In 1997, a young singer/songwriter named Tiffany Arbuckle started a sort of industrial pop rock band named Plumb and released their self-titled debut through Essential Records. Two years later, Plumb was becoming more on an identity for Tiffany and the release of the decidedly more pop effort candycoatedwaterdrops garnered the singer a much wider audience. A split from Essential spawned the premature 2000 release The Best of Plumb (which only covered the first two albums?!) and Plumb was off to Curb Records to seemingly start anew.
Since joining Curb and releasing her first album with them in 2003, Beautiful Lumps Of Coal, Plumb has released two more full-length projects (including the lovely lullabies album Blink), so now seems as good a time as any to take a look back over the past ten years. Beautiful History: A Hits Collection honors her career since her sophomore release in 1999, and gives fans a collection of hits from all of her Curb releases as well as two brand new songs and three entirely re-recorded favorites from candycoatedwaterdrops. The re-recordings bring the "classics" up to par with her newer material, and along with the new tracks, the twelve song collection feels like its own album. Instead of ripping fans off with more of the same (especially at a time when you can just download your favorite songs and make your own custom "hits collection"), Plumb gives listeners plenty of fresh material. While, personally, I'm not sure we really needed brand new re-recordings of "Stranded," "Here With Me," and "God-Shaped Hole," because the originals still sound great, Plumb's sound has matured and evolved since this album and their new incarnations gel a lot more smoothly with the rest of Beautiful History - especially since the songs are presented in chronological order.
The song choices here are pretty strong. While the overall selection shows the softer side of Plumb (which has also been her most popular side), there really is a strong representation of what the artist has to offer. The three new re-recorded songs represent her sophomore record along with the newer "Redemption Extended Version" of "Damaged" from her 2006 album Chaotic Resolve, which leaves out any original renditions of anything from that record. Next, "Real" is the only song from Beautiful Lumps Of Coal to make the cut, sadly (What happened to "Boys Don't Cry," "Free," or "Sink 'N Swim"? Surely one or two of those could have been tacked on to the 12-song tracklist which only includes 10 songs from her discography?). However, four songs from Chaotic Resolve (not including the bonus update of "Damaged") make the list - "I Can't Do This," "Better," "Blush (Only You)," and "Cut." All are great tracks from that album and understandable additions. Unfortunately, only one song from Blink also makes it, the radio edit of "In My Arms." To close, two brand new songs specifically recorded for this project are added here, "Hang On" and the title track, "Beautiful History." Both seem like they could have fit on Chaotic Resolve (mixed with the even more melody-heavy feel of Blink) but the songs display enough growth to really show listeners where Plumb has come since her debut. They're great songs and worthy additions to this hits collection.
As a bonus, a second disc is included that features eight dance remixes -- two each of "In My Arms," "Cut," "Hang On," and "Always." They're not really necessary to be included with the hits project, but they're fun for any dance/club music fan or any Plumb fan who wanted a little more than just the dozen tracks on the first disc. The remixes are decent, but with there being two each of only four songs included (and three of the songs have their original form on the first disc - "Always," from Blink, only appears as the two remixes for some reason), the songs start feeling especially monotonous. The oddest song to get the dance club treatment is undoubtedly "Cut," an emotional piano ballad written for people who struggle with cutting themselves to find relief from emotional pain. To hear the powerful song given a dance remix seems altogether bizarre and even inappropriate. And with Plumb having a dance anthem titled "Motion" on the same album as "Cut," it would have been a no-brainer choice for getting the club treatment on a remix disc. Lastly, the first disc features only a dozen songs from Plumb's five-album career and completely forsakes her self-titled debut. Considering she re-recorded three songs from the second record, it would have been great for something from the debut to be represented here - even if it was just a remix. I could definitely hear a 2010 version of something from the self-titled, so it's mildy disappointing nothing was attempted here.
Nitpicks aside, Beautiful History: A Hits Collection is easily one of the more thoughtful collections you'll find for an artist these days. The new tracks, re-recordings, personal song comments on each track inside the disc jacket and even the bonus remix disc give Beautiful History: A Hits Collection a unique and personal look into the wonderful career of this pop artist. It's a beautiful history indeed.- Review date: 11/1/09, written by John DiBiase of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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