There are a lot of compilations out there now. Thanks to the money that could be made in the CD era, and streaming, old groups that had somewhat of a catalog are getting reissued. Sometimes, they’re great and worthy of a review. Sometimes they’re not that good but a review is necessary to warn others about it.
Then there are these compilations. These groups are mostly old-ish, some are really well known, but their compilations are very hit-or-miss. Mainly this is due to bloat on the compilations. Collections of 20 or more tracks are common, even if the group has a scant few hits. Here, then, are some compilations that are fine for zealots, but for the rest you may want to use the skip feature often.
The Ad-Libs – The Complete Blue Cat Years – The winning track here is “The Boy from New York City”, which is timeless. Their first two singles and b-sides (tracks 1-4 here) are keepers. The rest are just tries at repeating their success. This also is kind of a misnomer, since it has songs released AFTER they were dropped by Blue Cat, and misses a couple of Blue Cat sides.
Christina Aguilera – Keeps Gettin’ Better: A Decade of Hits – She hasn’t had a Top 40 hit since 2013, and only three since this collection came out. She had pipes, but she influenced way too many over-emoting diva-wanna-be’s on the talent shows. Plus her material, except for a select few tracks, is second rate. It’s like she just wants to focus on songs where she can show off her range.
Jewel Akens – The Best of Jewel Akens – He had a great name, and a decent voice. “The Birds and the Bees” was catchy as heck and deserved its hit status. The rest, well, the material just wasn’t there. I do like the organ sound of his 1965 work, though.
Keith Allison – In Action: The Complete Columbia Sides Plus! – Allison was a regular on Where the Action Is!, and later joined Paul Revere & the Raiders and now is part of Waddy Wachtel’s band. He had a few good singles in him, including a great version of the TV show’s theme, but nothing stuck and he found his niche in the studio doing sessions.
Alphaville – First Harvest (1984-1992) – SOMEHOW (thanks to cover versions), a song that never hit higher than #65 in the charts is known worldwide. (Mind you, Alphaville was big in Europe for a while, still…) Yet besides “Forever Young”, no one even remembers them. Not even “Big in Japan”. Probably they don’t remember them in Japan, either.
The American Breed – The Best of the American Breed – Gigging around Chicagoland since 1958, they hit it big with “Bend Me, Shape Me” ( a song that originated in the UK with a hit version by Amen Corner). They had a couple of other top 40 hits, but soon the market went away from them, and as a singles band, they went away too. So what did they do? Four of the members formed Rufus, of course!
Amen Corner – Very Best of – Known for Andy Fairweather-Low and the original version of “Bend Me, Shape Me”. But really, this is only for hardcore pop Anglophiles.
Andrew Gold – Thank You For Being a Friend: The Best of Andrew Gold – He probably deserved a couple of more hits, but his four albums were pretty consistently meh.
The Atlanta Rhythm Section – 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection – Well, a couple of these cats were in the Classics IV, and they were a house band for a studio. Mellow was going to be a way of life. And it was.
Animotion – Obsession: The Best of Animotion – Now they had another decent song in “I Engineer”, and an okey doke song in “Let Him Go”. So there’s two others besides the title track. False advertising? No, “Obsession” really is the best.
Paul Anka – The Very Best of Paul Anka, The Best of the United Years 1973-1977 – Very Best is an overview of his early hits. “Diana”, “You Are My Destiny”, “Put Your Head on my Shoulder”, “Lonely Boy”, “It’s Time to Cry”. “Puppy Love”. Some said rock-and-roll died when Elvis went to the Army and didn’t come back for a while. They pointed to this supper club stuff as proof. They’re right, mostly. He had a 70’s renaissance that contained “You’re Having My Baby” and other tracks using the talent of Odia Coates, who deserved better. Sample lyric: “Let the good times roll like butter on a red hot knife.”
The Anti-Nowhere League – The Punk Rock Anthology – Very much a vicious and foul punk rock band (according to society) that transformed in 1987 to rather much a standard new wave rock band with left of center politics and little or no rage in their songs. No more “I Hate …People” right?
April Wine – Greatest Hits, Classic Masters – Hits is early April Wine. Classic Masters is later with their bigger US hits. They have some overlap (“Roller”) for one. There couldn’t be a more generic 70’s rock band. Their covers of “Tell Me Why” (Beatles) and “21st Century Schizoid Man” (King Crimson) give me the willies.
Ashton, Gardner & Dyke – The Best of Ashton, Gardner & Dyke – They had one hit (huge in the UK, hit #40 in the US) with “Resurrection Shuffle”, but that’s not something to write home about except for the horn charts. They didn’t quite know if they wanted to be jazzy, rocky, or bluesy. That’s never good.
The Average White Band – The Essentials – “Pick Up the Pieces”, “Cut the Cake”, “Schoolboy Crush”. That’s it…that’s the list.
The Babys – Anthology – “Sweet 17” is just….ick. That wasn’t the hit, thank God! (Makes Winger’s song seem prudish). They were rather generic rock – the hard stuff wasn’t convincing and the ballads gloopy.
Backstreet Boys – The Hits: Chapter One – There wasn’t a chapter two, was there?
George Baker Selection – The Very Best Of – “Little Green Bag” is such an outta-site track, but they never really were able to replicate it. Oh, yeah, they also did “Una Paloma Blanca”, a freakin’ MOR earworm that was always on the local radio station, and is now best known for Slim Whitman’s vesion with his yodel.
Long John Baldry – Let the Heartaches Begin, Boogie Woogie – The Warner Bros. Recordings – He was a seminal blues singer in the UK, forming several groups and revues in the mid-60’s, and he was a big influence on Rod Stewart, among others. But as a recording artist, he gravitated to vocal pop instead of blues when he recorded for Pye, where “Let the Heartaches Begin” is the highlight, that’s rather disposable to be honest. His Warner Bros. stuff is more like it, with some decent work by Elton John and Ron Wood, and some vocal help from Maggie Bell. It’s still mainly for those who love the UK blues revival.
Toni Basil – Mickey: The Very Best of Tony Basil – No, it’s not a one song album, but it really could have been a two-song single, with “Shopping A to Z” decent as well. There’s a Spanish version of “Mickey”, just in case you ever thought how that song would sound in Spanish.
Fontella Bass – Rescued: The Best of Fontella Bass – Obviously, “Rescue Me” is the sweet track, and “Recovery” is nice, too. The rest are okay, and her career was truncated due to royalty disputes. She complained, and was labeled a ‘troublemaker’.
The Beau Brummels – All Time Greatest Hits – A misnomer, since this is just the repackaging of their first two albums on Autumn records. It does have their biggest hits, but not their critical successes from later in the decade.
Blackburn & Snow – Something Good for Your Head – Who? A ‘lost’ act that had a great version of “Stranger in a Strange Land” by David Crosby, but management vs. record company issues thwarted their career and they never released an album. They had an early Airplane vibe and could have been successful for sure. This collection was released in 1998 of existing studio cuts.
Blackstreet – The Best of Blackstreet: 20th Century Millennium Collection – They were best when they had good guests and melded their syrup with hip-hop.
The Blackbyrds – Greatest Hits – Formed by great jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd from his Howard University music students, the Blackbyrds were an above-average funk/jazz group, one of many in the 70’s. “Walking in Rhythm” is their big jam, but it’s really not representative of their jazzier, funkier catalog.
Blotto – Collected Works – “I Wanna Be a Lifeguard” and “Metalhead” were great MTV videos and “We Are the Nowtones” is a pretty spot parody of a generic Top-40 bar band in the late 70’s. But they miss a lot more than hit, mostly for trying to do to much, and the cringes of the bad stuff are too much to bear at times.
The Blow Monkeys – Choices – The Singles Collection – Here in the States, they’re famous for “Digging Your Scene” and a cut on the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. They had more run in the UK, and developed a blend of new romantic and pseudo-house, but you really have to be fans of those genres to have more than a passing interest in them.
Barry Blue – Greatest – He released a perfect piece of pop piffle in the UK “Dancin’ (On a Saturday Night)” that propelled him to some success as and set him as a songwriter and producer more than anything.
Blue Mink – Melting Pot – Session musicians were put together to make a band that was beloved for it’s message of peace and harmony (treacly as they were), even if some of their songs and imagery were a bit…problematic.
BMX Bandits – The Rise and Fall of the BMX Bandits – Long time UK power-pop collective has a big chunk of its best catalog not streaming thanks to rights issues with Creation (their Creation Records anthology is going for $30 now). This is pretty hit or miss, as it combines singles and great tracks with remakes and outtakes.
Eddie Bo – Check Mr. Popeye – A comp (slight considering the amount he recorded for all kinds of labels in New Orleans in the 60’s) that features his most famous song and some others. It doesn’t have his national hit unfortunatel (“Hook and Sling”). That seems to have evaporated.
Graham Bond Organization – Wade in the Water – Graham Bond was a organist that was quite influential in the 60’s, and Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker were in his Organization before they went to Cream. This album collects pert near everything pre-solo from Bond. If you like 60’s organ music, by all means…
Gary US Bonds – The Very Best of Gary US Bonds; The Best of Gary US Bonds – The Very Best of collection has all of his early stompers, which sound great even though they were very lo-fi (on purpose, supposedly). The his dried up quickly and he chased trends and was out of the charts by 1962. The Best of collects tracks from his early 80’s collaboration with Bruce Springsteen and Steven Van Zant, which has a couple of great tracks.
Bon Jovi – Greatest Hits – So only “Runaway” exists from their first two albums? Well, way to whitewash that history, Jon.
The Box Tops – The Best of…Soul Deep – Alex Chilton and Gary Talley rode out this roller coaster for about 3 1/2 years, in which the teenagers had great highs and a lot of screwing by managers, producers, and promoters. The albums were hits+covers, and this collection has a lot of fluff too. You know the good songs.
Brenda & the Tabulations – The Dionn Singles Collection 1966-1969, The Top and Bottom Singles Collection 1969-1971. “Dry Your Eyes / The Wash” hinted at a formula, where Brenda would sing a string laden ballad and the B-side may be an up-tempo soul creation (or another ballad). There were diminishing returns until they dropped the original Tabulations and got Van McCoy to get them “Right on the Tip of My Tongue”. The two record companies were owned by their manager, so it wasn’t a record company change.
Brewer & Shipley – One Toke over the Line: The Best of Brewer & Shipley – You know the hit, of course. Their other output is similar but not as catchy nor subversive.
Brick – The Essential Brick – From the band that brought you “Dazz” and “Sweat (Until You Get Wet)” comes 28 (!) more of the same, more or less. Mostly less. There are two smaller compilations where you get less of less but no more of more.
Martin Briley – Salt In My Tears: The Complete Mercury Masters – Those of us older folks saw “The Salt in My Tears” video over and over again on MTV. The song is nice enough, but Briley released three albums in the 80’s and nothing else rises to that level.
Johnny Bristol – The MGM Years – Bristol made his mark as a writer and producer but wanted to record as well. This compiles the two albums Bristol recorded when he was on MGM Records. He had a big hit with “Hang on in There Baby” and should have had a follow-up hit but MGM was running out steam and trying to flog the Osmond horse to death.
The Brooklyn Bridge – Psychedelic Rock Essentials – That’s a quite weird and misleading title for a collection by the vocal group + horn act amalgamation that had a hit with “Worst That Could Happen”. They’d be happiest playing at the lounge in the Hilton Garden by Route 9.
