

Well, all the greatest hits are here, and what a fine collection they are!

My Star, the album opener and Brown’s take on the space race, is a solid start to a promising package, and it leads the way for an album of career highlights unlike almost any other. FEAR, Keep What Ya Got and Corpses are standout tracks, but every hit is unique in both sound and delivery. You may know the songs, but what does it matter? All are worthy of inclusion here, making for a striking package. Added extras like REIGN and Lovebug really put a smile on your face, whilst Be There, co-created with the now-legendary UNKLE, is just awe-inspiring. Simple, yes, but Brown’s silky, almighty vocals echo into your soul, taking you away from the gloom of day to day life, briefly depositing you in musical nirvana, then dropping you back to earth with shocking velocity as the song draws to a close. It’s a real album highlight, and one many record-buyers may not be familiar with.

The gliding melodrama of new single All Ablaze, which brings Brown’s story right up to the present day,  fits perfectly with the themes and musical dimensions explored on his last album, Solarized, taking the highly-strung, Eastern-origin sounds to that next plateau. Similarly, Return of the Fisherman is a jaw-dropping closeout to an astonishing album. As Brown sings ‘filled with derision, can’t make decision, caught between the devil and the deep blue sea’, you can’t help but wonder whether he is weighing up solo successes against the wiry edges of the Stone Roses saga but, as always, he’s bound to keep you guessing.

The bonus CD is an Aladdin’s cave of treasures- Michael Jackson covers Thriller and Billie Jean show Brown’s roots, and he growls his way through both with incredible fire, whilst Superstar is a bouncy, house-inspired track that takes Brown down a very different path to his usual indie offerings, yet he still manages to come out, dare I say it, smelling of roses. The remixes of FEAR and TIME are the other key assets of this bonus discs, and what fine material they are! Submission, the live track which closes the bonus CD, is yet another highlight, showing a relaxed, happy Brown once again debasing all criticism that he can’t sing live.

In all? Wonderful, brilliant, fantastic, inspiring, perfect, excellent and astounding! A testament to a career that has seen highs, lows, ups, downs and every wonderful facet of life in between, this is more than just a collection of past glories; as ever, Brown had gone above and beyond the call of duty, creating a slick, worthwhile collection that is an absolute must-have. He is a superstar, no doubt, and this is a slap in the face for all the users and, indeed, all abusers. Don’t waste his precious energy- he’s got a lot more music left in him yet.

So does this confirm or deny the Roses reunion rumours? On the one hand, Brown is proving that he is a stunning soloist, with no real necessity to reform the band, but, on the other, maybe that’s what he needed to get out of his system before doing so. You see, the tile The Greatest can be taken either way, either reaffirming the Roses’ messianic claims of resurrection and greatness, or refuting them boldly by laying claim to an unequalled ability to go it alone. Either way, it’s wholly appropriate.

Matt Barnes

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