Asleep at the Wheel

The Best of Asleep at the Wheel, and The Very Best of Asleep at the Wheel (MCA)

Record Reviews

Asleep at the Wheel

The Best of Asleep at the Wheel (MCA)

Asleep at the Wheel

The Very Best of Asleep at the Wheel (Madacy)

Wait a minute. The Best, and The Very Best? Which is best? If you want the more obvious hits, the songs that helped Asleep at the Wheel get a row of Grammys across their mantelpiece, get The Very Best. The band's re-recorded overview of hits plays it safe with "Route 66," "Take Me Back to Tulsa," "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie," "Big Ball's in Cowtown" -- you get the idea. Can't go wrong with their Western swing tunes. The Best of, on the other hand, part of MCA's ongoing millennium series, does a better job of tracing the band's evolution over the years. Asleep at the Wheel has always been known for their Bob Wills fixation, but they've strayed. "Switchin' in the Kitchen" is informed more by big-band swing, while "Lonely Avenue Revisited" (featuring Bonnie Raitt) and "Midnight in Memphis" find the band experimenting with horn-driven R&B, a style that doesn't always work for Asleep at the Wheel. "Slow Dancin'," written by Dan Hicks guitarist John Girton, features fellow Hicks alumna Maryann Price on vocals; close your eyes and you could swear it was the Hot Licks playing. Loretta Lynn's "You Wanna Give Me a Lift," meanwhile, finds the band solidly in a hard-core honky-tonk mode. So, which one should you buy? If you need an introduction to the band, get The Very Best of; it's an Asleep at the Wheel primer. If you're already ass-deep in Asleep, get The Best of for an overview of their somewhat more dusty and obscure stuff. Or hell, get 'em both. You'd hardly be going wrong.

(The Best) ***.5

(The Very Best) ***

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