Donnie Brooks – The Best of Donnie Brooks – There’s no hidden gems here. “Mission Bell” is a nice bit of nostalgia, but the rest never hit, or briefly hit, and the the worst thing are the generic backing vocals performed by generic female session musicians. Blah and very white and corny.
Polly Brown(e) – Bewitched! The Polly Browne Story – Not much of a story, really. Kind of a anecdote, at least in the states. “Up in a Puff of Smoke” hit it big, but it’s rather out of step with most of her work (which was early 70’s Europop).
The Buckinghams – The Hit Singles Collection – They had more than “Kind of a Drag” and “Don’t You Care”. However, they clashed with producer James William Guercio and never had another hit after they booted him. Soon, they were booted themselves (from Columbia records).
Buffalo Tom – Asides From (1988-1999) – They may have been contenders for the first ones to do the earnest alternative “acoustic-ish verses into electric rock chorus” that littered to kinda-sorta alternative bands in the 90’s. Early on they tried to be a poor mans Dinosaur, Jr. and then they discovered the power of safe college rock. Really, they’re edgy and alternative for fans of the Dave Matthews Band. And the worst thing, their cover of a Jam song is a war crime. Seriously.
Jimmy Buffett – Songs You Know By Heart – You certainly do, for better or worse. He has a box set in case you’re really on a tequila bender. His albums are more filler than anything for all but the ultra zealots.
Buffy Sainte-Marie – The Best Of – This is a gathering of tracks from her albums until 1971 or so, and it’s folkie and country. I like her as a songwriter, and as a person. Her vibrato is not my thing, though. YMMV, of course.
The Buoys – Give Up Your Guns – 18 Great Songs – Um, no. There’s one great song here, and that’s “Timothy”, a song written expressly to get banned (by Rupert Holmes, no less).
Jerry Butler – The Greatest Hits of Jerry Butler – This is his pre-1965 material when he was more of a crooner than a soul singer. You know “He Will Break Your Heart” for sure, and the rest is fair-to-middlin’ in the Sam Cooke millieu.
Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band – The Very Best Of – Get the first album and skip the rest.
The Cadets – The Very Best of the Cadets – A competent doo-wop group from LA had one genius song “Stranded in the Jungle”. Meanwhile back in the States…
Candlebox – The Best of Candlebox – Yeah, I reviewed their first album, but didn’t want to dive in further. The good thing about this is that it gets rid of their really blah cuts. The bad thing is that it’s Candlebox.
The Captain & Tenille – Ultimate Collection – While some smart-asses think that Toni’s greatest performance was on The Wall , she had a pretty good voice and some of their early singles were good AM radio fun. Then there’s “Muskrat Love”, which, my God, the synth muskrat noises…
Caravan – The World Is Yours: The Anthology (1968-1976) – Part of the Canterbury prog rock scene, Caravan were never a big seller anywhere, but had enough of a live following to keep making albums. They epitomized the scene to a T: light jazzy rock, some whimsy and adventure, and at times long explorations of themes and motifs.
The Caravelles – You Don’t Have to Be a Baby to Cry – One hit wonders in the US and UK; there’s no reason for a 24-song compilation.
Mel Carter – The Best of Mel Carter – He had a few hits, mostly very orchestrated ballads. The one that sticks is “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me”. Most all of his stuff is grocery store fare, best heard when deciding on which rutabaga to nab.
The Cascades – The Very Best Of... – They tried for many years to follow up the success of “Rhythm of the Rain”. It was just one of those songs, and it didn’t hurt that they put the Wrecking Crew behind them for that single.
Shaun Cassidy – Greatest Hits – Saved from the ignominy of the ugh pile thanks to some cuts from his last album (basically he fronted Utopia on that album) and Eric Carmen’s “Hey Deanie”, which actually suits his limited voice.
Chairmen of the Board – Chairmen of the Board: Greatest Hits – One of the first signature groups for the Holland/Dozier/Holland Invictus/Hot Wax record company, they had a decent chart run in the early 70’s, especially with “Give Me Just a Little More Time”. The Funk Brothers backed them up, so they were always worth a listen, even if their Carolina Beach music formula didn’t change much.
The Chantels – Greatest Hits – One of the first girl groups. Their big hit was “Maybe” in 1957. This collection covers their 50’s output. They recorded in the 60’s but that stuff isn’t streaming. I think it’s just fair girl group doo-wop, but they were pioneers so they get some ink.
The Chiffons – Absolutely the Best! – “He’s So Fine”, “Sweet Talkin’ Guy”., “One Fine Day” are great. The rest mediocre or covers of other big hits. In other words, a normal comp for a girl group.
Chubby Checker – Cameo Parkway – The Best of Chubby Checker – Variations on “The Twist”, along with the Limbo, the Fly and the Pony. Don’t sleep on the Hucklebuck. Any time he gets out of the dance area, he’s overmatched by the material, except for the brilliant single “Hooka Tooka / Loddy Lo”. Watch out of re-recordings and this is the best bet for the originals. (One song to find not on here is “Ballin’ the Jack”).
Chilliwack – Ten Best – Eh, ten’s a bit much.
Lou Christie – Enlightn’ment: The Best of Lou Christie – One of the rare pop stars that had two comebacks (of a sort). After a chart run in 1963, he came back in late 1965 after a stint in the Army with his all-timer “Lightnin’ Strikes”. Then, he bounced back with a Top 20 hit in 1969. A lot of re-recordings out there, and some of this collection isn’t found online. So…be careful.
Claudine Clark – Party Lights: The Best of – The title track hit #5. It was self-penned, and that gave hope that she’d be able to sustain a long-term career. No such luck, as her follow-up bombed. She kept going to the same raucous well.
Petula Clark – Platinum & Gold Collection – She had 8 top-20 tracks from 1964 through 1968. This basically collects them, and while they’re pleasant, there are only three essential tracks and you already know those.
The Classics IV – Best Of – I have a soft soft spot in my head for them, and their Dah-dah-dah…da-da-da guitar lines on almost their songs.
Classix Nouveaux – The Very Best of Classix Nouveaux – “Guilty” is a guily pleasure, for sure, with the video having a great early 80’s look to it. On the whole, they were an overly serious and dramatic synth pop band that bores you quickly.
Clefs of Lavender Hill – Stop! Get a Ticket – This Miami group, led by a brother and sister (who changed their name to de-emphasized their Latinx heritage), had one of the best mid-60’s pop tracks in the title track of this compilation. Everything else here was a perfunctory cover or a lesser original. Still, the title track is boss!
Cold War Kids – This Will All Blow Over in Time – The first half is a decent overview of a band that was originally over-hyped, and wound up being nothing more than OK. The second half are rarities that you really don’t need unless you’re a zealot. I guess that’s why they released it, for the lucre.
Colosseum – Anthology – Jazzy prog-rock takes probably the worst excesses of both styles with an overwrought blues vocalist. They can play, but at what cost?
Con Funk Shun – The Best of – In the wake of the Ohio Players, the Commodores, and Earth Wind & Fire there were a lot of these hybrid funk/disco bands. “Ffun” was their claim to fame. The rest was kinda generic. They slowed down the funk way too often too.
Country Joe & the Fish – The Life and Times of Country Joe & the Fish – As a protest group, they’re vital. In reality, their stuff was very off-center and ranged from absolute psychedelic hoo-hah to intense rock to old-timey music to the blues. Some won’t have patience, and I didn’t have much.
The Creatures – Columbia Singles – An Irish beat group (not the Siouxsie spin-off) that released a set of singles in the UK that didn’t really hit, though “Turn Out the Light” should have been a big one. The other tracks are just competent beat group stuff, which isn’t that thrilling to non-zealots.
Crow – The Best of Crow – “Evil Woman” was remade by Black Sabbath as a UK single, and was reissued later on CD copies of their debut in the US. The original single hit #19, and their heavy-ish sound undercut by horns. Later, they lost the horns but still sounded like a recycled boogie band.
Curved Air – Retrospective – I had to build this myself since it’s not streaming, and their albums are all streaming. They had a niche that could have worked (an art rock band that used treated violins but rocked hard enough to open for Black Sabbath) had they not succumbed to internal fighting and pretension. But I guess the pretension was inevitable, right? Bonus point for you if you know Stewart Copeland was the drummer on their last two 70’s studio albums. Two bonus points if you know Copeland probably learned the art of studio arguments and fights from those two Curved Air albums.
Dick Dale – Guitar Legend: The Very Best of Dick Dale – “Miserlou” is a must have, and from there your mileage may vary on how much you love his twangy surf music.
The Charlie Daniels Band – The Essential Charlie Daniels – When did he change from pot-smokin’ good-timin’ country rocker to reactionary fuckhead? Maybe around “Still in Saigon”?
Danny Wilson – The Best of Danny Wilson – “Mary’s Prayer” is a great earworm. Sophisti-pop, or whatever it was called, is more about style than substance, and that’s true here.
Bobby Darin – The Ultimate Bobby Darin – He had a couple of early true rock songs, but then devolved into a lounge-ish singer, about the same time that rock-and-roll was an endangered species. He’s suited for the material, but the material is the issue.
Mac Davis – The Best of Mac Davis (among others) – Davis was more of a songwriter early in his career, penning “In the Ghetto”, “Don’t Cry Daddy” and “Memories” for Elvis and other songs for Nancy Sinatra and BJ Thomas. His solo work fell into the mellow pop-country area, which doesn’t excite me much. But “Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me” gets a rise out of my wife, and I’ll keep it around for that. (Sometimes I’m mean like that.) “Watching Scotty Grow”, however, makes me want to burn things down, and not in a good way.
Paul Davis – The Best of Paul Davis – A pleasant AM Gold hitmaker that tended to go treacly when he sang ballads. He’s got some deep cuts as good as his hits, but not enough to warrant a full review.
Dazz Band – 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection – Important distinction. This is NOT Brick, who did the song “Dazz”. This is the band that did the all-timer “Let It Whip”. A lot of their 80’s output was unfortunately saddled with extraneous sound effect type synths, especially their second Hot 100 single “Joystick”. (Oh, God that’s…not good).
Chris de Burgh – The Best Of Chris de Burgh 20th Century Masters The Millennium Collection – It was his SIXTH record that contained “Don’t Pay the Ferryman”. His eighth contained that goddamn “Lady in Red” song, and to this day he’s rolling in the cash from that…that…thing.
The Dovells – Cameo-Parkway: The Best of the Dovells – “Bristol Stomp” was their meal ticket. “You Can’t Sit Down” cashed in their drink voucher. Most of the others were dance songs, and derivative at best (except for “Hully Gully Baby”). Member Len Barry later had success with “1-2-3”.
The Diamonds – The Best of the Diamonds – They had a few hits that mostly were copped from the original R&B artists. “Little Darlin'” is fun, and “The Stroll” is ok. The rest is all based on if you really want to see / hear white people sing songs that R&B artists did first and better (like “Why Do Fools Fall in Love”).
The Dickies – Punk Singles Collection – Punk rock covers of classic rock and TV theme songs isn’t so funny after a while.
The Dixie Cups – Chapel of Love – Their first three singles, “People Say”, “Iko Iko”, and “Chapel of Love” are classic girl group sounds and songs. The rest is dealer’s choice.
Floyd Dixon – Best of the Blues Years – I prefer guitar-based blues instead of piano blues or jump blues, but Dixon has some tunes that are blues standards, including “Hey Bartender”, which should be in everyone’s catalog.
