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I liked Anastacia's music when she first arrived onto the pop scene, though never actually bought any of her material. I thought she had a fantastic voice and released some really memorable songs. When Pieces of a Dream, her greatest hits album, was released in 2005 I snapped up the special edition version as it seemed to have a great collection of songs.
This edition is beautifully designed, like a book with photographs and song lyrics. It includes two discs. The first disc is made up of Anastacia's singles from her albums to date, as well as several new tracks (13-17). The album kicks off with the singer's fantastic debut single I'm Outta Love, an amazingly catchy dance-pop number. It is followed up by the soulful, assertive Not That Kind. Cowboys and Kisses veers into country, with an uplifting chorus.
Made For Lovin' You has a killer opening and a retro feel with an old-school chorus. Paid My Dues is a powerful, determined song that begins a group of songs with a slightly darker feel. I believe it was written after Anastacia's battle with cancer. One Day In Your Life is a modern-sounding dance-pop song, while Why'd You Lie To Me is an angry mid-tempo song directed at an ex. You'll Never Be Alone is a powerful ballad, while Left Outside Alone is another angry track with electric guitars adding a harder edge. Sick And Tired continues in this vein, with melodic interludes. Welcome To My Truth is a dramatic mid-tempo ballad while Heavy On My Heart is a ballad in the more traditional sense.
The next few songs are new to this album, and they do not disappoint. Everything Burns, featuring Ben Moody (a singer I admit never having heard of) is a ballad driven by acoustic guitars and Ben's voice appearing on the chorus. It makes an interesting change to have a male singer appearing on an Anastacia song, and it works well, with Ben's rock music-style vocals working well with Anastacia's powerful voice.
The following track is also a duet, I Belong To You with Eros Ramazotti, which is a powerful ballad featuring the piano. Pieces of a Dream, which lent its name to the album title, is another mid-tempo ballad which reaches the same high standards as the other album tracks. In Your Eyes is another ballad.
The final track of this disc is the Club Megamix, which is a fun dance-based compilation of several of Anastacia's biggest hits.
In general, Anastacia's music is powerful, affirmative and uplifting and I always enjoy listening to this album. The singer has a huge, fantastic voice that works well on slower ballads but comes to the fore on uptempo soulful pop songs.
Track Listing - Disc 1
1. I'm Outta Love
2. Not That Kind
3. Cowboys & Kisses
4. Made For Lovin' You
5. Paid My Dues
6. One Day In Your Life
7. Why'd You Lie To Me
8. You'll Never Be Alone
9. Left Outside Alone
10. Sick And Tired
11. Welcome To My Truth
12. Heavy On My Heart
13. Everything Burns (Ft. Ben Moody)
14. I Belong To You (Ft. Eros Ramazzotti)
15. Pieces Of A Dream
16. In Your Eyes
17. Club Megamix (Featuring The Songs - I'm Outta Love, Left Outside Alone, Not That Kind, One Day In Your Life, Paid My Dues And Sick And Tired)
The second disc is a remix CD containing mixes by many popular dance DJs. I won't go through these tracks individually, but there are standout remixes by names such as Thunderpuss, Roger Sanchez and Jason Nevins. You can really imagine dancing along in a club to these.
Track Listing - Disc 2
1. I'm Outta Love (Hex Hector Main Club Mix)
2. Left Outside Alone (M*A*S*H Master Mix)
3. Paid My Dues (The S-Man's Darkstar Mix)
4. Sick & Tired (Jason Nevins Funkrock Mix)
5. Why'd You Lie To Me (Nu Soul Dnb Mix)
6. Love Is A Crime (Thunderpuss Club Mix)
7. Not That Kind (Kerri Chandler Mix)
8. One Day In Your Life (Hex Hector/Macquayle Club Mix)
9. Left Outside Alone (Jason Nevins Global Club)
10. Not That Kind (Ric Wake's Mix)
11. Love Is A Crime (Cotto's Doin' The Crime Mix)
12. Boom (Thunderpuss Club Mix)
13. One Day In Your Life (Almighty Mix)
14. Sick & Tired (Jason Nevins Electrochill Remix)
This is a great album and I definitely recommend it. It is available at only £3 from Amazon, the same price as the standard greatest hits - so you may as well get this version. There isn't a bad song on the first disc, and the second is a great bonus addition. Five stars from me!
