Ian Brown: The Greatest


Muhammad Ali and Will Smith have both also referred to themselves as The Greatest on record

He’s not, of course, the greatest, but in times when genuine stars are in short supply, Ian Brown has at least earned the right to make the claim. And when you’ve made the best album of the last 20 years, but opt not to include any of it on your Greatest Hits (it’s probably down to copyright, but still), you could even be accused of rubbing the noses of mere mortal ‘pop stars’ in it a little. It should be noted that ‘The Greatest’ is not even the greatest Greatest Hits album ever – sometimes Brown is so far off on another plane ( ‘Corpses In Their Mouths’), that you may not want to go along for the trip. But the best bits… ‘My Star’ you’ll know, gorgeous and shot through with child-like wonder; ‘Golden Gaze’, meanwhile, would not be out of place on Massive Attack’s ‘Blue Lines’, boasting a thumping jeep-beat rhythm and a boot full of dub tics and tricks. But it’s ‘FEAR’ that is the track of the album, corpulent with cross-cutting samples of strings with Brown coming on like a seer, shot through with divine insight. ‘The Greatest’ shows that, although he has lost his choirboy air of innocence, the grown-up Brown has found funk and a rare ability to surprise. He bangs a unique drum, he does.

Pete Cashmore