Barenaked Ladies album features career's best

Grade: A-

For over a decade the five Canadian cut-ups that make up the folk-rock band Barenaked Ladies have consistently turned their eccentric songs into chart-topping hits. With their latest release, "Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits (1991-2001)," the group compiled such numbers as "Brian Wilson," "One Week" and "Pinch Me" onto a 19-track CD that is already on its way to becoming a top seller.

Band members Steve Page and Ed Robertson, vocals/guitar, drummer Tyler Stewart, bassist Jim Creeggan and keyboardist Kevin Hearn received their start in 1991 after winning a Canadian "Modern Music Search" contest. The $100,000 grand prize allowed the band to finance their first album, "Gordon," in 1992.

Their second album, "Maybe You Should Drive," included debut hits "Jane" and "Alternative Girlfriend" (both featured on "Disc One"), followed by their third album "Born on a Pirate Ship," featuring "The Old Apartment," which became the band's first Top 40 hit.

"Rock Spectacle," released in November of 1996, turned the band's career around with such off-center tracks as "Brian Wilson," "If I Had a $1,000,000," "Jane" and "Shoebox" (all of which are also on "Disc One"). With 1998's "Stunt," the band recorded "One Week," which went on to become their first number one hit in the United States and is also included as a track on the greatest hits album.

Last September's release of "Maroon," featuring "Pinch Me," went platinum in both the U.S. and Canada. Debuting at No. 5 on the Billboard charts, the album helped the band maintain its status as one of the few groups capable of creating smash hits with whatever nonsensical lyrics they please.

Along with a lineup of their most popular hits, "Disc One" also features two new tracks from the band, "It's Only Me (The Wizard of Magicland)" and "Thanks That Was Fun." With a driving New Wave beat and commanding riff, "It's Only Me," like so many other songs by the band, will have its listeners keeping time to its pulsing rhythm within the first few seconds of its play.

"Thanks That Was Fun," the song the band claims made them excited to begin working on a new album, features a more mellow chorus line. The tempo of the track is still fast enough to keep it labeled as a rock piece and not a sentimental ballad. Robertson's distinctive voice blends well with the band's instrumental talent to create a number they hope will satisfy fans until their next release.

It's hard to give an unfavorable review of an album that features a band's greatest hits, but what adds an extra touch of flair to "Disc One" is the liner notes that accompany the CD. Providing a brief history of how the band got its start, along with background on its previous albums, the band provides humorous commentary on its thoughts regarding each of the tracks featured on the CD.

Another great feature of the album is how much effort the group went to in order to be included in its compilation. All of the members helped to decide the song sequencing, Creeggan had a hand in the remastering of the tracks and Page wrote the liner notes.

Despite the flack the group has received for distributing a greatest hits album so quickly into their career, "Disc One" is sure to become one the group's best selling albums to date.

Whether you're a devoted Barenaked Ladies fan or simply a listener who has yet to get "One Week"'s goofy "Chickity China the Chinese chicken" lyrics out of your head, "Disc One" is worth putting on your Christmas list this season.


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