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The Fugees - Greatest Hits Print E-mail
Tuesday, 22 April 2003


Greatest Hits
format: CD
label: Columbia
release year: 2002
performance: 6
sound 7
reviewed by: Dan MacIntosh

ImageIt’s difficult to support the case for this greatest hits album, especially when the Fugees recorded only two proper studio albums. Greatest hits collections are handy ways to chart the career course taken by a particular act, but the Fugees’ unique “course” – if you even call it that – was no more than a few baby steps, longevity-wise. In retrospect, it’s surprising they even made it that far, especially when you stop and consider the stunning presence of vocalist Lauryn Hill, and the studio wizardry of Wyclef Jean. From this rearview mirror perspective, the Fugees were closer to a temporary all-star intersection than a naturally organic group.
If you’re just too broke to conjure up enough cash for the Fugees’ two studio albums, this greatest hits album at least contains plenty of music to remember them by. The trio’s reworking of “Killing Me Softly With His Song” acts as a reminder of just what a fine song that old Roberta Flack hit truly is/was. And speaking of covers, Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry” works particularly well within the Fugees’ reggae-influenced framework. “Vocab” (which, along with “Nappy Heads,” is the only track taken from the group’s debut, “Blunted On Reality”) also stands out nicely here. Additionally, forewarnings about the dangers of a gangsta mentality, spoken of in “Cowboys,” still hold true today, and probably always will.

Just as its members quickly outgrew the constricting group confines of the Fugees, the hip-hop genre was also never big or strong enough to contain these diverse and eclectic individuals. They were always passionate about creating more than just hip-hop tracks. Hill was already a diva in waiting – even while performing within this group -- and Jean was primed to bring a whole lot more reggae-like toasting into the mainstream R&B radio world. But at least for these brief shining recorded moments, the Fugees sure made some beautiful music together. Despite their semi-democratic group format, these strong voices were given almost all the aural spotlight. “Killing Me Softly With His Song” was spiced up with just a hint of sitar, but instrumental elements never drowned out the human voices on any of these tracks. The Fugees’ music was built upon mostly minimalist bass and drums, which is a foundation that might sound frustratingly barren in other contexts, but was more than enough accompaniment here.

If you’re on a low budget, this release will at least give you a taste of what the Fugees were all about. But, as with many foods, a taste will probably not be nearly enough. So don’t be a cheap-y. Just go out and purchase both original Fugees albums and especially Lauryn Hill’s first solo album. Then you’ll truly be satisfied.

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