Madonna: Finally Enough Love: 50 Number Ones (Rhino/Warner, 3 CDs, 220 min.). This career-spanning anthology collects 50 of Madonna’s No. 1 club hits across four decades. There are dozens of remixes by the world’s top producers. In addition to fan favorites there is a selection of rare remix recordings, with 26 being officially released for the first time or making their commercial/digital debut.

Of course, Madonna is the first and only artist to have 50 No. 1 hits on any single Billboard chart, in this case the Dance Club Songs chart. The songs are presented here in mostly chronological order and thus begins with the breezy, good times quartet of “Holiday,” “Like a Virgin,” “Material Girl” and “Into the Groove.” All are really happy, upbeat songs, with only “Into the Groove” getting a remix. The first disc also has the video version of “Open Your Heart,” then remixes of hits “Physical Attraction,” “Everybody,” “Like a Prayer” and “Express Yourself.” One could hardly ask for a better beginning to a song collection.

“Everybody” was Madonna’s first single, released 40 years ago this coming Oct. 6 on Sire Records. It really was “Holiday” that jump-started her career in 1983, while the most recent chart-topper is 2019’s “I Don’t Search I Find.” Along the way, there came remixes by some of the most influential DJs of all time, including John “Jellybean” Benitez, who was the resident DJ at the Fun House Club in New York City, where Madonna used to dance. Other notables include Shep Pettibone, William Orbit, Honey Dijon, and Avicii.

Disc one also has her hit “Vogue,” sexy versions of “Justify My Love” and “Erotica,” a cover of “Fever” (Peggy Lee’s sultry 1958 smash hit) and Junio Vasquez’s single mix of “Secret.” Vasquez also did the intriguing remix of “Bedtime Story” that opens disc two. Her cover of “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina,” from the musical “Evita,” is given a tango-ish dance mix by Madonna and Puerto Rican superstar DJ and remixer Pablo Flores. Things turn a bit more experimental with “Frozen” and “Ray of Light,” while her version of Don McLean’s “American Pie” turns into an upbeat dance track after the introduction thanks to Richard “Humpty” Vission’s mix. “Music” has a pulsating beat, while “Hollywood” is bouncy. Even her James Bond theme, “Die Another Day,” receives touches of progressive trance.

Disc two also has “Me Against the Music,” Madonna’s collaboration with Britney Spears, while disc three has the funky “4 Minutes,” a collaboration with Justin Timberlake and Timbaland, and “Bitch I’m Madonna,” performed with Nicki Minaj. The latter gets its first physical release here.

Also on disc three are the bouncy “Hung Up,” with a backing track that sounds like Abba, and The Pet Shop Boys maxi mix of “Sorry” that adds vocals by Neil Tennant. The latter had a limited release on promotional formats only. Other highlights include the layered “Celebration,” the pulsating “Girl Gone Wild” and the bright “Turn Up the Radio.”

The album also is available digitally and had a limited-edition, 6-LP version on red and black vinyl that sold out with pre-orders. An earlier 16-track version was available for streaming June 24 and now is available as a CD or two vinyl LPs. Grade: collection A+

Bobbie Gentry: The Girl from Chickasaw County: Highlights from the Capitol Masters (UMC, 2 CDs). This collection of 46 tracks on two CDs is whittled down from the acclaimed 8-CD box set of the same name, which I reviewed in October 2020. It includes her classics “Ode to Billie Joe” and “Fancy,” as well as eight songs in alternate versions. Four songs, including her cover of The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” and her own “Caskette Vignette” and “Recollection,” were remixed for this release.

There also are three songs – “Suppertime,” “God Bless the Child” and “This Girl’s In Love With You” — from her “lost” jazz album, “Windows of the World,” which was released on vinyl for Record Store Day last year. All three also were bonus tracks in the bigger box set.

When Gentry was only 22, she wrote and recorded “Ode to Billie Joe,” which despite originally being the B-side of her first single, “Mississippi Delta,” went on to win three Grammy Awards, out of eight nominations in 1968, including two for the album. Her wins were for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Best Solo Vocal Performance, Female, and Best New Artist. She recorded seven albums in all for Capitol Records and was last known to have performed Christmas night 1978 on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” and on Bob Hope’s 1981 “All-Star Salute to Mother’s Day.” She has not been heard from since, instead retiring after a decade of fame.

This earlier box set collected all seven of her studio albums: “Ode to Billie Joe,” “The Delta Sweete,” “Local Gentry,” “Bobbie Gentry & Glen Campbell,” “Touch ‘Em with Love,” “Fancy” and “Patchwork,” as well as a “Live at the BBC” bonus disc. The seven studio albums, each remastered, came with bonus tracks, ranging from seven to 13, resulting in more than 75 previously unreleased recordings that included outtakes, demos and rarities, plus the 26 live BBC tracks.

Part of the success of “Ode to Billie Joe” lies in its conversational style. Then, there is the mystery of just what did the girl and Billie Joe throw off the Tallahatchie Bridge, and why did he later jump to his death off that bridge. Rolling Stone magazine selected the song as one of the top 500 songs of all time. The Southern Gothic narrative spent four weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and was third in the Billboard year-end chart for 1967.

Through her short career, Gentry charted 11 singles on Billboard’s Top 100 chart and four singles on the United Kingdom’s Top Forty. Her album “Fancy” also earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. She had a successful run of variety shows on the Las Vegas strip and did record one album for Curb Records, but the full album has never been released.

One of my favorite albums is the one she made with label-mate Glen Campbell, a collaboration that yielded hits in “All I Have to Do Is Dream” (non-LP single) and “My Elusive Dreams.” The album topped the Country chart and reached No. 11 on the Billboard Top Albums chart. The pair received the Academy of Country Music’s Album of the Year award, and Gentry was nominated for Top Female Vocalist. The album is represented here by “Let It Be Me.”

This new collection ends with “The Girls from Cincinnati,” a single that was her last release for Capitol Records. Grade: A

Tom Von Malder of Owls Head has reviewed music since 1972, just after graduation from Northwest-ern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He has reviewed videos/DVDs since 1988.

filed under: