Sometimes only the best will do.
Serious pop music fans may occasionally scorn best-of sets, and sometimes for good reason. There are many, many artists whose body of work just can't be represented or appreciated in microcosm. The thought of, say, The Beatles' Greatest! or some other hypothetical attempt to sum up up the legacy of John, Paul, George, and Ringo in some paltry little package makes me cringe, because so much great stuff would have to be omitted. I need all of The Beatles' records. I need all of The Ramones' records. From The Monkees and The Kinks through The Turtles, The Go-Go's, The Raspberries, and so many others, I could never be satisfied with a mere sample, no matter how representative.
But there are also many artists whose careers I can happily condense into a convenient, compact form. And even among artists whom I eventually adopted as full-on obsessions, I often began with a best-of set as an introduction. Believe me, I don't get to Pet Sounds without going through Endless Summer first.
This new series The Best Of Everything will examine greatest-hits sets that have meant something to me at some point in my life. But before that series begins, let's take a look at some of the artists whose only current representation in my CD library is via some sort of best-of set. For the sake of discussion, this list omits LPs, 45s, digital files, or cereal box singles I may or may not still have in my vast pile o' music. It also omits artists whose entire output I own in a single collection (like Simon & Garfunkel's Old Friends, for example), and omits any artist for whom I own any full-length CD in addition to a best-of set. My Sly & the Family Stone's Greatest Hits isn't listed because I also have the group's debut A Whole New Thing--the damned Greatest Hits set doesn't include "Underdog" or "Trip To Your Heart," and I needed those. I needed 'em, I tell ya!
1910 Fruitgum Company
The 5th Dimension
The American Breed
The Boomtown Rats
The Del Fuegos
Eddie & the Hot Rods
Flo & Eddie
The Four Tops
Freddie & the Dreamers
J. Geils Band
Gerry & the Pacemakers
Tommy James & the Shondells
Jay & the Americans
Johnny & the Hurricanes
Johnny Kidd & the Pirates
The Lovin' Spoonful
The Mighty Lemon Drops
The Pretty Things
Toots & the Maytals
Roy Wood's Wizzard
Asterisk: The Ventures (In addition to the best-of set Walk--Don't Run, I have their CD single of "Surf Guitar Medley.")
Blue Oyster Cult
The Grass Roots
The Idle Race
Mott the Hoople
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
They Might Be Giants
Earth, Wind & Fire
BETWIXT AND BETWEEN:
ABBA [two discs sold separately, ABBA Gold and More ABBA Gold]
The Animals [a single-disc and a double-disc set]
The Drifters [two different two-disc sets, chronicling different eras]
The Knickerbockers [a single-disc and a double-disc set]
The New Colony Six [two different single-disc sets]
Pink Floyd [two different single-disc sets]
Suzi Quatro [a single-disc and a double-disc set]
The above list may not be comprehensive, but it's close enough for our informal needs.
I won't rule out ever supplementing some of these best-ofs with more work from the same artist; I'm actually a little surprised that I only had one single Del Shannon CD, and I really oughtta remedy that. But for most of these, the best-of sets listed above are all I'm going to need for the foreseeable future. It's not that I don't love The Yardbirds, but Ultimate! covers 'em pretty well in two discs.
It's purely a matter of one's personal level of obsession, of course. I loved Creedence Clearwater Revival, but finally realized I just didn't listen to them anymore, and sold my copy of Chronicle. On the other hand, my single-disc Partridge Family and Ohio Express best-ofs are supplemented by CD copies of each group (or "group")'s debut album, 'cause there was more I wanted. More! Sometimes we want more. But sometimes the best is enough.
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