Audio Remasterers: Dave Schultz; Dan Hersch; Bill Inglot.
Photographers: Janet Macoska; Stephanie Chernikowski; Gary Gershoff.
Once you've made the perfect pop album, it's hard to say what to do for an encore, and this is the dilemma that's dogged Marshall Crenshaw's career, at least from a commercial standpoint. Crenshaw's self-titled debut album, released in 1982, was a grand-slam collection of 12 superb songs, delivered with fresh-faced passion and sincerity and performed with smarts and concision; it was the sort of instant masterpiece so good that almost anything that followed would be seen as a disappointment, and when Crenshaw's second album, Field Day, reached stores a year later, most fans and critics focused on Steve Lillywhite's cluttered, boomy production and ignored the fact that Crenshaw's songwriting had, if anything, improved in the 12 months that separated the two albums. Crenshaw's career never quite recovered from the backlash over Field Day, and as a result, plenty of fans of the first album ignored the records which followed; each one a solid piece of pop craftsmanship with great songs and performances dozens of more popular acts would have envied. Anyone who doubts the consistent strength of Marshall Crenshaw's body of work need only to pick up The Definitive Pop Collection to find out what they've been missing. Featuring tracks from each of Crenshaw's studio albums, as well as a couple of rare single sides and his cover of Buddy Holly's "Crying, Waiting, Hoping" from the La Bamba soundtrack, The Definitive Pop Collection pretty much lives up to its title, and while Crenshaw's lyrical concerns take a turn towards greater maturity over the course of these two discs and the sonic palate broadens a bit, Crenshaw's instincts remain dead-on throughout -- he writes songs that are melodic, hooky and emotionally true, and he sings and plays them with an honesty and force that still find room for humor without venom. If there's a criticism to be made of this set, it's that it features all of the 22 songs that appear on Rhino's 2000 collection The Best of Marshall Crenshaw: This Is Easy, which accomplishes the same task in more concise form. But the eight additional tracks present here are certainly welcome, and Bill Holdship's liner notes offer a fitting appreciation of an underappreciated artist. Anyone who loves great pop music will love this. ~ Mark Deming