Five years is a long time in the music business scene. Although it doesnt seem that long, it is five years since Anastacia hit the charts for the first time with Im Outta Love. Since then, so much has happened.
In the five years since then, we have seen any number of pop groups split up, TV start to create pop stars and for most of those artificially created pop stars to crash and burn. Madonna has reinvented herself twice and, until diagnosed with breast cancer, Kylie has just kept going.
In those five years, Anastacia has released three studio albums, selling 3 million copies of these in the UK and more than 20 million around the world. She has also battled and beaten breast cancer herself, although further away from the limelight than Kylies current battle.
Its not just a strong voice that Anastacia has, but strength of character too. It is this combination that has enabled her to release a greatest hits album Pieces of a Dream after only five years as a major label singer, yet still manage to pack it with hits.
The album opens with the debut single, Im Outta Love, a song which grabbed me from the first and made me an Anastacia fan to start with. In five years, nothing has changed and I still love this song. Its a high tempo pop song, with soul undertones and a beat that has you dancing and unable to help yourself. At the time this was released, there was really no-one who combined soul and heavy pop the way Anastacia did and there are very few singers today who have the strength in their vocal to pull it off even now.
The second track is also from her debut album. This time it is the title track from 2000s Not That Kind. This is slightly slower in tempo than Im Outta Love and has more of a funky, soulful feel to it. But there is enough of a pop-dance edge that you want to dance along with it. As ever, the main thing to listen to is the vocal, which is never anything less than powerful.
Still in the early days, Cowboys and Kisses is the next track. This has much more of a laid back feel, really being the albums first ballad. Theres a guitar led feel to this one, with the intro having more of a country rock feel, which crops up later on as well. Combined with Anastacias naturally funky voice, this makes for quite a powerful pop ballad with a bit of a twist. This song has more of a pop influence than before, thanks to the addition of an orchestral section and the backing vocals, but its still a very decent song.
The last track taken from Anastacias debut album is Made For Lovin You. Again, were back to the funky music and its not too different to Im Outta Love, although a little slower in tempo. Theres perhaps a little more of a pop influence and less emphasis on the soul side of things, but its another powerful track that has you wanting to tap your feet in time.
In keeping with the chronological order of the track list, the next four tracks are taken from the second album, 2002s Freak of Nature. The first of these is Paid My Dues, a song with a little more of a pop-dance feel to it, although still overlaid with Anastacias funky vocal and still managing to retain quite a funky backing beat.
One Day in Your Life is very much back to the sound of Im Outta Love, with a dance-soul backing beat and the vocals adding the funkiest of edges over the top. Again, its up tempo, despite the slightly deceptive intro and makes you want to dance to it. Although its quite samey, its definitely a winning formula from my point of view.
The guitar intro to Whyd You Lie to Me does sound a little like George Michaels Faith at first, but once the funky vocal comes in, any comparison ends. This ones slightly slower than Anastacias usual tempo and its got more of a dance or r n b feel to it, so its not one of my favourites, although the vocals are still as powerful as ever.
Theres another ballad up next with Youll Never Be Alone. Considering how powerful Anastacia can be, this track is a little disappointing, as its really nothing more than a standard pop ballad with slight r n b leanings that you can here from any female singer. Admittedly, the chorus is when you can tell this is Anastacia as, although any singer could do a song like this, they dont have her distinctive voice and its the chorus where this comes to the fore. But for all that, it does sound like this should be on a Disney soundtrack album somewhere, the sound is such a standard one.
Its onto 2004s Anastacia for the next four tracks, starting with Left Outside Alone. The intro in particular was a departure, being almost operatic in style. I remember when this first came out that I had to keep checking if it was Anastacia, as it is so unlike her. The rest of the song is more familiar territory, also not quite as funky as usual. Thanks to the vocal, as ever, its still a very powerful mid tempo pop song.
The next track inhabits the same ground of pop music with a slight twist, with the twist to Sick and Tired, having a bit more of an Eastern feel to it, although with a male voice similar in style to Youssou NDour also appearing in some parts. Strangely, the backing is guitar led, which could almost make this a pop-rock song were it not for the other elements. This is a song with so many contributing factors that it virtually defies description, which is precisely how good music can be sometimes.
