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Phil Vassar

Greatest Hits Volume 1 – 2006 (Arista)

Reviewed by Melissa Coker

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Kickstart Country Standard Time to Nashville

CDs by Phil Vassar

Some may consider Phil Vassar mainly a songwriter, but truth be told he brought his show to Nashville's road in search of success as a singer. Somewhere along the way, lavish lyrics and piano man talents were found and fine-tuned.

But this collection is the first to contain his versions of hits made famous by others. Although armed with powerful vocals, the music is somewhat of a disappointment, comparatively speaking. Some instrumentation on these "new" tracks seems strangely subdued in spots. Don't expect the same sounds as from the likes of Jo Dee Messina, either. On selections like "I'm Alright," for example, there's a slow piano introduction that then builds into the romp radio's used to...albeit with some switched-up words: "give the kids a kiss for me" becomes "give your wife a kiss for me." Oh, and Vassar's unafraid to show some cheekiness - this one does indeed include "ass." Elsewhere "Bye Bye," "Little Red Rodeo," "My Next Thirty Years" and "For a Little While" (written with Jerry Vandiver and Sixwire's Steve Mandile) pack a high-energy piano-driven punch.

The new "The Woman in My Life" delivers perfect transitions of celebrating women - covering his wife, mother and daughter. The fun "Twenty-One" celebrates that age and changes since. Another life story, current single "The Last Day of My Life," isn't an attempt to copy country's current semi-morbid topical trends, but an honest ode in memory of friend and co-writer ("Rose Bouquet") Robert Byrne that reminds of what's most important. So take this as a yes, Phil Vassar is an artist worth his salt. Nothing's sweeter.