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    Music for Grown-ups: Greatest Hits

    Tina Turner: Tina! (Capitol)

    UB40: Greatest Hits (Virgin)

    Sarah McLachlan: Closer: The Best of Sarah McLachlan (Arista)

    I used to think I hated “greatest hits” packages. Extracting individual songs ruined the integrity of the entire album-I thought. And besides, why let some record company executive, or worse, some “hit parade” poll determine what would be included and what wouldn’t.

    But then, even back in the day of LPs, I found myself drifting to those hits. Listening the albums, I’d pick up the needle and replace it, or, more recently, skip ahead. And now, with MP3 and digital downloads, well, the “integrity” of the album has gone the way of those dusty LPs. It’s all utterly de-contextualized anyway, so why not revel in it!

    Three new “Greatest Hits” collections also bridge then and now; returning to past glory and still suggesting something enduring.

    There are few veterans more durable than Tina Turner. I mean, they’ll probably wheel Mick and Keith out on gurneys before long, but Tina will still look amazing; and she has been around just as long. A master at self-invention, no one would have imaged her durability when she teamed with ex-husband Ike for the Soul Review in the early 1960s. Four decades later, this retrospective is long overdue

    The music is both fresh and familiar – the hallmarks of a good package. Sure, you have to have “Proud Mary” and “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” but her soulful “Acid Queen” and energetic “Addicted to Love” are marvelous reminders of how a brilliant artist can cover others’ songs and transform them.

    UB 40 made a career out of that transformation, taking pop standards and adding a dub beat, reggae-inspired phrasing, and turning them into dance club hits. “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” and “Red Red Wine” and many others are reshaped with sensually languid dance grooves and smooth vocals.

    But what’s missing is the edge of UB40s early “hits.” After all, this was a band whose name comes from the forms British welfare recipients have to fill out, and whose early songs like “Tyler” were passionate outcries against racism

    In a sense, UB40’s Greatest Hits are just that, their “hits.” But that frame does more than reshape those pop standards into reggae dancehall songs. It transforms the history of the band, and depoliticizes their message.

    Few voices these days are as mysterious as Sarah McLachlan’s – haunting, ethereal, slightly whispering, so heartfelt and portentous. Her hits package includes all her fans’ favorites: “Building a Mystery,” “Angel,” “I Will Remember You,” and my favorite, “Fallen.”

    There’s something majestic in her tone, simultaneously vulnerable and defiant, opening up and covering up at the same time. Even the album’s title contains a double edge: “closer” is both a simple noun and adjectival.

    Occasionally, the diaphanous billows out to shred, the ethereal form lacks substance, the languid turns limpid. But in a hits package, the flimsier fillers are fewer and further between, and the fragile beauty of McLachlan’s songs and voice sustain multiple turns on the turntable.

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