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Mary Chapin Carpenter: a worthy greatest hits package

Country Standard Time Editorial, July 1999

For a few years running, country acts put out greatest hits packages with a catch. Since there wasn't enough songs that really were hits, the discs also usually contained two or three new cuts.

The result was the fanatic would be forced to buy the latest album for a few songs.

But kudos must go to Mary Chapin Carpenter for "Party Dolls and Other Favorites," her new greatest hits offering.

Carpenter, who rode the increasing popularity of country for a few years before opting for a more folk/singer/songwriter kind of existence, came back strong with her greatest hits plus package.

Not only is it a quality album, but even more credit goes to Carpenter for putting out something that is very very different. She takes live versions or alternate versions of songs, instead of the originals as often as possible. There are several new songs and one from a movie soundtrack ("Fly Away Home") previously unreleased on CD.

In effect, the listener is getting a different treatment or interpretation of the songs. And the differences aren't so slight with the originals as to cause the fanatic to fall prey to the lure of a few new songs.

This does not smack of the money grubbing associated with other greatest hits efforts of recent years, often by artists who really only had a few hits. It is easy to get quite cynical when the public is presented with such packages.

Let's hope the public - or at least those interested in Carpenter - supports the album. Carpenter deserves it for going beyond the norm.