Welcome to My Truth doesnt have quite that intricacy to it. Its really a fairly simple pop-rock number, in which the backing music sometimes threatens to over power the vocal, which certainly isnt a good thing when the vocals are as strong as Anastacias. In this case, its not a bad song, but its tough to concentrate properly on it, as the backing music is so loud in the mix.
The last of the previously released tracks is Heavy on My Heart, which carries on where Youll Never Be Alone, as it has that standard pop ballad from a Disney Soundtrack feel, especially in the verse. The chorus is a little more developed, but for the most part, you could put anyones vocals on this song and it wouldnt change it appreciably, apart from that the new vocal would almost definitely be weaker than Anastacias.
As with every greatest hits package, there has to be some new material to keep the fans happy. The first of these is Everything Burns, which is a collaboration with Ben Moody from Evanescence. This is really more of an Evanescence song than it is one from Anastacia, as her vocals dont sound much like her at all, with the funky edge shes known for and which has in evidence through the whole of the album so far pretty much gone. Its a pop-rock ballad, but the female singer could have been pretty much anyone. You do get a bit of a glimpse of the true Anastacia vocals towards the end, but its only a glimpse. Its a good song, though, but it just doesnt feel like her.
There is another duet up next, this time between Anastacia and Eros, who Id never heard of before now. He does sound a lot like Zucchero, who did a song with Paul Young several years ago. Like many of the ballads on the album, however, I Belong To You (Il Ritmo Della Passione) does have that kind of saccharine Disney soundtrack pop ballad feel. Its well performed, but there simply isnt anything special about it.
Pieces of a Dream is the title track from this selection and its a bit more like the Anastacia of the early part of the album. Its a bit ballad like again, but more mid tempo in the chorus. Theres a distinct pop feel here, but Anastacias voice is again the driving force, so its almost a power ballad, especially as the chorus has something of a heavy pop feel.
The piano intro to In Your Eyes seems to suggest more of the same and indeed it starts that way. Theres a restrained note to the vocals which almost make this sound like a Delta Goodrem track, although with a little more heart to it. It does get a bit more of a rounded feel later on, but theres really nothing special in this song, or in any of the new tracks.
Sadly, the album finishes on a bit of a disappointing note, with the Club Megamix, which is a mix of a number of her hits to a dance backing. Whilst many of the songs do lead themselves to being combined with a dance beat, at just under 12 minutes, this does drag and it is a little unnecessary, especially as its really nothing new when combined with the sixteen tracks before it.
For me personally, Anastacias career started with a bang with Im Outta Love and has been tailing off since. Whilst she has moved away from her earlier sound, meaning you dont get the same song over and over, I preferred her earlier music to her more recent albums. In putting her hits in chronological order here, that means that this album does the same, starting impressively and then getting worse as it goes on. The new tracks, in particular, are a bit of a let down, as her voice isnt really designed for ballads, more for all out high tempo songs.
There are two copies of the album available, one with the seventeen songs described above and one with an extra CD which just has some remixes of existing songs. The difference in price, up to as much as £5.00, depending on where you look, hardly makes the 2 CD version worthwhile, unless youre paying the £9.99 from Amazon or £4.99 from eBay. For the single CD version, it is much easier to find cheaply, with prices ranging from £7.99 from CD Wow down to £5.89 from the Amazon Marketplace or from 99p from eBay. Its pretty good value, being 17 tracks and 72 minutes long and even discounting the awful megamix, theres still an hour of largely decent music here.
If youre a fan of Anastacia and already have all the albums, this isnt a worthwhile purchase, as the new songs are really nothing special and not worth the money on their own. If, however, you are a casual fan and only own one of the albums, or if you liked the singles but never made an album purchase, this would definitely be worth a look, featuring an equal amount of material from all three albums and some new material. If youre a pop fan and wouldnt mind trying something with a little more of a funk edge, this is also going to be made for you.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 I'm Outta Love
2 Not That Kind
3 Cowboys & Kisses
4 Made For Lovin' You
5 Paid My Dues
6 One Day In Your Life
7 Why'd You Lie To Me
8 You'll Never Be Alone
9 Left Outside Alone
10 Sick And Tired
11 Welcome To My Truth
12 Heavy On My Heart
13 Everything Burns (Ben Moody Feat. Anastacia)
14 I Belong To You (Feat. Eros Ramazzotti)
15 Pieces Of A Dream
16 In Your Eyes
17 Club Megamix