Lonnie Donegan – Top 20 Most Popular Tracks – Donegan was an important and influential UK perfomer in the 50’s, where he was the leader of the skiffle music that inspired the Beatles. Yet, his hard-core British-ness, corny jokes, and the skiffle style itself makes his appeal quite limited.
Lee Dorsey – The Essential Lee Dorsey – Almost all of this compilation are either on the two albums I reviewed or on the bonus tracks contained. There are five early songs, including the fantastic “Ya Ya” here. This would be an “A-” compilation, but the actual albums I think work better. Can’t have enough Lee Dorsey.
Carl Douglas – The Soul of the Kung Fu Fighter – This collection is at least the original songs, and if you want to hear his follow-up called “Dane the Kung Fu”, it’s here in all it’s glory.
Dyke & The Blazers – Dyke’s Greatest Hits – The Complete Singles – Dyke had two Top 40 hits, one of which was “We Got More Soul”, and he also did the original “Funky Broadway”. Soul enthusiasts can hit the rest of their singles and other tracks.
Sheena Easton – The World of Sheena Easton: The Singles – A pretty complete overview of the Sheena Easton experience. Thankfully, since it’s the singles, it misses her version of “Wind Beneath My Wings”. Unfortunately, there are soooo many treacly ballads. So so many. (“We’ve Got Tonight” should be obliterated second, behind “My Love” by Wings).
BTW – you should have “Sugar Walls” in your library to spite Tipper Gore.
Eater – The Complete Eater – They get points for being just 14 to 16 when they formed, but there are only four or so essential tracks and the rest is all just run-of-the-mill early UK punk. You don’t need their entire catalog.
Tommy Edwards – Greatest Hits – “It’s All in the Game” was the big hit and a classic. Most all of the others are variations of the same, like “Please Mr. Sun” or “I Really Don’t Want to Know”. While Edwards has a nice voice, nothing else matches the biggest hit.
Cass Elliott – Dream a Little Dream: The Cass Elliott Collection – What’s revealed by a long listen of Cass Elliott is that she’s a vocal pop artist in hippie clothing.
Yvonne Elliman – The Best of Yvonne Elliman – “Love Me” is one of the best ballads of the disco era. “If I Can’t Have You” is one of the best anthems of the disco era. But her other “best of” is her work on the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack.
En Vogue – Very Best of En Vogue – As the a capella beginning on “Hold On” shows, they could really sing even if they were put together by producers. The problem is the material from Denzil Foster and Thomas Elroy – it wasn’t consistent and sometimes the New Jack Swing production took away from their voices. But they had some good ear candy when they were on point. PS – I’d love to have heard them try Funkadelic’s “Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow”
E.U. – The Collective Works of E.U. – “Da Butt” was huge and fun, and I know the Go-Go bands put on great shows. It doesn’t translate to the studio, though.
The Eurogliders – The Essential Eurogliders – “Heaven (Must Be There)” is one of my favorite songs of the 80’s. They had some interesting stuff early, but then devolved more into new-wave electro-pop without distinction.
Betty Everett – The Shoop Shoop Song – It’s got “You’re No Good” and the title track, and some other decent Chicago soul sides, but at 25 tracks is…padded.
Adam Faith – A’s B’s & EP’s – There’s a lot of comps for Faith, all similar, almost all really only for pre-Beatles Anglophiles. He did write a lot of his material, though.
Georgie Fame – 20 Beat Classics – “Yeh, Yeh” is the song you really know over here, and he had some pretty darn good singles, and is versatile to do pop standards along with jazz and R&B covers. He contributed the title theme to the film Bonnie & Clyde, which was his last dollop of fame here in the US. He’s still loved in the UK as a singer and organist.
Charlie Feathers – The Legendary Sun Classics, The Complete King Recordings -starting out as a sessioneer for Sun, he recorded a few sides that were mostly country, and his wild voice didn’t really suit that genre. After he left Sun Records, with his hiccuping, driving rockablilly, he fared much better, including the tremendous “One Hand Loose”.
The Five Americans – The Best of the Five Americans – They had some great hits (“I See the Light”, “Western Union”, “Zip Code”) and should have been more well-known, but they were on a regional Texas label and never settled on either being a garage band or a pop-rock band.
Five Man Electrical Band – Absolutely Right: The Best of the Five Man Electrical Band – Nice Canadian long-hairs had a hit with “Signs” on their second album and while they had a few more Canadian hits (the title track hit Top 40 in the US and charted higher in Canada than “Signs”) they really didn’t connect with the US audience again and were just a singles band in Canada despite their high-falutin’ ideals.
Darrow Fletcher – The Pain Gets a Little Deeper; The Uni Singles – Fletcher recorded the title track of The Pain Gets a Little Deeper at age 14, and it made a small ripple in the Chicago area. He never did catch that break even after changing record companies. It wasn’t his problem, nor the material, which is fine and varied. It was just not to be.
The Fiestas – So Fine – The Best of – Had a hit with Johnny Otis’ “So Fine”. Tried hard for a second and didn’t get it.
First Choice – Philly Groove Records Presents – This is a three volume set basically containing their first three albums, but sequenced in alpha order. That doesn’t make any sense. They really need a good greatest hits record that avoids the remakes.
The Five Du-Tones – The Five Du-Tones’ Divorce Court – Everyone knows “Shake a Tail Feather”, maybe not from their version though. The recording is a bit rough and ragged, but joyful, and it’s a shame it only hit #51 on the Hot 100 and #28 on the R&B chart. The B-side was a fun novelty “Divorce Court”. The rest of the songs on this slight collection are failed attempts to gain another hit.
The “5” Royales – Think – An unjustly forgotten band. I am going to review their 1957 album in this site in full at some point, but this is a huge collection of their material (and tracks credited to various offshoots) and it’s really staggering. Pick and choose their stuff, it’s very influential but I don’t know if it’s 60+ tracks influential.
The Five Satins – For Collectors Only – “In the Still of the Night”, “Shadows”, and “I’ll Be Seeing You” is a huge resume for any vocal group. This is 21 tracks, though, and they run out of steam quickly.
The Flamingos – Playlist: The Best of the Flamingos – “I Only Have Eyes for You” was their money-maker. They covered a lot of songs in their doo-wop style, but as with doo-wop, if you like it you love it, if not, then you’ll pass by.
Flash & The Pan – Collection – They had an international hit of sorts with “Hey, St. Peter”, and almost everything else emulated that sound with spoken vocals from Harra Vanda and production from Vanda and his longtime partner George Young. It’s OK in small doses, but then the gimmick wears thin and the production can’t help that.
The Fleetwoods – Come Softly to Me: The Very Best of the Fleetwoods – They could sing pretty, but it was all up to the material they put out. The title track of this collection along with “Mr. Blue” were about it, unless you wanted to be lulled to sleep by their gentle voicezzzzzzzzzzz………..
Foghat – The Best of Foghat, The Best of Foghat, Vol. 2 – Boogie, boogie, boogie. Yeah, some great 70’s tunes, but barely enough half-decent for one collection, not to mention two. Live is about the best bet for your Foghattin’.
Aretha Franklin – The Essential Aretha Franklin – Now, before you all lose your collective shit, this is the collection of material she recorded for Columbia BEFORE she moved to Atlantic and became the Queen of Soul. This is Franklin cast as a jazz-pop singer. She never had a big hit single there, and Columbia didn’t market her well, or give her any space to be herself. So, be prepared to hear Franklin in jazz vocalist mode covering standards behind supper-club arrangements.
Freddie & the Dreamers – The Ultimate Collection – You know, you can slot Greatest Hits in here too, I’m sure. Anyway, this has everything you need by this band and a lot more. Freddie had a high-pitched voice and an annoying laugh and still, “I’m Telling You Now” was a fine, fine, hit. “Do the Freddie” maybe not so much, and the rest depends on your tolerance for sub-sub-Beatles Merseybeat.
Freddy Cannon – Boom Boom Rock ‘N’ Roll – The Best of Freddy Cannon – His high energy singles at least breathed some life into the time between Elvis going to the Army and the Beatles, but it’s rather repetitive over a compilation.
The Free Design – Best Of – They were a sunshine pop family group that had a great, and wacky-in-a-way song called “Kites Are Fun”. While their vocal arrangements and harmonies were great (a baroque influence no doubt), they were lighter than helium. You’ve heard “Love You” and “Love Me” around in the ether in all kinds of media.
Fruupp – It’s All Up Now – Anthology – This is kind of prog rock bingo – classically trained musicians, an oboe player, long multi-part songs, classical themes. The issue is that as talented as they were, they never wrote songs that carried over to the studio. All of those fancy dancy fugues and movements don’t mean a thing if you don’t go somewhere with them.
The Gants – Roadrunner! The Best of the Gants – This group from Mississippi really sounded like the Beatles circa late-64 / early-65. They were undone by their ages, half in high school and half in college (which is remarkable that “I Wonder” was such a tremendous track).
Art Garfunkel – Singer – He is that, for sure. Yet he prefers lush ballads and standards and that’s definitely not what I’m looking for from him.
Barbara George – The Best Of – An almost forgotten, often covered, wonderful hit “I Know (You Don’t Love Me No More)” is her claim to fame.
Gerry & The Pacemakers – Essential – Well, I wouldn’t quite use the word “essential”, but basically this is all you need by them, and a lot more. At first they were rivals of the Beatles, but they were more comfortable with showtunes and vocal pop, and their beat tracks seemed a bit forced most of the time. They were done most everywhere by mid-1966.
Andy Gibb – The Very Best Of – His brothers really helped craft his songs. Because of various reasons, he never was able to sustain. Alas.
Glass Tiger – Air Time (The Best of Glass Tiger) – Somehow, somehow, they had four Top 40 hits in the US but the money song is, of course, “Don’t Forget Me (When I’m Gone)”. The rest is 80’s New Wave hell. Caution when proceeding.
Golden Earring – Very Best of Vol. 1, Very Best of Vol.2 – Both of these are split into two parts. And yeah, they need all that room. The band started in 1961 and have kept the same lineup since 1970! As the Golden Earrings they played very Beatle-esque songs in English with Dutch accents, then dropped the ‘s’, rocked out, became proggy and then 80’s rock. They kept releasing albums to diminishing returns (as you’ll hear) but this is a good overview. And you gotta love a title like “I Do Rock ‘N Roll”. Most of their full albums will be reviewed though.
The Golden Palominos – The Best of the Golden Palominos – A revolving group spearheaded by former Feelies drummer Anton Fier, and featuring Bill Laswell and others from the NYC hipster boho set, the sum of the parts definitely doesn’t equal the whole, and the production is very Laswell-80’s.
Ian Gomm – Hold On: The Very Best of Ian Gomm – Why devote, even in this limited form, words about the bass player for an over-rated band that had one fluke US hit? Because he had that one US hit, and co-wrote “Cruel to Be Kind”, and a few tunes were catchy enough.
Lesley Gore – 20th Century Masters – After the great love triangle hits, and the proto-feminist manifesto of “You Don’t Own Me”, she (or her producers) retreated to typical 60’s male / female relationship songs. Too bad.
Haddaway – All the Best – His Greatest Hits – Now, let’s not mislead the consumer, shall we?
Bill Haley & the Comets – 20th Century Masters: The Millenium Collection – Yeah, yeah, “Rock Around the Clock” and all that. He was early, but he was old, and he was formulaic, and his stuff got boring, believe it or not. You can only exhort people to ROCK so many times.
Tom T. Hall – 20th Century Masters – “I Love” was his signature, and his shaggy dog story telling had some cache for a while. But it’s all hit and miss for my ears.
