It's been a rocky 13 years, but towering above the personality, the drugs, the girls...
Talia Kraines 2002-11-21
From the tender beginnings of a Take That number 38 'hit' - complete with lycra shorts and 'interesting' dance routines - Robbie Williams has worked his way into the hearts and onto the bedroom walls of the nation. After 13 years we now have this, his greatest hits album, cataloguing his journey from the teenage heartbreak of leaving Take That through to the Robbie we know so well.
After 5 studio albums, this compilation isn't going to hold any surprises. It's worth noting that Robbie isn't one of those artists where the singles are great but the rest of the album isn't much cop. While Sing When You're Winning probably clocks in as the weakest of the albums, each one is a great listen in itself, and this compilation is perhaps somewhat weaker for containing singles only, missing strong album tracks like I've Been Expecting You's fiery "Karma Killer" and Life Through A Lens' romping "Ego A Go Go".
We start not quite at the very beginning. The first solo single, a cover of the 1990 George Michael classic "Freedom", seems to have been erased from Robbie history; it's never performed live and gets completely overlooked on this album. Instead, we kick off with the first single from LTAL, the laddish "Old Before I Die".Also missed out are "South Of The Border", his only non-top 10 single, and the sickly "Somethin' Stupid". The now classic (and somewhat overrated) "Angels" is promoted out of chronological order to track two and will undoubtedly be a highlight of the album for many. For me, however, it's the other ballads that are the stand-out tracks; from the summer soaring of "Eternity" to the break-up pain of "Sexed Up", it's these soft rock ballads that are consistently great.
As is seemingly now the fashion (check out the forthcoming Britney and Kylie releases), this compilation also contains two new tracks. We'll all know by now the opinion-dividing "Radio", which, Robbie tells us, is the start of a new era in his music. New song number two, "Misunderstood", taken from the second Bridget Jones movie, sees Robbie return to familiar power-ballad territory. In a few weeks it'll no doubt be populating radio station playlists everywhere and will be impossible to escape.
It's been a rocky 13 years, but towering above the personality, the drugs, the girls and the drink, it's the quality of the music that will surely stand as Robbie's legacy.