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The Best Of

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Album Review

Sammi Smith was a difficult singer to categorize. Straddling the line between lush country-pop and idiosyncratic outlaw country, she didn't belong to either world, which didn't effect the quality of her music but at times could mean that she slipped through the cracks between critical acclaim and commercial sales. She didn't want either, but neither arrived at the level she deserved, as Varese Sarabande's excellent 1996 compilation The Best of Sammi Smith illustrates. Smith's big break came in 1971 with her rendition of Kris Kristofferson's "Help Me Make It Through the Night." The song had been kicking around for several years and had been recorded many times before Smith's aching, wearily sensual version finally made it a crossover smash, bringing it to number one on the country charts and within the sights of the top of the pop charts. Her version wasn't just a hit, its production — which managed to feel rich and opulent while retaining country grit and sexiness — provided the template for the rest of her work on Mega, where she was given lush, layered arrangements that managed to place her husky yet nuanced vocals front and center. Which is right where they should be, since Smith's interpretations were original and unpredictable, finding new spins on familiar material (her take on "Long Black Veil" is one of the eeriest cuts; "City of New Orleans" doesn't sound shopworn in her hands; she turns the tables on Merle Haggard's "Today I Started Loving You Again"; just when you think she's a little low-key, she cuts a mean rug on the Bob Wills standard, "My Window Faces the South") and cutting definitive versions of songs by writers like Kristofferson, Dallas Frazier, Wayne Carson, and Shel Silverstein, among others. As a vocalist, she was on par with anybody in the outlaw movement, but her music, as exploratory as it was, was closer to country-pop, which meant that some didn't give her the credit she deserved at the time. This collection restores her reputation by putting those Mega sides back in print (along with a couple of subpar singles cut for Cyclone in 1979) and proving that Smith was one of the most interesting female country voices of the '70s.

Customer Reviews

Sammi's Best Music

These tracks are the best reproduction of Sammi's music to date. Here is an underrated country artist, whom because of health problems, never reached her potential like Dolly Parton and her other comtempory girl singers. This is a taste of what Sammi was about!

An example of how iTunes SHOULD work.

iTunes has a ton of "greatest hits" and "best-of" albums from cheap outfits like Gusto, Goldenlane and K-Tel, all featuring re-recordings of the hits you love turned into modern drivel. Varese is the record label I trust with the vintage music I love, and about 99.999% of the time it's the original artist and the original recordings. iTunes needs a lot more of this from Varese, and a lot less of the crap K-Tel and them turn out. As for this CD, Sammi Smith is most worthy of an album like this. She's how "Help Me Make It Through The Night" has become a pop and country standard.

Sadly underrated sultry artist

This is the only way to hear Sammi's music from her vocal/artistic prime. Beautiful voice and very distinct, timeless music. A+


Born: August 5, 1943 in Orange, CA

Genre: Country

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

In the tradition of Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, singer/songwriter Sammi Smith was considered a country music outlaw, unafraid to sing songs that reflected the sometimes gritty realities of modern life. She first came to fame singing Kris Kristofferson's "Help Me Make It Through the Night" and was noted for her husky voice, the result of spending many years singing in smoke-filled clubs. She was born Jewel Fay Smith in California, but spent her childhood living in different southwestern states....
Full Bio

Top Albums and Songs by Sammi Smith

The Best Of, Sammi Smith
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Customer Ratings