The Happenings – Greatest Hits – “See You in September” is a nice piece of corny nostalgia and deservedly hit #3. Yet, a verrrry white version of “I Got Rhythm” also hit #3, and their version of “Go Away Little Girl” hit #12. The pop charts in 1966 weren’t exactly ‘all killer – no filler’. They make the Four Seasons sound deeply soulful.
Paul Hardcastle – The Very Best Of – He’s got a lot of irons in the fire (smooth jazz, dance music, chill) but this is ostensibly a colleciton of his dance stuff. Yet it omits “Rainforest” which is just as groovy as “19”. N-n-n-n-19.
Corey Hart – The Singles – I, um, almost put this in another place on the site, but you know, Corey tried the best he could. There’s something about his voice that I can’t hate, even if the songs turned to dust as soon as they left the charts (except for “Sunglasses at Night”, of course).
Donny Hathaway – Never My Love: The Anthology – He did some nice and important work, but 58 tracks is a bit much, especially with his fallow period in the mid-70’s represented (outtakes galore).
The Edwin Hawkins Singers – Oh Happy Day: The Best of the Edwin Hawkins Singers – If you love gospel choral music, this is for you. The title track was a surprise hit when San Francisco DJ’s started playing it. They had hoped to sell about 500 copies of their album. They did a little better than that!
Roy Head – The Best of Roy Head – “Treat Her Right” is a great stomper with soul. While the Texan had a lot of regional success before this song hit #2 in 1965, none of the follow-ups did much of anything. He was much better on stage than on record, so they say.
Head East – 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: Best Of Head East – They could have had REO Speedwagon’s career if they wrote hookier songs, or varied their sound a bit, or had a front man like Kevin Cronin or a guitarist like Gary Richrath. OK, it was a stretch. However, “Never Been Any Reason” is an all-time for rockin’ down the highway.
Heatwave – The Best of Heatwave: Always and Forever – Fun as a high energy disco / funk band. When they went to the ballads they were among the worst of the 70’s A/C dreck.
Hello – The Glam Singles Collection – Glam was fun, but didn’t have any staying power, and Hello is a band that epitomizes it. Fun for a listen, but the only thing that has legs is “New York Groove”, and mainly to compare the Ace Frehley version with the original.
Don Henley – The Very Best of Don Henley – Listen, I was hectored by this aging windbag of a boomer in the 80’s. I don’t need to relieve it.
Nick Heyward – The Very Best of Nick Heyward & Haircut 100 – Yeah, it’s the Haircut 100 guy. The Haircut 100 stuff is better to be heard on their album (though the last Heyward single is here). His solo stuff is more traditional pop, and the issue is that his boyish voice doesn’t fit with a lot of the material.
Joe Hinton – Essential Soul – “Funny (How Time Slips Away)” is an outstanding R&B weeper (written by Willie Nelson). The rest of his output doesn’t rise match it, and is more journeyman soul. OK, but definitely not essential.
Chris Hodge – 18 Songs – You know, you may want to try to use masters that don’t have scratches and skips in them when releasing a collection from an unknown and forgotten artist. BTW – “We’re on Our Way” is a fantastic single and it sounds clean.
The Honeycombs – The Best of the Honeycombs – There are 30 tracks on this collection. There’s only one you need. “Have I the Right” is a killer to this day, thanks to the pounding percussion, a great low bass line, the snaky guitar line and the neat keyboard flourishes. Lightning in a bottle, it seems.
Thelma Houston – Best of Thelma Houston – Lightning, meet bottle. Her other material is spotty, and probably not chosen as well as it could have been.
Brian Hyland – Greatest Hits – He escaped from novely song hell to record “Sealed with a Kiss” and then had to wait about eight years until “Gypsy Woman” to get him back into the public eye (songs that topped out at #20 just didn’t cut it). This is better than I thought it would be, but it’s all about the material for him.
The Inmates – Dirty Water: The Very Best of the Inmates – While they’re probably a hoot live (and they’re still touring Europe after forming in the mid-70’s) the covers and originals are just meh compared to the 60’s garage stuff.
The Intruders – The Best of the Intruders: Cowboys to Girls – “Cowboys to Girls” was a big smash for this vocal group, one of the first to go under the loving care of Gamble & Huff. The material wasn’t great, and they weren’t that distinctive. “(Win, Place or Show) She’s a Winner” wouldn’t cut it in this day and age, either.
Jermaine Jackson – Greatest Hits and Rare Classics, The Arista Heritage Series – For a complete overview of Jermaine, you need both of these comps. But why?
Wanda Jackson – Greatest Hits – More of a country artist to be honest, she burned up the airwaves in 1960 with “Let’s Have a Party”, one of the great last gasps of rockabilly. That’s basically it unless you liked 60’s mainstream country-politan.
Jan & Dean – Jan & Dean Golden Hits, Vol.2 – While Vol. 1 had their earlier, weaker stuff, and Vol. 3 scraped the bottom after Jan’s accident, this may be the best compilation representation of the duo. It has the hits you remember, and a couple of oddball songs that they sprinkled through their albums.
Al Jarreau – The Very Best of Al Jarreau – A great jazz vocalist that made a lot of treacle to sell records, because doing a scat version of “Take Five” didn’t pay all the bills. Yacht jazz anyone?
Jay and the Americans – Come a Little Bit Closer – This is packed! Packed with tracks and tracks of…schmaltz. Mobbed up schmaltz ALLEGEDLY! If you believe Steely Dan, there were figures of ill repute hanging around a lot. It’s really not horrible, but you like this stuff or you don’t. They’re kind of the JV of the Four Seasons.
The Jaynetts – The Very Best of the Jaynetts – Everyone should grab a listen or a dozen to “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses”, a big smash for this girl group, which in reality was a few people in the orbit of J&S and Tuff records. When that song was a hit, an album was quickly cut, and everyone moved on, with the personnel who cut the Jaynetts hit cutting other records in different groups. Finally another version of the “Jaynetts” record a few sides in 1965, which are contained in this compilation along with the only song anyone needs by them.
Jewel – Greatest Hits – An unlikely hit-maker, for sure. Dentist offices everywhere rejoice, since she’s made enough hit records that they can put this on their rotation for years.
JoBoxers – Essential Boxerbeat – Despite their gimmicky look, they definitely could play (the band used to be in Subway Sect and drafted in an ex-pat US soul singer) and had a decent sound. They had other hits in the UK besides “Just Got Lucky” and a couple of good deep cuts. Not essential, but you’ll tap your toe selectively.
Jodeci – Back to the Future: the Very Best of Jodeci – The blueprint for “Dick in a Box” had to be “Freek’n You”. Slow jams, 90’s style.
Lou Johnson – Soul Legend – This is a collection of his hits and recordings from 1963-65, and is notable for the original 45 version of “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me”. He had minor success on the charts, most of them in a cool, lounge singer way. He recorded a later album for Cotillion that I’ll review, since it’s pretty hot.
Jimmy Jones – Absolutely the Best of Jimmy Jones – Two big hits, one that everyone knows (“Handy Man”) thanks to James Taylor’s ultra mellow version. He was more of a songwriter and behind the scenes guy in reality.
Montell Jordan – Best Of Montell Jordan – He had eight Top 40 pop hits, and three of those were number one R&B hits, and you only remember his #1 smash debut single. I gather you know it.
Josef K – Entomology – A short lived post-punk band that seemingly crossed the Feelies, the Gang of Four, and Joy Division. Good enough for a listen. Not good enough for reverence.
Bill Justis – Sun King Collection – Bill Justis – George Harrison was turned on to the guitar thanks to “Raunchy” which was a hit for him and others, and inspired Duane Eddy to do his reverb guitar thing that he milked forever. Nothing else is really that great, as most of his stuff emphasizes saxophone instead of guitar.
Kajagoogoo – The Very Best of Kajagoogoo – There are several Kajagoogoo comps, all picking from the album with Limhal (you know the song), the album without Limahl (two top 15 hits in the UK!), when they went as Kaja without Limahl (a stiff), and Limahl solo (“The Neverending Story” and….). From this you can divine: Nick Beggs (the bassist) was the key musician, Limahl was needed as a vocalist (sorry Nick) and Limahl needed Beggs to help write songs.
K-Ci & JoJo – All My Life: Their Greatest Hits – From 1998 to 2002, they had a corner on the romantic R&B market, or so it seemed. Ok, it was two big hits, not counting their Jodeci stuff. So you’re forgiven. They did a whole bunch of soundtracks too, so you heard them there. Competent, pleasant, slow jams.
Ernie K-Doe – Ernie K-Doe Selected Hits (Vol. 1 & Vol. 2) – Ernie did a great job on some classic sides by Allen Toussaint, especially “Mother-In-Law” and “A Certain Girl”. Unfortunately, the streaming collections are bloated with session tracks and outtakes, or remakes. There’s a great Minit Records label compilation that has everything you really need by Ernie.
Kenny & The Kasuals – ’60’s Garage Nuggets – They were too good to be a garage band in the strictest sense. “Journey to Tyme” is one of the BEST singles of the 60’s, period. The fact that it died nationally is of no import. The issue is that they had another song (“Revelations”) that was good in the same vein, but they tried everything to get a hit (covers, love ballads, etc.) and it didn’t work, and then some of them got their ass drafted.
Sonny Knight – Confidential: The Best Of – Knight was an R&B / Pop singer that had a couple of hits in the 50’s but never really found a market and turned out bitter as he felt the whites kept singers like him on the sidelines. Some of this does ring true in the 50’s, as Knight mostly was confined to low R&B charting singles while others took similar songs and made bank.
Andy Kim – Greatest Hits – His early stuff, songs everyone has forgotten, has vanished (he hit #9 with “Baby I Love You” and #17 with “Be My Baby”, so thank you Phil Spector and the Ronettes). In the mid-70’s he remeged with “Rock Me Gently”, a song that was perfect for his vocal range and encapsulated the fern-bar singles scene. The follow up, “Fire, Baby I’m on Fire” was a weaker song in the same vein, then he went into icky ballads, some with spoken word interludes.
King – Love & Pride: The Best of King – A band name that’s not SEO in the least. The title track of this collection is a great piece of mid-80’s dance pop. They didn’t last long, despite the fact that this comp has 18 tracks, they released two albums and six singles. I really don’t think you need the B-sides and remixes or tracks like “I Kissed the Spikey Fridge”, do ya? (OK the spikey fridge song is decent enough…)
The Kingsmen – The Best of the Kingsmen – Are you surprised that “Louie Louie” is the only song you’ll know. Shock, though, that “Jolly Green Giant” hit #4, when it’s just shenanigans. “Annie Fanny” was a tribute to the cartoon, and otherwise there’s stuff any generic garage band could have done better.
The Kingston Trio – Greatest Hits – Folk music in the late 50’s / early 60’s sounded oh-so white and priveledged except for a precious few. This hasn’t aged well.
Kippington Lodge – Shy Boy: The Complete Recordings 1967-1969 – From whence Brinsley Schwarz came from. Just generic meh pop rock.
The Knickerbockers – Greatest Hits – The first half of this are the A-and-B sides of their three hits, including two rip-roaring ones (“Lies” and “One Track Mind”). The second half is their early stuff when all they did was cover pop tracks. There’s a huge collection of everything they did for Challenge, but that’s got so much gunk, too.
Buddy Knox – The Best of Buddy Knox – “Party Doll” is great. The rest of this all depends on your love for mediocre rockabilly.
