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Gems: The Very Best Of
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  • Considering his last genuine hit was way back in 1997, Michael Bolton's back catalog has been the subject of a surprisingly high number of compilations. If you're wondering what 2012 collection Gems: The Very Best Of can offer what the other 20-odd flooding the market haven't already, the answer is not a lot. Indeed, apart from the substitution of "That's What Love Is All About" for his take on Bill Withers' "Lean on Me," its 17 tracks are exactly the same as his hugely successful Greatest Hits 1985-1995 (albeit in a different order). It therefore means that the 11 studio albums he's recorded since are entirely ignored, but with only one of his 17 U.S. Top 40 hits ("Go the Distance") charting outside that time frame, it remains to be seen whether the lack of recent material should be an issue. Unsurprisingly the bulk of the track list comes from his late 80s/early 90s heyday, from the long-haired power balladry of "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?" to his renditions of soul classics from Percy Sledge ("When a Man Loves a Woman"), and Ray Charles ("Georgia on My Mind") to his soft rock uptempo songs like "How Can We Be Lovers?" and "Time, Love and Tenderness." Bolton's star had started to wane by the mid-'90s, and while several of the tracks recorded specially for his first major-label retrospective, such as the unadulterated schmaltz of "I Promise You" and "A Love So Beautiful" explain why, the cheekily seductive world-pop of "Can I Touch You.There?" and a straight-forward rendition of "I Found Someone" (the track he penned for Cher) are arguably two of his best songs. Tacked on as a bonus disc, the 2011 duets collection Gems shows he can still belt it out with the best of them, particularly the covers of U2's "Pride (In the Name of Love)" and Joe Cocker's "You Are So Beautiful." But casual fans will be more concerned with the first hits-packed disc, which may do its job, but ultimately, is indistinguishable from the mountain of similar compilations. ~ Jon O'Brien
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