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The Collection

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Album Review

A belated American release of a two-disc set released in England in 1999 as The 38-Carat Collection, The Collection is a sublime overview of Prefab Sprout's remarkable career. Disc one is all of the group's singles (minus 1983's "The Devil Has All the Best Tunes"), beginning with their self-released 1982 debut, "Lions in My Own Garden (Exit Someone)," and continuing through 1997's Beatles tribute "Electric Guitars." The decade-and-a-half's worth of singles chart Paddy McAloon's growth from an Elvis Costello disciple with a fondness for obscure religious metaphors to a gifted songsmith in his own right, whose occasional comparisons to Cole Porter and Paul McCartney are more than deserved. Whether as simple as the rueful adolescent misery of "Johnny Johnny" (called "Goodbye Lucille #1" on 1985's Steve McQueen) or as lush as the richly symphonic "We Let the Stars Go," these songs are brilliantly melodic and lyrically evocative gems. The second disc proves that McAloon's album tracks are in many cases better than his singles. Culling two to four tracks from each of Prefab Sprout's six 1984-1997 albums, this disc covers McAloon's more challenging or non-commercial material, from the opaque, knotty "Cue Fanfare" to the glorious "Andromeda Heights," possibly the most genuinely beautiful song of the group's oeuvre. Though no collection can truly cover all of Prefab Sprout's high points — at least three of their albums, Swoon, Steve McQueen, and Jordan: The Comeback, are simply essential — this set is much better than 1992's single-disc compilation A Life of Surprises, and it contains several songs from 1989's Protest Songs and 1997's Andromeda Heights, neither of which were ever released in the United States.

Customer Reviews


Great tunes!


Formed: 1977 in Newcastle, England

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

One of the most beloved British pop bands of the '80s and '90s, Prefab Sprout have had a minimum of chart success in the United States, where they're all but unknown outside of their devoted cult following, but singer/songwriter Paddy McAloon is regularly hailed as one of the great songwriters of his era. Critics regularly compare McAloon favorably to Elvis Costello, Paul McCartney, and even Cole Porter, but the self-effacing and publicity-shy performer modestly prefers to let his increasingly rare...
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