Kris Kristofferson – The Essential Kris Kristofferson – He can write a tune. Too bad he really can’t sing em. There are a few cases where his gruff growl works, and in many cases it doesn’t.
Bill LaBounty – The Best of Bill Labounty – He was a well-regarded songwriter, and in the 70’s and early 80’s made a stab at a career in what’s now known at “Yacht Rock”. Depending on your tolerance for that stuff, you’d dig this or think it’s as appealing as a plutonium sandwich.
Brenda Lee – 20th Century Masters: The Best of Brenda Lee – She charted more songs than any female performer in the 60’s, and when she’s got a neat little rasp in her voice when she emphasizes some verses on a fast number, but most of her work was done in the early 60’s where the quality of pop songs was, well, lacking. “I’m Sorry” is fantastic, but most of the others are kind of assembly-line pop that could have been recorded in the 40’s, to be blunt.
Curtis Lee – Pretty Little Angel Eyes – He struck it big on the title track for his compilation, mainly due to him being an early recipient of Phil Spector’s treatment. The rest of his material is meh at best.
The Lemon Pipers – The Best of the Lemon Pipers – Hey, it’s not all bad! “Green Tambourine” you know, but there are other psychedelic bubble-gum gems. They got a lot of mileage out of that fake sitar sound.
The Lettermen – Capitol Collectors Series – I mean, I almost UGGGHED this, but really I gotta give them propers for their harmonies and some of their arrangements. Still, this is MOR pablum for moms – wait – now grandmoms, or great grandmoms.
Barbara Lewis – The Complete Atlantic Singles – Again, a bit of overkill for an artist without a huge base of hits, but there are gems (“Hello Stranger”, “Baby I’m Yours”, “Make Me Your Baby”)
Bobby Lewis – Collector’s Gold Series – Bobby had a smash in “Tossin’ and Turnin'” which seems to be the story of anyone’s life with stress. (Though he was just 18, it still resonates with me at least.) Another song, “One Track Mind”, was a hit. Like most early rock singers, he was dependent on producers to get him good songs, and without the material he just floundered.
Gordon Lightfoot – Gord’s Gold – The first half is re-workings of his 60’s material, then it goes through his early 70’s stuff. It missed “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” (which was re-recorded for a later compilation so be careful). It’s exactly what you think it is, and you’ll like it as much as you think you will.
Lighthouse – 40 Years of Sunny Days – It’s the Canadian Blood, Sweat & Tears. They emphasized the guitar more, which wasn’t the plus you may think it was.
Mark Lindsay – The Complete Columbia Singles – The lead singer of Paul Revere’s & the Raiders had a concurrent solo career for a few years in the early 70’s, and at times Lindsay solo records were released under the Raiders moniker. His big solo hits “Arizona” and “Silverbird” kind of say the story – big production MOR designed for the Tom Jones crowd, with a touch of country in there for the Glen Campbell fans.
Lipps, Inc. – Funkyword, The Best of Lipps, Inc. – No, it’s not a one-song record. They did some trade in the disco market, but it was all disposable except for their one stroke of genius. I blame that damn guitar line before the chorus.
Lit – Platinum & Gold Collection – There’s nothing inherently BAD here. It all sounds like it’s been done before and done since. There’s some catchy stuff here, but catchy like a cold.
Little Eva – Playlist: The Best of Little Eva – It’s nice that a comprehensive Little Eva set was released. She had four Top 40 hits in 1962 and 1963, including the one big one in “The Loco-Motion”. But nothing except that song is essential – the rest seems like she was given the leftover songs for the most part.
Lobo – The Best of Lobo – As a kid, I liked a few of his catchy folk tunes. Now, I guess I like them ironically, in a way. But he was really AM Gold with acoustic guitars. I mean, “I’d Love You to Want Me”? Ooof.
Lisa Loeb – The Very Best of Lisa Loeb – Had a decent career after a surprise hit, and now does children’s music and lullaby type covers. Her stuff has aged better than many of her 90’s compatriots, but by no means is it essential or vital.
Kenny Loggins – The Essential Kenny Loggins – As the author of some great pop-rock and yacht-rock tunes, there’s a lot of dreadful glop and electronic gizmo stuff on this. “Danny’s Song” was a portend of things to come.
The Lost Generation – Brunswick Essentials – Glad to see this group get a comp, of sorts. “The Sly, the Slick, and the Wicked” is boss, and they had some other tracks that really hit the early 70’s funky vocal group spot. But Brunswick basically took their two albums and a couple single sides, played with the running order, and called it good, so that’s why it’s on this list. Why didn’t they just release their first album as a stream instead of this collection?
Lulu – The Gold Collection – There are myriad collections for this UK pop singer, who was a certified star over there (with a chat show and all kinds of hits), and an afterthought here. “To Sir, With Love”, the theme of the Sidney Poitier movie, made the biggest impression in the States, but was just a B-side over there.
Framkie Lymon & The Teenagers – The Best of Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers – A tragic story, especially when one was so young as he was when fame cascaded down upon him. After “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” he and they struggled to find another hit. Most of their material was subtle re-writes of the big hit.
The Main Ingredient – Everybody Plays the Fool: The Best of the Main Ingredient – Vocal trio scored their biggest hit after Cuba Gooding, Sr. joined (as a result of the former lead singer’s untimely death from leukemia). They had moments through the 70’s, but when they slowed things down they weren’t that compelling.
Man – And In the Beginning: The Complete Early Man 1968-69; Keep on Crinting: The Liberty/UA Years – Man were a Welsh prog psychedelic rock band that in its inital works tried everything and hoped it would stick. They have some cache (and keen listeners will hear how bands like Sabbath copped some of their riffs). But there’s a lot of grandiose pomposity and wailing and gnashing of team and Hammond keys in their first compilation. They then moved towards more boogie and less psychedelia with somewhat better commerical results, but it’s still more for connisseurs of early 70s UK boogie and prog. Terry Williams, later of Rockpile, was the drummer for their boogie- ish period.
Mandrill – Fencewalk: The Anthology – They had some great moments with their blend of African, Latin, and funk rhythms. But when they sang, it wasn’t as much of a party. And when they got hippie preachy, it got boring. Still, when they really get cookin’, the flames are high!
The Manhattan Transfer – The Very Best of the Manhattan Transfer – They had hits and some liked their jazzy vocals and sound, but I grow weary of them quickly. You really didn’t need to add words to “Birdland”, did you?
Marcels – The Best of the Marcels – “Blue Moon” featured on the most innovative bass vocal intros in the history of rock. “Heartaches” had a lesser one, and they really didn’t have any huge hits besides that. Fred Johnson’s the name of that bass singer, and he should be eternally remembered.
The Marshall Tucker Band – Greatest Hits – I think this short review will suffice. The deeper cuts are sketchy – the hits are decent. They like to jam too much. The use of both a flute and a pedal steel is interesting. I think that covers it.
Percy Mayfield – Specialty Profiles: Percy Mayfield – He’s more known as a song-writer and for good reason. After a bad car crash he had to give up performing live, but made his bones by writing songs such as “Hit the Road, Jack” and others.
Don McLean – Favorites & Rarities – No need for the rarities, and the ‘favorites’ have the expected, along with the original version of “Castles in the Air”, as well as the remake. But this also shows McLean relied on covers and genre tributes as time went on.
The McCoys – Hang on Sloopy: The Best of the McCoys – Not bad for teenagers from BFE Indiana, especially Rick Zehringer who turned into Rick Derringer. Still, though, this is hit + filler, stretched out to 22 tracks.
Jimmy McCracklin – Blues Legend – “The Walk” is a great, timeless song. Check it out. Your enjoyment of the rest depends on your taste for piano or jump blues.
Gwen McCrae – Henry Stone’s Best of Gwen McCrae – She hit with “Rockin’ Chair” after her husband hit with “Rock Your Baby”. Gwen had a few other singles that poked their head on the R&B charts, but nothing really spectacular, and when Henry Stone’s TK Records went under, so did her career.
Barry McGuire – The Best of Barry McGuire – Dylan did Dylan better, and McGuire’s doom and gloom voice doesn’t really work with treacle like “Cloudy Summer Afternoon” or covers of the lighter folk-rock of the mid 60’s. He also tries to cram soooo many words into songs like “Upon a Painted Ocean”, but he’s way behind Dylan and Elvis Costello in that game.
Melanie – Beautiful People: The Greatest Hits of Melanie – Folky singer had her big chance after Woodstock, with “Lay Down (Candles in the Wind)” with a big help from the Edwin Hawkins Singers. She then went more into novelty / folk with diminishing returns, and now seems to be just a cult artist.
Sergio Mendes – Foursider – Sunshine pop bossa-nova style. Good for a chill out. Main vocalist Lani Hall married Herb Alpert, who signed Mendes after his straight jazzy bossa nova groups fizzled out. Other comps have more of his later incarnations, with more funk, or 80’s keyboards, instead of his classic sunshine pop, but his first Greatest Hits album has a few cuts not on here worth checking out.
Lizzy Mercier Descloux – Best Off – What could have been a total pretentious train wreck (French no-waver and artiste going solo) has some tracks that work! And others that don’t. But better than I thought just by the thought of it.
MFSB – The Essential MFSB – The mighty MFSB was the backbone of the Gamble & Huff Philly Soul empire, providing great backing to so many artists there and having a few hits of their own. But over 2 discs it gets a little numbing and the instrumental versions of hits by Gamble & Huff and others (except for “Family Affair”, which is revelatory) doesn’t add much.
Lee Michaels – Heighty Hi: The Best of Lee Michaels – Michaels was a veteran of the bar circuit who got a record deal and spun out several albums featuring his organ and piano skills, his white-soul vocals, earnest (too earnest) songwriting, overly long jams, and Frosty the drummer. “Do You Know What I Mean” is all most everyone remembers, unless you were a super-fan of the Hammond Organ.
Stephanie Mills – The Ultimate Collection – She avoids some of the treacle that some Broadway divas are given to sing when trying to cross to the Pop / R&B side, but still there’s several ballads with those 80’s chiming keyboards that you can skip.
Mocedades – Eres Tu’…Todos Los Grandes Exitos – The title of their hits compilation was a huge worldwide smash and is sung today in Spanish classes everywhere. It’s pretty generic 70’s Tom Jones-type pop, sure to please the moms and dads out there. The rest is in the same vein but no nostalgia.
The Moments – Love on a Two-Way Street – The Best of the Moments – The title track is an all timer. There are some other sublime moments, but many of the vocal arrangements seem busy, and the slow jams not really compelling.
The Moonglows – Their Greatest Hits: The Chess 50th Anniversary Collection – An important group in the evolution of doo-wop and vocal groups. “Sincerely” and “Ten Commandments of Love” put them in the pantheon. Their other output is good doo-wop, and with doo-wop one loves it or doesn’t.
Chris Montez – The Hits and Call Me – The A&M Years – Montez, at age 19, had a couple of hits including the timeless “Let’s Dance”. Four years later, he emerged as a pop / easy-listening crooner and had a couple of hits with some nice sounding sides. It’s rare to see someone in that era have two separate careers, but here you are.
Mouth & MacNeal – Mouth & MacNeal: The Greatest Hits – Their one claim to fame in the US is “How Do You Do”, which na-nah-na-nah’d it’s way to stardom. They had some success in their native Netherlands and one UK hit with a Eurovision song. But listening to all of this now – gawd, what were they thinking, na-nah-na-nah-na-nah-na-nah?
