Chan Marshall stops time. She sits at a piano or lays her guitar across her lap, and whether it’s a noisy club overflowing with drunks or a coffee house full of laptoppers, Chan Marshall draws all the attention in the room and makes the world stop spinning. As Cat Power, Marshall’s music seems to rise from nowhere, envelop the room, then vanish; listeners know they’ve been hit by something but they’re not sure what.
The Greatest adds to Cat Power’s singular sound all the elements that make an Al Green record great: Memphis horns, funky string arrangements, smooth background vocals. Many songs hearken back to earlier in Cat Power’s career, like the surface simplicity of “Willie”—much more complicated upon deeper listen—and like “Where Is My Love,” which sounds like it could be the first song she ever wrote, and also the one to which she has always aspired. “Living Proof,” on the other hand, has an almost gospel-like swing that stands in contrast to the quieter songs. The ethereal title track is the missing link between Big Star 3rd and the 21st century; if Alex Chilton were today a beautiful young woman, he’d sound like this.
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