Columbia/Legacy, which will release "The Very Best of Phoebe Snow" Aug. 14, greatly benefited from the powerhouse vocalist's input in compiling her first full-career retrospective. "I helped pick out

Columbia/Legacy, which will release "The Very Best of Phoebe Snow" Aug. 14, greatly benefited from the powerhouse vocalist's input in compiling her first full-career retrospective.

"I helped pick out and sequence the songs, some of which they found through old board tapes of shows I did in the '70s, which I could hardly bear to listen to," Snow says, laughing. But she notes that the album -- which includes the breakthrough hit "Poetry Man," from her 1974 debut album on Leon Russell's Shelter label -- did in fact return her to a particularly painful period.

"It's a crapshoot going back to the past, and a lot of memories and feelings came up that were hard," Snow says. "But I'm glad this album is coming out -- it's a good kind of closure."

The '70s, Snow explains, "were a terrible time for me," such that even now she's unable to qualitatively assess her output from then -- as it was so "intrinsically bound" to sadness. "A lot of people know my history -- how my daughter had a terrible accident at birth," says Snow, who nevertheless raised her child herself at home. "But I want people to detach from it -- and I want to detach from it: It's a different day for me, so it's a good time for this to come out and for me to be more objective and rational about it."

In addition to "Poetry Man," "The Very Best of Phoebe Snow" offers other career high points, including "Shakey Ground," "Love Makes a Woman," "Every Night," "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man," which were all originally on Columbia, and "Something Real," the title track of her 1989 Elektra album. Also included in the 16-track set are previously unreleased live versions of "Harpo's Blues" and her cover of Sam Cooke's "Let the Good Times Roll."

The disc's release is cause for excitement at Columbia/Legacy, Legacy Recordings VP/GM Adam Block says. "It spans and celebrates her entire career and makes a statement about it that we feel hasn't been made yet to this point." He adds that the label "considers it a privilege to have the opportunity to do that."

Particularly exciting to Block "is having Phoebe involved to the extent she has been -- completely. In our minds, [this] adds to the credibility of the set and makes it a contemporary release."

Len Cosimano, Borders Books & Music's VP of merchandising for multimedia, agrees. "I'm actually pretty excited about it personally, because I'm a big Phoebe Snow fan, and there's never been anything definitive out on her."

And, as Cosimano points out, "Everybody knows Phoebe -- she's always on commercials, so she's never out of the mind-set of the consumer." Snow also appreciates her continued and readily identifiable vocal presence. "It's me -- I can't hide it," she says. "I can't camouflage my voice."

In addition to her advertising work and collaborating with Legacy on promotion of her "Very Best," Snow reveals that she is working on new, "harder-edged" songs that she plans to incorporate alongside her hits during upcoming live performances.

Snow's new material "is very different from what I usually do, but it's still me," she says. "Some of the songs express anger, when in the early part of my career, I generally romanticized things. I tended to go into denial -- 'everything was great,' when it wasn't, really. I'm not saying that the new songs are ragging, complaining songs, but they tend to tell the truth. And I know that sometimes the truth is hard to take."