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John Michael Montgomery

Greatest Hits – 1997 (Atlantic)

Reviewed by Walter Allread

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CDs by John Michael Montgomery

No singer filled the Hot New Country market's needs like the Hunk in the Hat. Introduced like a product, John Michael Montgomery was a fitter Garth wrapped snugly in worn denim and tight t's. Small wonder his best-of set is packaged like an ad for JMM Jeans. (Wrangler gets special thanks) JMM hits targeted divorcees ("No Man's Land"), fantasizing suburbanites ("Cowboy Love"), newlyweds ("I Swear") and delusional honky-tonkers ("Beer and Bones").

The new - and demographically "sensitive" - "Angel in My Eyes" aims at touchy-feely lovers, new parents (like Montgomery) and the thousands who buy anything alluding to winged ones. Montgomery's overly forceful delivery (spitting out "sometimes we fight") reflects a tendency toward inch-deep interpretation; he now admits "Rope the Moon" "didn't have a whole lot of meaning to me" when recorded. "Friends" and "I Miss You A Little" show more emotional investment, proving Montgomery's no merely competent salesman.

The challenge is now to let Montgomery, the singer, mature while keeping sales of JMM, the product, hot.