The best Best of Best of
May 10, 2008 4:30 AM   Subscribe

Rob O'Connor provides a list of the best 'Best Of' albums

19) The Motown Box--Various Artists: It's not just any label that can release a boxed set of their best acts and establish both group identity and label identity. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Four Tops all carved out their sound within the confines of a Detroit recording studio and the overhearing ears of Berry Gordy Jr. The label was a hit-making machine like Disney is today but loving and benevolent where now there is only the face of evil.
posted by Kirth Gerson (54 comments total)

 
No 'Story of The Clash' or 'The Essential Clash' or anything like that, huh? Oh, and my favorite band sucks, your favorite band sucks, list posts suck, and this will probably not end well.
posted by fixedgear at 4:39 AM on May 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


I was hoping for more creativity in this. Beatles, Stones, Neil Young, