If you needed to describe Annie Gallup to someone who had never heard of her, Dirty Linen has provided the most apt description you could imagine: "Gallup sounds like the musical daughter of Joni Mitchell and Lou Reed." Gallup tells stories as rich as Joni, but performed in an almost-spoken-word manner like Lou Reed. Providing greater insight into her songwriting, Gallup purposely describes her songwriting as an unseparable mix of reality and fiction: although the stories cannot be taken literally, they have elements of truth to them. This vagueness about reality helps cloud the image of Gallup with mystery. As she admits, "Some things are impossible to explain, except as in fiction."
This Promotion Only/Not for Sale CD is a retrospective of songs from singer-songwriter Annie Gallup's first six albums. Selected Songs 1994-2004 opens with a preview of a song from Gallup's newest album Pearl Street, and works its way backward in time through her remaining five albums: Swerve (2001), Steady Steady Yes (1999), Courage My Love (1998), Backbone (1996), and Cause & Effect (1994).
With ten years of recordings under her belt, Gallup has a variety of material to draw from. The nine songs on Selected Songs, however, are drawn from her mostly slower introspective songs. Most of these songs are minimally instrumented, with Gallup's vocals prominently featured.
Selected Songs opens with the first single from Pearl Street, Down the Other Side. According to Gallup, "Pearl Street is a collection of linked story songs in which the same characters appear in different scenes over about ten years time." Down the Other Side binds the album together, both opening and closing Pearl Street.
Three Bills describes the antics of three testosterone-filled guys named Bill, set to a jazzy beat. Gallup raps about their impositions on her time and car, culminating in the double entendre of the chorus, "Three Bills, it's gonna cost you. Three Bills." Gallup says the song is based on a true story, except there were six men all named Dave. Once again, we find Gallup blurring the line between reality and fiction.
Blue Dress, Gallup's most requested song, was written for her mother. It is the story of the passing down of memories and genes from one generation to another. As the daughter wears her mother's dress, she sings, "Sometimes being me feels like pretending to be you."
The last song is Fight the Devil, one of her strongest songs. The song is presented here in its more mellow original version (compared to the more upbeat version on Backbone).
This retrospective closes with a ten-and-a-half-minute interview where Gallup interviews herself. Gallup talks about her philosophy of songwriting, and tells a fascinating story about riding horses. Part of the rapture that I found myself in was listening to the story, as told in that same introspective alluring voice in which she sings, blending fiction and reality.
Being only a short nine songs written over a ten-year period, this collection must omit many more songs than it could include. This is unfortunate. Given the quality of the songs on this collection, there must be many strong, if not stronger, songs omitted. Consequently, I believe "Selected Songs" is a more appropriate name for this album than "Greatest Hits." Gallup has a strong repertoire, and Selected Songs is an appropriate showcase of some of these songs. It serves as a nice introduction to her albums.
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