Ian Brown - The Greatest
Bill Cummings 12/09/2005
When the Stone Roses split up amid a haze of cocaine, lineup changes and failed gigs, most people would have bet on John Squire to be the one to have a good career post Roses. But against the odds Ian Brown has emerged from the band to have a pretty decent solo career, whilst Squire floundered in the Seahorses and on his own solo projects. At his best Brown experimented with dance, ethnic and rock sounds and found his own little niche as a freedom fighting northern working class solo performer. At his worst he produced some real clunkers, and divided opinions with his controversial live shows and that voice that still remains a unique if slightly fog-horn-esque weapon in his armoury.
It seems odd then that only four solo albums in Ian Brown is releasing what is ostensibly a greatest hits package, the fact that he has never really had a massive breakthrough hit as a solo artist seems to be a moot point for Ian and his label. But in fairness he has racked up quite a few singles to chart within the top twenty, and some high charting albums. The tracks range from the lo fi Roses-esque psychedelic sound of “My Star” and the strutting style of “When Dolphins were Monkeys”, to the frankly damp quid dance of “Love Like A Fountain.” Ian's solo work is nothing if not musically varied and idiosyncratic. Take his track with UNKLE for example. “Be There” is musically one of the best things here: from the smoke of thudding beats and samples emerges Ian with one of his best superhero vocal performances. Whilst the recent collaboration with Noel Gallagher “Keep What Ya Got” is a straightforward meat and two potatoes rock strum, topped by Ian's lyrics, which are a bitter kiss off to his critics.
Probably the stand out moment here is “FEAR” its strings and rock stylings perfectly suit Brown's self help lyricism, (although the suspicion remains that the song's lyrics were written on the back of a fag packet whilst playing a game of word acronyms).
The problem here is that tracks like “Forever And A Day” and “Time Is My Everything” pass you by in a haze of weed, riffs, and shuffling rhythms.
Ian Brown has carved out a niche for himself and this is a decent enough collection of songs, but to really release an album of your “greatest songs” surely every track should be a winner? And sadly they aren't. It smacks of an attempt to reintroduce Ian to the masses, when all the indie masses really want is the reformation of the Stone Roses magic, maybe one day eh?