Thursday, July 14, 2011

Top 5 Greatest Hits Albums

Tim's Top Five:

This is more cerebral than my usual list, because a "great" greatest hits album is different from just being the album with the best hits on it. The Beatles 1967-1970 or Creedence Clearwater Revival - Chronicle, vol. 1 might well be among the ten best albums ever "recorded" under that criteria, but who needs to own them? There's simply not much reason for them to exist, since all the albums they choose from are all basically worth owning anyway (though Chronicle was my entree into CCR, so I'm not complaining). A truly great greatest hits album is really, to me, only achievable by an artist that you surely don't want to own all their stuff. So, typically, they're going to cover a lot of albums (The Essential Simon & Garfunkel is great and all, but it also represents about 75% of their output), they're not going to have a lot of weak points (sorry, The Essential Paul Simon).

1. Johnny Cash - The Legendary Johnny Cash - don't get me wrong. I like Johnny Cash. I might well love Johnny Cash, and there are probably albums out there that I should own - Live at Folsom Prison, for instance. But this adequately captures everything I know of Johnny Cash's work and I really enjoy most everything on here. Notable omissions: I don't know of any. The Girl With The North Country (w/ Bob Dylan) from Nashville Skyline?

2. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Greatest Hits
- The biggest problem with it is that it jumped the gun. Tom Petty put out one more decent album afterward, so it's missing songs from Wildflowers. After that, his work has been pretty disastrous, only a couple of songs worth hearing. There's some songs from Full Moon Fever that are worthy of inclusion, but weren't hits. So it's # 2. Notable omissions: You Wreck Me, Rebels,

3. Bruce Hornsby - Greatest Radio Hits
- I love Bruce Hornsby. Correction. I love this album. I'm not sure if there's really a whole lot of other Bruce Hornsby I like at all, the albums I've acquired add very little to my appreciation. The Way It Is is worth owning on its own. That may well be it. Notable omissions: Not anything I'm aware of. On the Western Skyline is the only other song I sort of know that I would put here.

4. Loud, Fast Ramones: Their Toughest Hits
- You know how people who hate the Ramones tell you all their songs sound the same? Well, people who really like the Ramones would tell you that most of their songs sound the same. And this catches just that necessary amount of diversity. I own several other Ramones albums, but other than a couple covers (Let's Dance and Palisades Park), there's not that much that's essential about Ramones or Rocket to Russia (and certainly less on Brain Drain). Notable omissions: probably Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight) or Pet Sematary would top the list of songs I'm surprised aren't there. Neither is essential.

5. Marvin Gaye - Gold - You should own What's Going On. You just should. But really, the tracks that don't make it on Gold aren't the best anyway. And it captures some amazing early motown things (You're a Wonderful One, I'll Be Doggone, Stubborn Kind of Fellow), the Tammi Terrell duets, and downplays the career collapse of the 1980s pretty well. Of the Gold discs, I think it's the most essential (with the possible exception of the Motown - Gold), and it's pretty good throughout the 2 discs (Rolling Stones - Forty Licks has one great disc and one near disaster on disc 2 because it pretends the Rolling Stones were essential after 1980).

Honorable Mention - Elton John's Greatest Hits - if it had Tiny Dancer and Levon, it'd be in the top 5, as a reminder that Elton John was good before he became the favorite artist of everyone's mom in the 1980s; John Lennon: Lennon Legend - I can't put it on here because (1) I own the previously-issued John Lennon collection, this just has a couple more tracks, but it doesn't include "How Do You Sleep?", which is a shame. It would save you from owning Mind Games, Double Fantasy, and Rock 'n' Roll which...let's just say I can't see how they'd be very good (Rock 'n' Roll is an affirmatively tedious album); Neil Young - Greatest Hits - I can't put it on the top five because I do still want to hear things from Neil Young's early albums, but it really captures a lot of greatness and even gets the best CSNY song.