On November 13, 2012, independent Blix Street Records will release The Best of Eva Cassidy, a compilation of the music of the versatile, much-missed vocalist praised for her emotional range and interpretive skills. Proof of both qualities abounds on the collection, which gathers 19 performances from the Washington, D.C.-based Eva Cassidy's previous albums and adds a previously unissued version of her popular "You Take My Breath Away." The Best of Eva Cassidy arrives on the eve of what would have been the singer's 50th birthday (February 2, 1963).
Cassidy's reputation has only grown since her untimely 1996 death from melanoma at the age of 33, earning her an international audience (more than 10 million CDs sold worldwide) and critical acclaim, with the Wall Street Journal praising her "perfect pitch, impeccable timing and vulnerability" and USA Today citing her "emotional ability to reach the depths of any song."
Cassidy fans and newcomers alike will find much to savor in The Best of Eva Cassidy, whose program reprises the singer's greatest moments-among them her nonpareil reading of Sting's "Fields of Gold," John Lennon's "Imagine," Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready" and Christine McVie's "Songbird," the title song of her first and still biggest-selling posthumous release. She likewise applies her unique, song-sympathetic voicing to folk (the fragile "Danny Boy" and the swinging "Wade in the Water"), standards ("Autumn Leaves," "Over the Rainbow") and the work of such contemporary singer-writers as Paul Simon ("Kathy's Song"), Bill Withers ("Ain't No Sunshine") and Cyndi Lauper ("Time After Time").
Of special note is the album's 'new' track, a version of Claire Hamill's inspirational tune that became one of Cassidy's signature songs. While the 1993 'demo' version of the song concluded Eva's American Tune Album, this previously unheard recording was one of several works-in-progress tracks at the time of her passing in 1996. This more musically evolved vocal performance simply reaches a new level. With the aid of new digital technology, Eva's former bandmates Chris Biondo and Lenny Williams recently enhanced Eva's original guitar/vocal studio recording. After maximizing the sound quality of Eva's vocal tour de force, they augmented the production with piano, double bass and a string quartet, creating the definitive version of what is destined to become one of Eva's best-loved performances.
"Hearing Eva perform my song was probably the most important moment of my career," Hamill says of Cassidy's earlier treatment of "You Take My Breath Away." "I felt validated as a songwriter, a truly indescribable feeling. When I heard how a new version was to feature as the lead track on her new Best of Eva Cassidy album, I was literally over the moon. Eva will always mean the world to me. Her beautiful voice will stay with me forever."
"Any new track on an Eva Cassidy best-of album had the tall order of being competitive with the other 19 classic Eva tracks, which have together raised the bar for singers everywhere," explains Blix Street Records president Bill Straw. "Essentially, Eva had to top or at least equal her own best work. I believe she did it. Otherwise, we would not have put it on the album. Some of our people in England are saying this 'new' version of 'You Take My Breath Away' is the best 'sounding' Eva Cassidy recording ever, high praise indeed at this point. It is enough to say that Eva's 'newest' released performance is worthy for inclusion among her best. Eva fans will ultimately decide for themselves where it ranks for them among her many classics."
Initially shy and retiring, Eva Cassidy first appeared publicly in the Washington, DC-Maryland area, bowling over club patrons with her intensely personal, highly eclectic musical style. Following Cassidy's two locally issued albums, in 1998 independent Blix Street label took on the singer's catalog, initially releasing SONGBIRD (a compilation of tracks from the two albums, plus "Over the Rainbow" from the 1992 The Other Side duet album with Chuck Brown). Blix Street subsequently reissued the earlier Live At Blues Alley and Eva By Heart albums. But it was in 2001 that music enthusiasts sat up and took notice of Cassidy's compelling way with a song; that was the year that the Songbird compilation hit the top of the British album charts and captivated audiences the world over. Songbird has now been certified Platinum in the U.S.
Subsequent releases include Time After Time, two additional U.K. chart toppers, Imagine and American Tune (the former climbed to No. 1 on Billboard's Independent Albums survey, the latter to No. 5), the 2004 compilation Wonderful World followed by Somewhere in 2008 and 2011's Simply Eva (an album of alternative Eva-only guitar and vocal performances).