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, 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 regular fans are hit-and-miss, literally.
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.
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.
Paul Anka – The Very Best of Paul Anka – This 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 I’ll cover later, for shits and giggles.
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 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.
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 – 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, which this collection tackles. “Let the Heartaches Begin” is the highlight, but it’s rather disposable to be honest.
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’.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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 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.
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…
The Captain & Tenille – Ultimate Collection – While some smart-asses think that Toni’s greatest performance was on The Wall (“Wanna take a bath…”), 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…
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.
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”.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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………..
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.
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.
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.
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?
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, and then there was Jodeci. 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
Ray, Goodman & Brown – The Best of Ray, Goodman & Brown – They used to be the Moments, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.