Why dispense with an opportunity to use boxing analogies: Cat Power’s latest release The Greatest is all about Muhammed Ali’s renowned rope-a-dope style. Back on her heels, she draws us in to investigate a recording that is far less rock and all about roll. Just as we are lulled into her 1970s Vaseline- lens-diffused world she sneaks out a little of that rock and knocks our socks off. Chan Marshall, who is Cat Power, has created a sweet and smoky musical ride well-spiced with the talents Memphis has to offer. The Greatest was recorded at Memphis’ Ardent Studios, helmed by Big Star’s Jody Stevens, and made with the help of some of that city’s well-cured talent: Al Green’s guitarist and songwriting partner Mabon “Teenie” Hodges plays guitar on the whole album (he co-wrote “Love and Happiness” and “Take Me to the River”), recent Brooker T and the MGs addition Steve Potts on drums as well as a slew of other session players. While the rest of the world chases the ’80s, Marshall has fallen in love with the easy listening sound of the late ’60s and early ’70s. The songs are then sprinkled with just enough smooth, smoky keyboard work and strings to give the album southern soul. Marshall remains inspired by the same sounds that brought us Bobbie Gentry’s late-’60s hit “Ode to Billy Joe.” As with her last astonishing release, Free, this recording is filled with stories: sad, poignant and personal, lazy sunny days laced with southern gothic tragedy. But on The Greatest we also hear the refreshing smirk of whimsy. It is indeed quite great.