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Ghost Canyon

Title - 'Get Close: Original Recording Remastered'
Artist - The Pretenders

After the death of two of the original Pretenders, the band was, of course, in major disarray. However, Chrissie Hynde perservered with replacements, and was able to reemerge. With the help of producer Chris Thomas, the band was able to come up with a pretty good approximation of the original Pretenders sound on their third album, the successful "Learning to Crawl". The following tour had them playing to the biggest crowds they had yet seen.

However, Hynde then proceeded to blow it. First, she replaced Thomas with U2 producer Steve Lillywhite, which in itself wasn't a bad sign. After completing only one track, she then fired him, as well as her rhythm section. To replace Lillywhite, she enlisted Jimmy Iovine and Bob Clearmountain, the team behind the mega-smash "Once a Upon a Time", the hit album by then-hubby Jim Kerr's band Simple Minds. She and guitarist Robbie MacIntosh then went through a bunch of session men during recording before settling on two of them, bassist T.M. Stevens and drummer Blair Cunningham, as official Pretenders (although they actually appear on only about half of the cuts).

However, what's good for a synth-pop band like Simple Minds isn't necessarily good for a band like the Pretenders. Iovine and Clearmountain seemed to have forgotten that the Pretenders are a guitar-based band. Instead of the powerful rock guitar attack of Thomas, they instead slicken up the sound and go too way heavy on the keyboards in the mix. A lot of the songs are undermined by either gloppy synthesizers ("When I Change My Life", "Light of the Moon") or annoyingly tinkly pianos ("My Baby", "Don't Get Me Wrong").

More importantly, though, is that Hynde's songwriting took a big dip. She felt that she had to branch out, but the problem is that she wasn't particularly good at what she tried. For instance: funk with obnoxious, obvious social commentary ("Dance", "How Much Did You Get For Your Soul?"), melding hard rock with Indian sounds ("Tradition of Love") or reggae ("I Remember You"). "Chill Factor", which combines a 50's-type doo-wop melody with a moving lyric about single motherhood, is the only one of these experiments that succeeds. The more pop-oriented songs ("My Baby", "When I Change My Life", the boppy hit single "Don't Get Me Wrong") were a bit more listenable, but pale considerably when compared with previous work.

Hynde always included at least one cover on her albums. Here, she includes three, and it's telling that two of these are the best songs on the album. "Light of the Moon", by David Bowie guitarist Carlos Alamar and two New York jazz musicians, is forgettable. But "Hymn to Her", by a high school friend of Chrissie's, is a gorgeous ballad about the ambiguity of the female role in relationship. Beautiful, with the ethereal keyboards applied appropriately for once. However, the Lillywhite track, a version of Jimi Hendrix's "Room Full of Mirrors", blows everything else here away. The band had been using it as a wall-of-noise part of their encore, and I think they really do it justice here, rocking hard like they did on their earlier (and later) albums.

The lack of cohesiveness of this, their worst album, carried through to the tour -- Stevens was fired before it even started and MacIntosh quit at the end. Fortunately, Hynde rebounded again, but the band wouldn't be stable again for years.

Pretenders hardcore fans will want this album for the strongest songs, but everyone else will probably just want the hits on a collection. Get any other album (definitely the first should be the top choice) before this one. The extra tracks are - Hold A Candle To This (Alternate Version), World Within Worlds, Tradition Of Love (Remix), Dance (Take 1), Don't Get Me Wrong (Live), and Thumbelina (Live).





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