An impressive collection, Granite Years: Best of 1986-1997 contains over two hours of the finest Oysterband has to offer. Frequently, such comprehensive releases are the cause for debate among the most devoted fans. But that is not the scenario surrounding this release. From Step Outside's "Hal-an-Tow" to Wide Blue Yonder's "The Oxford Girl" to Holy Bandits' "Blood Wedding" to Deep Dark Ocean's "Native Son," this release hits all of the key tracks by this legendary British folk-rock band. If there is any drawback, it is that no track from their 1991 release, From Little Rock to Leipzig, was included and a whopping seven tracks from their previous best-of release, Trawler, grace the track list of this two-CD set. It should be clarified that Trawler was a collection of re-recorded favorites that originally appeared on previous albums. That's a minor detail that won't matter to the uninitiated and is easily overlooked by the hardcore fan simply due to the preponderance of superb material found within these 30 tracks.
The Best That I Could Do is an appropriately self-deprecating title for John Mellencamp's greatest-hits collection, considering that the heartland rocker never seemed too convinced of his own worth. Of course, he had to struggle to get any respect after he was saddled with the stage name Johnny Cougar early in his career, but this 14-track collection proves that he was one of the best, unabashed straight-ahead rockers of the '80s. The 14 tracks here actually turn out to be a little too short to contain all of his great singles – songs like "Rain on the Scarecrow," "Rumbleseat," "Pop Singer," "Again Tonight," and "What If I Came Knocking"…
Much of Possessed is a collaboration with Tony Kushner (the Pulitzer- and Tony-winning playwright of Angels in America). He contributes lyrics to two songs, and the second half of the album was designed as a musical score for his play A Dybbuk: Between Two Worlds (an adaptation of Jewish folk tales by S. An-ski). The marriage of artistic sensibilities is perfect. The Klezmatics' ethos is at once deeply traditional and deeply progressive. Their music is a lively engagement with Jewishness itself, inflecting Eastern European klezmer music with other genres so seamlessly that it seems misleading even to name the other influences (classical, Dixieland, bebop, Middle Eastern folk, modern rock…). Their song catalog includes religious traditionals, but it also includes original Hebraic odes to marijuana and homosexuality. All of which is very much in line with Kushner's endless quest to sort out his own disparate influences as a gay, Jewish, democratic-socialist, Louisiana-born, New York-adopted artiste.
Most of this was recorded at the Philipshalle in Düssledorf on 30th March 1997. The last five tracks are from sessions, 1990-91.