The Motors – Airport: The Motors Greatest Hits – Former Ducks Deluxe members Nick Garvey and Andy McMaster form their own band, adding Bram Tchaikovsky as another songwriter. There’s a good base of power pop, but they get bogged down at times with lengthy tracks and keyboard excursions. “Dancing the Night Away” is still the jam, though.
The Music Explosion – Little Bit O’ Soul: The Best Of – The title track of this comp is ALL you need and may be the best bubblegum hit of the 60’s. The other tracks go from meh covers to blatant rewrites to ok tracks. But that one…
Nazareth – Classics, Vol. 16 – I’m assuming this is a record company title regarding the number of these kind of comps they’d one. Anyway, Nazareth had one big-time moment of glory with the Hair of the Dog album, and this collection is a nice sampler of the rest. Nothing special, and the two HotD tracks are better heard there.
The Newbeats – The Best of – Everyone and their mother knows “Bread and Butter”, but I didn’t realize the falsetto was by a guy – Larry Henley. They had a few other hits featuring the falsetto coming in out of seemingly nowhere, and just “Run Baby Run” had any lasting cache (hitting in the UK six years after release!).
The New Colony Six – Garage Rock Essentials – “At the Rivers Edge” has been Nuggeted, They had major hits in Chicago and a couple Top 30 hits nationally, but the song on comps is rather atypical.
New Edition – Gold – This doesn’t have “Candy Girl”, but it does have “Cool It Now” and “Mr. Telephone Man”. I can’t recommend anything past that unless you need a blood sugar infusion.
New Kids on the Block – Greatest Hits – They really ladled on the goop, didn’t they?
The New Seekers – The Best of the New Seekers – At least this is a small collection. They really had just two US hits “Look What They’ve Done to My Song, Ma” and “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”, which won the chart battle against the Hillside Singers version (though it was close). It’s all just easy listening goop, with apple trees and honeybees and snow white turtle doves.
Olivia Newton-John – Gold – From pop (“If Not for You”), to country (“Let Me Be There”) back to pop, then to disco (Xanadu), to 50’s show tunes (Grease), then to whatever “Physical” was, it was an event filled decade or so for her. This isn’t streaming but it should be found out there if you really really want to know why you shouldn’t play B-17.
Night Ranger – Greatest Hits: Night Ranger – They assured us that you can still Rock! in America. But they didn’t rock all of the time, and when they did, they taught us nothing we didn’t know about rocking. Except that drug dealers like to listen to “Sister Christian” when ripping off porn stars.
*NSYNC – Greatest Hits – Pop candy for the millenial generation. Nothing more, nothing less.
Billy Ocean – The Very Best of Billy Ocean – This is probably the best stop for your Ocean needs, since it has a lot of his early hits (mostly UK hits). Some of his stuff is still enjoyable, and fun, and then there’s the gunk.
Danny O’Keefe – Classics – Now, until you all say “that’s just a one-song record”, it’s not. It is hit or miss, but he’s got some good country / rock, some good folke stuff, and of course “Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues”. He’s still performing in Seattle, too, and his songs are still being covered.
100 Proof (Aged in Soul) – Greatest Hits – There are a few highlights, and really no low-lights, but there’s nothing that will convince anyone except those already turned on to early 70’s soul / funk vocal groups. A milder Temptations, if you will.
Jeffrey Osborne – 20th Century Masters – He’s got a nice voice and delivery, but the material is schlocky for the most part and the production very 80’s in a non-complementary way. However, our class named the Junior/Senior prom of 1983 “On the Wings of Love” – so yay?
The Osmonds – Osmondmania! – Oh, back in the day they were the shit, man! Not just Donny either. Merrill definitely had some rock pipes (he tried too hard, though) and Wayne could play. This has Donny’s hits as a moppet, Marie’s early solo hits, and even some Donny and Marie. It’s a one-stop Osmond shop! As you age, though, you realize that they wrote a lot of piffle (except for “Crazy Horses” and “Hold Her Tight”).
Gilbert O’Sullivan – The Very Best of Gilbert O’Sullivan: A Singer and His Songs – Yeah, the title’s as pretentious as some of his treacly, whiny hits.
The Outsiders – Capitol Collectors’ Series – “Time Won’t Let Me” is a timeless song, but the band really never had many more originals in them, despite their Wikipedia page. Trivial trivia – original drummer Jim Fox formed the James Gang, and singer Sonny Geraci formed Climax, because precious and few were the moments the Outsiders were on the charts.
Pablo Cruise – 20th Century Masters – They give you the album version of these songs. However, if you’re not a die-hard Yacht Rocker, then only a couple will find fancy with you. Don’t spill your martini.
The Pandamonium – No Presents for Me…Singles & Rarities – Sometimes all it takes is one song to leave a decent legacy. “No Presents for Me” is a great piece of psychedelic UK rock, and the B-side isn’t bad. They just didn’t have anything else in ’em.
Robert Parker – An Introduction to Robert Parker – He had his one glorious single in “Barefootin'”. Nothing else stuck, and his later work for Island is rather blah, even if it is funky-ish.
Ray Parker, Jr. – The Best of Ray Parker, Jr. & Raydio – A few memorable hits for sure, but he had a long dry spell before “Ghostbusters”, and then one after “The Other Woman”. Maybe he did need a little boost from Huey Lewis?
The Partridge Family – Come On Get Happy! The Very Best of the Partridge Family – This is a unique collection as it has songs from the show that weren’t on vinyl, including a couple from the pilot with a different vocalist. There’s some pleasant memories but nothing heavier than cotton candy here.
Bobby Patterson – The Best of Bobby Patterson – As you have guessed, all you need is a great song like “TCB or TYA”, and the rest is gravy.
The Penguins – The Best of the Penguins – The recorded quite a few sides, but only hit with “Earth Angel”, which is enough for a career to be honest.
Peter & Gordon – The Ultimate Peter & Gordon – Without Paul McCartney, who gifted “A World Without Love” to them, I don’t think they’d be that well known, if known at all. Some British Invasion fans may stone me, but they’re kinda meh in a mushy way
Peter, Paul & Mary – The Vert Best of Peter, Paul & Mary – One thing for sure, the version of pop-folk that PPM and others served to America in the early 60’s sounds hilariously dated. No wonder the hip thought their old men were squares.
Peaches & Herb – Greatest Hits (60’s), 20th Century Masters (70’s) – Their early career was more vocal pop than soul, and only “United” and their cover of “Love Is Strange” trips my trigger. The 70’s material (with a different Peaches) is tainted by “Reunited” and rescued by “Shake Your Groove Thing”.
Ce Ce Peniston – 20th Century Masters – For my nickel, most everything is similar, so you dig a couple of things, you can safely buy this. Else, it’s just a dance racket.
Gene Pitney – 18 All-Time Greatest Hits – First as a songwriter, then as a vocal-pop artist, Pitney found some favor in the US and was a star in Europe and Australia. When not schmaltzy, he’s a strong artists. But he gets schmaltzy a lot.
Point Blank – Very Best – There’s some comfort in familiar old radio songs of your youth, like “Nicole”. They had a couple of other tracks that were decent enough, but in reality they had one moment of brillance in a generic six album (how’d they get THAT many?) career. Oh, and they’re touring, even though there’s no original members and 4/5 of the originals are deceased. Rock. Never. Dies.
Pop WIll Eat Itself – The Best Of – They were innovators in the short lived UK ‘grebo’ band fad which was more annoying than anything else save Ned’s Atomic Dustbin (heard any Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine Lately?) “Wise Up Sucker” was the best track this band did.
Posion – Poison’s Greatest Hits 1986-1996 – All of the good, bad, and indifferent of the hair metal era in one package. Too many decent songs for Ugggh! Not enough for a full review.
Lloyd Price – Greatest Hits: The Original ABC/Paramount Recordings – “Lawdy Miss Clawdy”, “Personality”, and “Stagger Lee” cement his legacy in rock history. The rest of this collection doesn’t waver from those formulas. The backing vocals are ultra-white, and while it does have the original “Stagger Lee”, it also contains the “Bandstand” mix where he had to tone it down for White people.
Gary Puckett & the Union Gap – The Best of Gary Puckett & the Union Gap – This is a pretty rote compilation except for the inclusion of “Daylight Stranger” a non-album B-side that’s actually quite good. There are a couple of other rarities that really sound as bombastic as the others. They pumped out three records in 1968, and four total by 1970. It’s pretty easy when others write songs for you (though they’d have rather done their own material for the singles – and if they did more of that you’d never have heard of them.)
Pure Prairie League – Greatest Hits – They have a tangled and tortorous history, even roping in Vince Gill for a while. Gill’s version had a hit with “Let Me Love You Tonight”. The “original” version had a big hit with “Amie”. Still plugging away, with no original members, no Vince Gill, and nothing essential.
James & Bobby Purify – Shake a Tail Feather! The Best of James & Bobby Purify – Despite the title, their version of “Shake a Tail Feather” is kind of bland. Their big song is “I’m Your Puppet”. They’re OK, but Sam & Dave were much better and grittier.
Stacey Q – Stacey Q’s Greatest Hits – That should be singular. “Two of Hearts” is kinda fun in a nostalgia way. The rest aren’t.
Quarterflash – Harden My Heart: The Best of Quarterflash – “Harden My Heart” is one that stands the tests of time, but “Find Another” is probably the better hit. The mid-80’s weren’t too kind to them.
Suzi Quatro – The Very Best of Suzi Quatro – The question before the audience is why didn’t Suzi Quatro connect in the US as she did in the UK and Europe? Her sound was definitely UK glam inspired, and except for a very few hits that didn’t really translate well over here. Her echoey, doubled voice also didn’t sound right next to the current US sound. She ran aground pretty quickly even in Europe, with her big hits happening in 1973 and 1974 except for one in 1978 and some minor hits in 1979.
Eddie Rabbitt – Various Hits Compilations – Thanks to licensing and company fun-and-games, the four songs anyone remembers are on two or three compilations or so. Probably more. At any rate, “Step by Step” can’t exist in the same space as “I Love a Rainy Night” for some reason. Who knows why. This precludes the discriminating consumer from investing hard and heavy into Mr. Rabbitt, or at least harder and heavier than one would. Since I already had those four tracks, I’m not investing anything.
Lou Rawls – The Essential Lou Rawls – This is pretty accurate, and contains everything that you think of when you say Lou Rawls (except the Bud commericals). You may have to put something together on your own, though – this collection isn’t streaming in whole thanks to rights issues (he had hits with Capitol, MGM, Bell, and Philly International).
The Rasmus – Best of 2001-2009 – They broke through in the UK with a perfectly bland single “In the Shadows”, then “Guilty”, and really kind of disappeared from the UK and US for the most part. It sounded like any other melodic rock song did of the time, and thus nothing special and annoying at times.
Ray, Goodman & Brown – The Best of Ray, Goodman & Brown – They used to be the Moments (see above), but changed their name thanks to a legal dispute. “Special Lady” is a sweet song, but the rest of their output was rather generic, except for the ‘studio chatter’ they seemed to have before every single.
Redman – Best Of – I’m just not feelin’ him. It seems he’s really eclipsed by Method Man and others from that era.
Billy Lee Riley – Legendary Sun Classes – Sam Phillips chose to promote Jerry Lee Lewis over him, but some of his sides are “Red Hot” and need to be heard!
Jeannie C. Riley – Twenty Golden Hits – “Harper Valley PTA” notwithstanding, there’s nothing remarkable. A lot of covers, a lot of maudlin songs. Some charted well inthe country charts, but they were radio friendly puffs o’ tunes.
