Throughout her career, Ani DiFranco has given her own take on tired rock star cliches. When other artists answered to major labels, she opted to start her own. While other guitarists relied on electric heroics, she pounded on a strangely tuned acoustic. And when faced with the task of releasing a career retrospective, DiFranco created anything but the traditional "greatest hits" package. Like everything else she creates, DiFranco made this record to her precise specifications, carefully selecting 36 songs from her voluminous back catalogue, including tunes from her first album and her 18th. As a result, "Canon" doesn't play like a greatest hits package, but an album that's arranged and intended to be played from beginning to end.
The far-reaching lexis used to describe Buffalo, New York, singer/songwriter Ani DiFranco includes "influential," "persistent," and "cutting-edge." And 18 albums released in the 18 years since the launching of her own Righteous Babe record label means "prolific" must also be high on that list. DiFranco commemorates her nearly two decades in the business with a two-CD, 35-song retrospective that offers a sequential glimpse into the socially conscious messages and punk/folk articulation that has made her an international paladin. From early recordings such as "God's Country" (1993) and "You Had Time" (1994), where DiFranco took aim at religious autonomy and failed partnerships, to later songs that tackled violence against abortion providers (1999's "Hello Birmingham") and a pair of '80s-era presidents (2002's "Your Next Bold Move"), DiFranco's poetry-fraught lyrics are the unfeigned star of the compilation. Can't-miss selections like "32 Flavors," "Untouchable Face," and "Cradle & All" make the cut, while staunch DiFranco followers will be seduced by five new renditions of old favorites, including the intrepid "Napoleon," which blasts the rock-biz elite, and "Shameless," with its candid discourse on infidelity. The divinely packaged set includes a booklet thoroughly lined with lyrics and a recording dossier. --Scott Holter