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Getting the good stuff

It’s a shame to see how often artists (or their money-hungry record companies) bring out a best-of compilation after the artist has only had two or three hits off, say, two albums.

Thankfully there are worthy exceptions to this rule. Out now is Every Now and Then: The Best so Far: 1984-2001 (Universal), a collection of songs by local lads Bright Blue. Of course there is the stirring Weeping, but all the tracks on this album are outstanding examples of musical craftsmanship, incorporating a fusion of mbaqanga, jazz, rock’n’roll and more. Included are hits such as Wouldn’t Miss It for the World, Peace Train, The Rising Tide and Living in Africa, as well as two tracks recorded last year.

The demise of the Smashing Pumpkins was a sad thing indeed (at least we got to see them live at the end), but their rock wizardry lives on with Greatest Hits (Virgin), bringing together hits off their six full-length albums. Relive the sheer power of Bullet with Butterfly Wings or relax to 1979 and marvel at the music produced by the Pumpkins despite the many problems they faced during their career. Real Love and Untitled are two previously unreleased tracks that have been included, and the booklet contains a myriad fascinating photographs of the band.

British singer and guitarist Chris Rea weighs in with The Very Best of (Gallo), ranging from the big hits from the Eighties and early Nineties such as Julia, The Road to Hell (Part II), Let’s Dance, Auberge and Josephine to Nothing to Fear and Saudade Part I and II (Tribute to Ayrton Senna).

Another good one to own is The Best of Simple Minds (Virgin), a double-CD collection of tracks spanning the Simple Minds‘ career and displaying their arty pop-rock skills. All their albums are represented, from 1978’s Life in a Day to 1998’s Néapolis, and the 32 tracks included provide a fascinating oversight of two decades of music, though their earlier songs still come across strongest.

Lastly, Michael Learns to Rock give us 18 Love Ballads (EMI) — not quite a best-of, but it does contain hits like Paint My Love, as well as 17 other weepy, hold-me-close compositions. Not for those easily offended by an overdose of sentiment.

John Mellencamp: Cuttin’ Heads (Columbia)

Despite occasional creative flights like Jack and Diane, John Mellencamp has succumbed to an unassuming modesty. 1993’s Human Wheels, using mostly mandolins and violas, indicated an eloquent grasp of the United States folk tradition. In comparison, the occasionally poised Cuttin’ Heads is deceptive. The title track is a noisy clatter with a rap by Chuck D; as such, the cross-cultural experiment fails. But Mellencamp excels back on acoustic territory, as in Crazy Island. — Burhan Wazir

Various: Derek the Bandit’s World of Dance (Virgin)

He’s back with What’s Hot in a new jacket. It’s the same happy house that keeps you dancing but doesn’t keep your attention. Fun moments come from Masters of Mayday, Darude (mercifully not Sandstorm) and the lively Scooter. — Riaan Wolmarans

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