“Greatest Hits” Albums

I have been quite vocal about my distaste for these packages over the years, and for a number of valid reasons, I think. A greatest hits album usually spans an artists entire career, and most artists later day careers suck some serious ass. Take the Rolling Stones and their 2002 compilation “Forty Licks”. Disk one is great. Disk two is mostly great, but I hardly play it as it contains the abhorrent Undercover Of The Night and a few other lesser later day tracks that spoil the mood.

The second reason is that a bands greatest hits are usually not my favorite tracks. Although it sounds horribly pretentious I can honestly say that I prefer a bands more obscure deep cuts to the popular choices. There are always some egregious omissions that just piss me off to no end.

The third is that the release of a greatest hits package usually signals that a band is past its prime, and for my favorite artists I don’t want to admit that that is a fact.

The forth and final is that I am, and will always be, an album sort of guy. Most albums have a consistency of mood and often reflect the era they were released, and to chop up these works of art and place them beside lesser tracks is a bit of a sacrilege.

But an awful lot of the music buying public love these “best of’s”, and I can admit that my stance has softened as of late. I recently bought the Who’s “The Ultimate Collection”. Yeah, I know that the Who, more than any other artist, has released more sub standard greatest hits packages over the years, but I decided to take a chance. The Who to me has always been a singles band. Other than Tommy, which needs to be taken as a whole, I have always considered their albums as spotty affairs. Even Quadrophenia and Who’s Next. This “ultimate” collection is a double disk set and contains virtually every non-Tommy Who song I will ever need.

So there’s a need for these kind of things, I’ll give you that. There are rules that should be followed, however, and they are:

#1. Keep it chronological

#2. Include some fan favorites and some deep album cuts.

#3. Do not, ever, include one or two “new” tracks to suck in your obsessive completest fan base. It’s a dirty tactic, and a little shameful, and these tracks always pale in comparison to the others. If you absolutely feel the need to include something ‘extra’, give us a full disk of a great live show.

#4. If possible, split up the eras. Do like the surviving members of Queen do. Volume I, II, III, etc, so I can choose.

#5. Fill up the entire 80 minute capacity on each disk. Got some room? See rule #2.

#6. Don’t release one every 3 months. If you do it right the first time you won’t have to do it again.

#7. Make the package special. Include copious liner notes, commentary, a song-by-song analysis, historical relevance essay, vintage photos of the discography, original covers, etc etc etc. Take a page out of some of the recent deluxe reissue packages. Stop with the generic shit already! These things cost money (for those of us who still buy music legally).

#8. Under no circumstance include a live or re-recorded version of a popular hit. If, do to some label licensing issue you are unable to include the original, then either just omit it or, better yet, wait until you do have permission to release it.

#9. And if you absolutely MUST make a various artists compilation, Mr. Record Company Man, make sure you have some effin’ taste. All right?