Right Said Fred – Hits – “I’m Too Sexy” as pre-made kitsch or camp or whatever you want to file it in. It’s dumb, fun and full of…stuff. Somehow, they’ve been able to release eight albums. More power to them, I suppose.
The Rip Chords – The Best of the Rip Chords – If you really, really, really like classic vocal group surf music, you may like them. “Hey Little Cobra” is great, the rest sound like a cheap Jan & Dean knockoff, though well sung and produced. That’s due to Terry Melcher and Bruce Johnston.
The Rivingtons – The Liberty Years – They were an OK so-so doo-wop group except for their strokes of genius in “Papa Oom-Maw-Maw” and “The Bird’s the Word”. “Kickapoo Joy Juice” is fun, too. The rest? Nah.
Jimmy Rogers – Blue Yodel, The Essential Jimmy Rogers – Rogers is one of the must-haves if you want to understand the history of country music and the blues, and where they intersect. The Blue Yodel collection has all of his “Blue Yodel” songs – 13 in all. Essential doesn’t have all of those (for some reason) but has a good collection for those who want to dive into his output (like “Frankie and Johnnie” and “In the Jailhouse Now”. Reminder, this stuff was recorded in the 20’s and 30’s but the audio quality is pretty decent.
Kenny Rogers – Kenny Rogers & The First Edition Anthology, The Best of Kenny Rogers – Through the Years – Two compilations basically takes care of all of your Kenny Rogers wants and desires. The First Edition went from folk to psychedelia to country rock without batting an eye but soon devolved into goopy goop. This collects their good stuff on Reprise. (They had some albums later on MGM before grinding to a halt). The Rogers solo stuff collects the usual suspects, starting with “Lucille” and ending when the needle gets stuck in the saccharine.
The Rooftop Singers – The Best of – I find it hard to believe that these whitey-white-white folkies had 27 songs that qualified for this compilation, but here we are. Walk right in, listen to the first track, baby that’s all you need.
Jackie Ross – Selfish One: The Best of – She made a few good soul / R&B sides in the 60’s for Chess, who tried to make it sound like Motown for sure. I don’t know if it warranted a 43-track “Best Of”. That seems a bit much for someone with one Top 20 hit.
Roxette – The 30 Biggest Hits XXX – Ok, they’re huge in Europe, espeically in their native Sweden, as they’re runner up to Abba in the ‘most popular pop star’ contest. There’s no reason in God’s green earth that anyone outside of Northern Europe (and Austria) needs 30 tracks by them. About a dozen (if you’re being generous) is all you really need, including some that were never singles over here.
Billy Joe Royal – Greatest Hits– His discography streaming is kind of a mess. There are original albums from the 60’s, but most all of the compilations are for his country albums or are re-recordings. There’s some decent work here, and the hit tracks are classic 60’s pop. Pick and choose between these two if you liked the singles.
Ruby & The Romantics – Greatest Hits Album – “Our Day Will Come” is timeless, and the rest pleasant and bland. Hello, supper club!
Salsoul Orchestra – Anthology , Vol. 1– A backing band for disco producers, like MFSB, but without MSFB’s grit. Several tracks are used by hip-hop artists for beats and samples – that’s probably the best place to hear them. There is a Volume 2, for no damn good reason.
Saturday’s Child – Saturday’s Child – A Chicago-based sunshine pop band that had a few ideas but not much time to execute them properly, plus they were stuck in ’64 with their harmonies.
Scandal – Playlist: The Very Best of Scandal – In which our underdog, intrepid, record company conglomerate takes their EP (with “Goodbye to You”) and only LP (The Warror), smooshes them together, and only removes one song (the shoulda been a hit “Hands Tied”). What a concept.
Jack Scott – Best of the Rockabilly Years & Jack Scott’s Greatest Hits – He could sing a ballad, and could sing rockabilly. He was voted Canada’s best ever singer, but his songs didn’t age well and really, only a couple stand out.
John Sebastian – The Best of John Sebastian – Lovin’ Spoonful leader turned hippy-dippy folkie turned TV theme song creator. This is his Reprise Records collection, and it’s certainly mellow, and at times torpor-inducing.
Neil Sedaka – The Definitive Collection – It isn’t, because the older songs on this collection are remakes, leaving just a couple tunes from his 70’s comeback worth listening to. I’m reviewing a legit collection later.
The Seekers – Greatest Hits – Not the New Seekers, but the original deal. Very pleasant and white. I mean, white.
Charlie Sexton – 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection – They tried to wedge the good looking guitar player into new wave outfits and the only result worthwhile was “Beats So Lonely”. His work with the Arc Angels came off better and his work as a sideman is exemplar.
The Shirelles – 20 Greatest Hits – One of the more successful girl groups, yet I think the charts did a good job in separating their essential hits from those reserved for girl group fanatics.
Sia – Best Of – This is her early work, which was collected when she retired (and before they pulled her back as a performer). This has some great songs (like “Breathe Me”) but it’s obvious she improved a lot as a writer and performer from her until now.
The Simon Sisters – Winkin’ Blinkin’ and Nod: The Kapp Recordings – Sisters Lucy and Carly (yes, that one) recorded a couple of records in 1964, and got a little run in the folk community. What I hear is olden folk songs that may have inspired the Fairport Convention at some level. If you’re really into folkie stuff, yeah, listen to it.
Simply Red – Greatest Hits – This 1996 collection covers all of the bases. Personally, they’re the best when they put a groove to it because they can get mawkish really quick on the ballads. And their soulfulness is diminished by 80’s drum sounds.
Sixpence None the Richer – Top Ten – It’s not winning any awards, but “Kiss Me” is a nice slice of nostalgia, and if you like them this is probably the collection to get. There’s a track called “Waiting On the Sun”, which isn’t a cover of the Doors, nor the Jayhawks, but it’s decent.
The Skyliners – The Skyliners: Greatest Hits – Why you’d need 21 cuts from this supper club doo-wop group is anyone’s guess, but “Since I Don’t Have You” is sublime.
Sammi Smith – The Best of Sammi Smith – She struck it big with a version of “Help Me Make It Through the Night”, but I couldn’t get into the rest of her oeuvre.
Warren Smith – Rockabilly Legend – Smith was a Southern lad that fell into the orbit of Sun Records, and recorded some rockabilly and country sides for Sam Phillips. Some of his songs hit the country and pop charts and are decent genre exercises, most notably “Rock & Roll Ruby”, “Uranium Rock” and “Ubangi Stomp”. His country singing is passable, and his life after Sun Records kind of sad and tragic.
Smokie – The Collection – Not hugely popular in the UK, but popular enough to keep plugging along since the 70’s. They’re known for mellow 70’s ‘rock’ like “Living Next Door to Alice” and Chris Norman’s duet with Suzi Quatro, “Stumblin’ In.” That’s what you’re basically getting in this collection.
Sniff ‘n’ the Tears – The Best of Sniff ‘n’ the Tears – Journeyman rock-n-roll band release one great song, and what a song it is. “Driver’s Seat” is one of those songs that has a guitar crunch and great melodies and harmonies. The rest of their stuff proves that they’re journeymen.
The SOS Band – Best of – “Take Your Time (Do It Right)” is fantastic. Later they were an early Jimmy Jam / Terry Lewis client and they skidded to Balladville. Population: ZZZZ
The Spaniels – The Very Best of the Spaniels – I love, and you should too, “Goodnite, It’s Time to Go”. You know it. Deep tracks from doo-wop groups are for connoisseurs, though.
Spizzenergi – Spizz Not Dead – A sorta-novelty band (rotating band names for the win, of course) that hit everyone’s hearts with “Where’s Captain Kirk?”. And…there are 21 other tracks here.
The Springfields – The Very Best Of – Not a band of Rick Springfield impersonators, but Dusty Springfield’s early UK folkie group that also contained her brother Tom and either Tim Field or Mike Hurst. “Silver Thread and Golden Needles” was the first substantial hit by an act from the UK over here (it hit #20 in 1962). It’s OK, but it’s really just good for history or curiosity.
Jim Stafford – Greatest Hits, Best Of – There’s not much overlap, but these are for fans of the dated 70’s comedic references in these songs, with 70’s social values. Oh, and his hit version of “I Got Stoned and I Missed It” isn’t around anywhere.
Terry Stafford – Best of Terry Stafford – He sounded a lot like Elvis, and “Suspicion” was a big hit in the US during the Beatles’ reign on the charts in 1964. Like many from his era, he was as good as his material. “I’ll Touch a Star” hit #25, and it’s decent enough. That’s ’bout it.
Staind – The Singles 1996-2006 – They’re better than Seether, but man they’re just generic angry white guys playing kinda-pop metal. The sing-scream thing gets old after a while.
Ray Stevens – Greatest Hits: Original Recordings – His career stretches back to the 50’s, and he had hits sprinkled through the 60’s through the 80’s on the country and pop charts. He had some funny hits (some which are cringe worthy) and some serious hits (some are also cringe worthy), but he went from “Everything Is Beautiful” to a grumpy Tea Party crank. That is definitely cringe worthy.
The Sting-Rays – From the Kitchen Sink – In short doses, this neo-surf music band is intriguing, but constricted to a nostalgic genre, they seem limited over a full collection.
Strawberry Alarm Clock – Anthology – “Incense & Peppermints” was totally anomalous for this band, who really is like a more-psychedelic Association. They do let their freak fly in a coulple of tracks, but mostly it’s harmony-driven gentle psychedelia. Zzzzz…
Barrett Strong – 20th Century Masters – “Money (That’s What I Want)” is enough, and that was about all he got as a performer. He did have a nice career as a lyricist for Motown in the 60’s and early 70’s, penning some of the great Temptations tracks with Norman Whitfield.
Mike Stuart Span – Children of Tomorrow – A small-potatoes band that has a cult following because of rarity and misfortune more than actual musical brilliance. Sure, they had some nice singles, but never got a UK album release, Elektra dropped them after a name change to Leviathan, and a BBC documentary about them was telecast after they already split up for good.
Sugar Ray – Greatest Hits – There are two comps (!) for this band who defined post-grunge idiot rock, softening when the hits came (they understood what hit the radio, ya know). This one has all of their singles that mattered, and many that didn’t. If you remember “Fly” or “Every Morning” you may want to spin this in case you have a weak moment and another track suits you.
Survivor – The Best of Survivor – I mean, you got your “Eye of the Tiger” and “Burning Heart” and other songs that sound like movie soundtrack fodder. All fine and dandy, but a little goes a long long way. “Poor Man’s Son” is about all that really gets me ambulatory.
Bettye Swann – The Money Recordings, The Complete Atlantic Recordings – She deserved a better chart fate. Money Records didn’t have the distribution to keep up with “Make Me Yours”, and Atlantic just didn’t promote her well and never released a full album from her.
Rachel Sweet – B-A-B-Y: The Best of Rachel Sweet – This is a Stiff collection (so no “Everlasting Love” or “VooDoo”) and it shows how that company did or did not do justice to its artists. Sweet was a revelation on some cuts, like “B-A-B-Y” and not in her depth when covering punk or rockabilly (or the Velvet Underground, fer cripes sake). Had Stiff just let her be a new-wave ingenue, she may have had more of a career in music. Still , she did OK for herself overall after music.
Swing Out Sister – 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection – Jazzy synth-pop duo (originally a trio) hit it fairly big with “Breakout” but most everything else were sound-alikes.
