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Giant Sand | Selections Circa 1990-2000 (Loose)
When I first got this I was going to have a grouch about the lack of unreleased tracks (only a different take of Sand,) the brevity, (when a two disc set would have been far more appropriate) and the sticker on the cover that proclaimed all the guest singers featured on this record. Then I put it on and now I'm trying to keep myself restrained from telling you just how good it is. So, what happened? Easy answer: the songs. From the goosebump-inducing first moments of Shiver to the Sand's irreverent take on the Byrds' classic Change Is Now, there is such a breadth of vision and sense of humanity and soul about these recordings that it's very hard to say a bad word. Perhaps the inclusion of two tracks from last year's relatively best-selling Chore Of Enchantment is redundant but, that aside, all the albums from which these tracks come aren't as easy to find as they should be, (1995's Glum being nigh on impossible.) Strangely, after a couple of listens, I realised that the organising principle behind this compilation is that of Howe singing with other people (hence the rather questionable marketing policy) which, I suppose, is as good a way as any to compile a Giant Sand retrospective. You could, in fact, pick tracks at random from their past albums and have just as (un)representative a sample as Selections. But this is what we've got and it's pretty damn good. Re-surfacing from last year's Internet only CD, The Rock Opera Years, Music Arcade is so laid-back it's almost comatose. It's also, needless to say, brilliantly mercurial; Howe's lazy guitar and singing style complemented by a distorted Victoria Williams and an incredibly stoned sounding Evan Dando. Stuck is Howe in troubadour mode, singing about his car breaking down in the desert night ("Cause now the Chevy she won't budge / The kid sleeps on your lap / And won't wake when you nudge / You left a whole world of light behind / Now you hold a grudge.") Wonder is a banjo driven duet with Victoria Williams that's just too good for words and Center of the Universe is a mighty slab of special effects guitar noise, Howe growling "Man I never need to go to Epcot center / Happy as a clam living in the epi-center / Never owned a house or car / I'm just a renter" and bubble-gum backing vocals from former members of the Bangles. Okay, there is one grouch remaining. With the CD running for only 62 minutes, I have no idea why Wonder is edited nor why Howe's languid duet with Lucinda Williams, Burning Desire, has been cut down from a full song to a snippet barely under a minute and a half. Otherwise though, an essential purchase for those recently enchanted by Giant Sand's music.

Stav Sherez
CWAS #7 - Spring 2001