Mark Wills

Definitive Collection [Remastered]

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The Definitive Collection compiles the key highlights from Mark Wills' up-and-down stint with Mercury Nashville from 1996-2003. A couple other greatest-hits collections preceded this one's release, but there's no question that The Definitive Collection lives up to its billing. It rounds up a total of 18 songs, whereas competing releases such as Greatest Hits (2002) and 20th Century Masters (2004) are cursory, featuring less than a dozen each. Moreover, the packaging of The Definitive Collection is well done: the booklet is filled with glossy photos, the songs are credited and sequenced chronologically, the sound is remastered, and Martin Huxley penned some insightful liner notes (come to find out, it was Wills who'd presented his guitar to President George W. Bush on August 30, 2005 -- in the midst of Hurricane Katrina's devastation of the Gulf Coast -- for that infamous, widely circulated photo that became a symbol of the President's inattentiveness to the horrors then taking place in New Orleans). Of the 18 tracks, three come from Mark Wills (1996), four from Wish You Were Here (1998), three from Permanently (2000), three from Loving Every Minute (2001), two from Greatest Hits (2002), and three from And the Crowd Goes Wild (2003) -- a fairly even roundup overall. The style and quality of the inclusions vary, however, with the sensitive ballads of Wish You Were Here perhaps standing out most. The Greatest Hits inclusion "19 Somethin'" is also a clear standout -- Wills' biggest hit, it held the number one spot on the country singles chart for six weeks and is one of the few up-tempo, purely fun songs here. The chronological sequencing of The Definitive Collection is revealing. As the serviceable contemporary country style of Mark Wills gives way to the adult contemporary of Wish You Were Here, you can sense a sea change in direction, and from there, Wills seems adrift, trying on different hats in vain until his contract eventually ran its course. In retrospect, the RB-tinged schmaltz of Permanently particularly seems like it was an ill-advised detour, while all that followed seems to be a fruitless struggle to regain Wills' lost audience, with the exception of "19 Somethin'," of course, which was a novelty. ~ Jason Birchmeier, Rovi