Switchfoot – The Best Yet – I may be cynical, but it seems they moved secular to make bank. They sound earnest. They also sound generic. And I bet the chicks at the La Quinta (h/t Patton Oswalt) understand.
Tavares – Anthology – A soul / funk / disco vocal group (five brothers who just sang for the most part) that had a few hits (a great interpretation of Hall & Oates’ “She’s Gone” for one) but was mostly just pleasant entertainment – and lots of sugary ballads in there to boot.
Teena Marie – 20th Century Millennium Collection, Playlist: The Very Best of Teena Marie – She originally had some funk and that seemed to work out on occasion, but the ballads were treacly. When she moved from the Motown empire to Epic, there were more ballads, and only “Lovergirl” to recommend itself. But what a recommendation!
Third Eye Blind – A Collection – How many of these 19 songs do you remember, or like even if you do remember? They were much better when Stephen Jenkins had Kevin Cadogan as a co-writer, but that’s like saying rice cakes are better with cinnamon sugar. They’re still rice cakes, and 3EB is the rice cake of post-grunge.
.38 Special – 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection – For their hits, they took southern rock and sanded off all of the edges that made southern rock exciting, leaving competent rock-and-roll that could have been performed by anyone. Later they used ringer songwriters to get even middle-of-the-road. I still don’t know what they had two drummers. (Donnie Van Zandt’s contributions were normally filler cuts, for good reason).
BJ Thomas – 20 Greatest Hits – Big on the Adult Contemporary charts in the 60’s and 70’s, Thomas sang some of the songs you know and love, but really don’t know who sang them? Example – “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”. He specialized in swelling, bombastic choruses, mod clothes, and hairdos and beards about 1 1/2 years behind the times.
Thompson Twins – Greatest Hits – I’m not going to beat around the bush. If you remember their hits fondly, they’re here. The non-US hits aren’t fondly remembered – skip ’em.
3 Doors Down – The Greatest Hits – “Post-grunge” wasn’t a real genre. It was just the formulaic acoustic / electric dynamic added on the usual rock songs with some basic Veddering on the vocals. What helps 3DD is being catchy at times. Like the epizootic.
Timbuk3 – Field Guide: Some of the Best of Timbuk3 – As peppy of a song as “The Future’s So Bright…” was, it masked a downer of a message. Most of this keeps the downer messages with downer music, and they turned out to be scolds instead of playful iconoclasts.
The Tokens –Wimoweh!!! – The Best Of The Tokens – Well, the early songs in their career that were singles, at least. They struggled along until 1967, when they came out of the blue with a great sunshine pop album that I’ll review on its own.
The Tornadoes – Telstar: The Best Of – An out of nowhere #1 on both sides of the pond, the great organ and guitar lines (the organ was a clavoline, in case you wanted to know) of the title track are permanently fused in the memory of many of us. Most of their time was spent backing Joe Meek’s production line. You certainly don’t need thirty tracks by them.
Transvision Vamp – Baby I Don’t Care – The Collection – They didn’t translate over to the US, and I don’t think we really missed all that much. Electronic-ish inspired alt rock with a singer (Wendy James) selling sex appeal with limited range. The ballads are dreadful, as James really can’t handle it.
Pat Travers – The Best of Pat Travers – Competent 70’s Canadian rocker had an left field hit with a live cover of “Boom Boom (Out Go the Lights)” but ran out of steam when Pat Thrall and Tommy Aldredge left his band.
The Tremeloes – Silence Is Golden: The Very Best of the Tremeloes – This showcases two incarnations of the group. One with Brian Poole (meh covers) and one without (still meh but a more energetic meh). Their big highlight is the original hit version of “Here Comes My Baby”, which doesn’t hold up well to the original Cat Stevens version, nor the Yo La Tengo version.
Conway Twitty – The #1 Hits Collection – This is a collection of his country hits (not his rockabilly hits except for one). Most of the good ones are the duets with Loretta Lynn, which will be covered in full. The rest are schmaltzy country ballads, and I mean schmaltzy. What’s redneck for schmaltzy?
Bonnie Tyler – The Very Best of Bonnie Tyler – This is solely her post-1981 work where she was all Jim Steinman’d up. Bombast and bluster and over-emoting over-emotional songs. So it doesn’t have the restrained-in-comparison “It’s a Heartache”, where she sounded like Rod Stewart up about a tone.
UFO – The Decca Years: Best of 1970-73 – No Michael Schenker except for two tracks (a single). Lots of noodling. Lots of thievery of riffs and motifs. Not in any sort of order, at all. And worst of all, their interminibly long songs are still around. (There’s a nearly 19 minute song that’s NOT the longest one!).
The Uniques – Golden Hits – Heard “You Ain’t Tuff” on the Nuggets collection and it was a tough, tight piece of garage fuzz. This Texas group featured future country star Joe Stampley and most of their other singles were maudlin love song gunk. They do have a couple of pretty decent garage sides, so I grabbed ’em.
The Untamed Youth – Untamed Melodies – Seeing these guys live must have been a hoot, but being a retro-themed band (they’re a surf / garage band relocated to the late 80’s) tends to produce material that’s too reverent or too silly. Plus, this is a 32-track collection, which is just a lot for all but the devoted to modern surf / garage rock tributes.
The Up – Rising – The least-known band of the Detroit Grande Ballroom scene, The Up didn’t get signed like the MC5 or the Stooges, and became the house band for John Sinclair in the early 70’s. They only had sporadic sessions, and this collection is filled out with live cuts. “Just Like an Aboriginie” is on here FOUR times out of 19 total tracks.
Luther Vandross – The Essential Luther Vandross – Thirty tracks of panty-dropping pleadings.
Gino Vanelli – 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection: The Best of Gino Vanelli – The 20th Century Masters collections are thankfully consice, but they usually have just a few record companies that fall under their purview. Not a huge deal for Vanelli, since his appeal is limited to how much synthesized bombast you can take, and his post 1984 hits are thankfully swept away into the dust of another collection.
Van Halen – Best of Both Worlds – It’s simple really. Buy the original six Van Halen albums, skip the David Lee Roth reunion, skip the Gary Cheronne album, skip the new songs on this comp, skip the live cuts on this collection (Roth songs sung by Hagar), and pick and choose the rest. Wonder how Sammy Hagar could be better solo (and with Montrose) than with Van Halen. Must be the damn Van Halen keyboards.
Bobby Vee – Greatest Hits – This 10 song collection illustrates the dearth of real rock-and-roll in the early 60’s. All strings and goop and no edge. His 1967 comeback song, “Come Back When You Grow Up” has an interesting arrangement, and isn’t just teen schlock. Most of the rest of this is teen schlock.
The Velvelettes – The Very Best of the Velvelettes – With all of the talent going through Motown in the 60’s, some groups got the short end of it. The Velvelettes had an all timer with “Really Saying Something” but never got much chart action or attention from the bosses, and Motown never even finished their album.
The Verve Pipe – Playlist: The Very Best of the Verve Pipe – “The Freshman” is just maudlin as hell, and nothing else rises much besides generic alt rock band land, except maybe “Photograph”. And that’s only if I’m generous.
Bobby Vinton – The Best of Bobby Vinton and Bobby Vinton’s Greatest Hits – His career is split between being a teen-idol crooner of the safest kind, and then Polish polka prince with a popular variety show that appealed to the older set. He had a record company shift in there, so both sides of his career aren’t on one collection (legitimate collection with all originals, I should say). Watch for the remakes, and pick and choose as you dare. All of his songs about loneliness gets a bit old after a while.
Jerry Jeff Walker – The Vanguard Years – This is a compilation of his folkie and folk-inspired years, which as some interesting material but isn’t as compelling as his raucous 70’s tracks.
Billy Ward & His Dominoes – 14 Greatest Hits – “Sixy Minute Man”, a rare early-50’s R&B / Pop crossover, has cemented their legacy as a group. They also were where Clyde McPhatter and Jackie Wilson found their voice as well. But Bill Brown sang their money hit and he left soon after in 1951.
Dionne Warwick – Any non Scepter Record compilation – Dionne ran into a dry spell (arid, more likely) in the 70’s after she moved to Warner Brothers, and then regained her bearings a bit after a move to Arista, but there wasn’t anything super spectacular.
Gino Washington – Out of This World, Love Bandit – Not Geno, mind you. Gino was a Detroit soul man that got his ass drafted after some great singles like “Gino Is a Coward”. When he came back from Vietnam, he restarted his career (after GENO stole some thunder) and the only ones who seemed to dig him were the Northern Soul lunatics in the UK. These two comps have him before and after Vietnam, and choose tracks between the two if you please.
We the People – Declaration of Independence – This compendium of their 60’s singles (they never did release a real album) proves that a couple of hot tracks doesn’t correspond to having enough material for a great collection. For garage band fans, keep to “Mirror of Your Mind” (one of the best 60’s garage tracks) and “You Burn Me Up and Down”.
Wet Willie – The Best of Wet Willie – Picture Little Feat without the adventure, but the same competence. Yeah, competent quasi-southern boogie rock. “Keep on Smilin'” did deserve to be a hit, though.
White Lion – Greatest Hits – “Wait” captures a soft spot in my heart. “When the Children Cry” makes my heart harden. The rest are either one or t’other of lesser note.
Maurice Williams – The Complete Releases 1956-62 and On the Beach – When they were the Gladiolas, they hit with the original “Little Darlin'”. Later, as the Zodiacs, everyone knows “Stay”, and then later, in 1965, they hit with “May I”. The latter is on some collections that may or may not be shady, but at least the original is streaming. As for the rest of their legit catalog, if you’re into doo-wop they’re pretty decent.
Chuck Willis – The Complete Okeh Recordings – This misses his two biggest hits, including “C. C. Rider”, and his tenure as “King of the Stroll”, but is good for those who enjoy older R&B.
Al WIlson – Show and Tell: The Best of Al Wilson – His all-timer is “Show and Tell”, but he did cut some pretty groovy sides from 1972-74 for fans of soul from that era. He ultimately was undone by an underpowered record company and a move from soul crooning to disco.
Wilson Phillips – Greatest Hits – “Hold On” is a nice pop nugget of its time and place, and still resonates with many. Except for goopy ballads, that’s about it.
Brenton Wood – The Vert Best Of – “Gimme Little Sign” is an all-timer, and he had a couple of other nice hits in the late 60’s. His good stuff dried up but enjoy the good stuff all the same.
Sheb Wooley – The Purple People Eater – Most of his collections have 20 songs too many. Then he had his Ben Colder persona, which was his drunk-ass country singer parody. He’s best remembered as a character actor, really, since aside from “The Purple People Eater” there’s not much here.
Yo La Tengo – Genius + Love = Yo La Tengo – A odds and ends compilation that has some highlights and some excesses and experiments that don’t quite work 100%.
Young-Holt Unlimited – The Definitive Young-Holt Unlimited and Born Again– You probably recognize “Wack Wack” and “Soulful Strut”. It’s kinda the same thing, really, but 20 more times. They did start to explore some funk stylings, but they still straddled the jazz/soul precipice, but had chart aspirations so they didn’t really get wild and funky.
Y&T – Best of ’81 to ’85 – Well meaning early heavy metal band from the West Coast inspired many early headbangers, but they were undone by inconsistent songwriting, and the effort to try to re-capture the zen of “Summertime Girls”.
Zapp & Roger – All the Greatest Hits – Servicable Ohio funk with a vocoder as the hook and a couple of all-time funks: “More Bounce to the Ounce” and “So Ruff, So Tuff”.