The Deal: Prolific singer-songwriter releases first retrospective.
The Good: After 17 years and 18 studio albums, Ani DiFranco has ample material for her retrospective double-disc Canon. Of course, when an artist on the front-lines of political songwriting is releasing her latest on Sept. 11, the temptation is to produce a record teeming with protest songs. Surprisingly, DiFranco keeps it simple. Full of her signature folk-jazz melodies and poetic girl-power lyrics, Canon is a witty, bittersweet reflection on DiFranco's songwriting career, with only hints of disappointment with current politics. Although DiFranco is often pigeonholed as a brazen promoter of women's lib, Canon showcases what she does best -- wry, poignant love songs and innovative guitar arrangements. While the first disk presents earlier works, the second features the dissonant, jazzy later albums, but still pulls from the most melodic and lyrical of DiFranco's post-millennium catalogue. Five re-recorded tracks bridge the gap between early straight folk and the jazz infusion of later albums. All together, Canon is more a study of an artist's evolution than a true "greatest hits" -- an album more personal than political, but enjoyable either way.
The Bad: Even on a 36-track album, DiFranco fans will notice holes, notably the absence of "Up Up Up Up Up Up." For die-hards, it may be more gratifying to make your own mix.
The Verdict: A satisfying, nostalgic journey that will make neophytes appreciate the softer side of the Righteous Babe and will have older fans digging out earlier albums.