Album Review: Greatest Hits: 1985-1995 (Michael Bolton)

Greatest Hits:  1985-1995, by Michael Bolton

Michael Bolton gets a bad rap.  Before his popularity increased with his humorous turn in the Lonely Island’s “Jack Sparrow,” people took the songs that he sang as a personal affront to them, even though he made a great living singing blue-eyed soul and adult contemporary ballads.  If people had any understanding of his background as an artist, they would have recognized that he did what he had to do for the money and was a far more complex person than met the eye, not least because he had spent years writing songs before achieving mass popularity as an artist some years into his career after the release of his fifth studio album?  How many labels would give an artist five albums to show themselves as a successful hitmaker?  It is possible that Bolton himself would not have gotten the chance unless he had been successful at writing songs already for other people and making money for his label as a songwriter before singing his own hits, but for what it’s worth this album gives a look at his most successful decade as a recording artist.  And though I had not heard all of these songs nor heard some of them for quite some time [1], this album definitely piqued my interest.  Was it worthwhile?

Those people who grew up listening to Adult contemporary or pop music in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s will find a lot here that is familiar to them.  There are at least three sorts of songs on this collection.  Some songs are classic soul covers that Michael Bolton sings with his typical passion, including “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay,” “When A Man Loves A Woman,” and “Georgia On My Mind.”  Some of the songs here are tunes that were originally written for others but which Michael Bolton performs here, like “How Am I Supposed To Live Without You?” and “I Found Someone.”  The remainder are songs that he wrote for himself and performed to considerable success over the course of a prolific and accomplished decade of music.  There is considerable emotional range here among the songs that Bolton wrote, including songs of devotion like “Soul Provider,” “Steel Bars,” “Said I Loved You…But I Lied” and “That’s What Love Is All About.”  Other songs reflect on the more negative side of love, like “How Can We Be Lovers” or the anguish of “Missing You Now.”  Some songs even have a ridiculously coy sense of winking and nodding sexuality about them, like “Can I Touch You…..There?” which at least has going for it the desire to receive consent.

Overall, this is a good album, but perhaps unsurprisingly the best songs are the familiar hits and the new songs don’t quite add up to the level of Bolton’s work.  A savvy listener would have seen in this collection a likelihood of a commercial downturn for Bolton afterward and that is what indeed took place.  Still, the hits here are good hits and if you don’t want to put four Michael Bolton albums in your discography and want hits and some decent versions of songs that weren’t as popular but are still pretty good, this is a solid collection to have.  If you like Michael Bolton, you know what you’re getting here.  You’re getting a large amount of passionate oversinging, songs about the drama of relationships, but mostly with an optimistic side.  Bolton’s voice is soulful and his songs are generally pretty good if you like Adult Contemporary tunes and covers of classic songs of love and devotion.  If you don’t like that sort of thing, you won’t like that album anyway.

[1] But see, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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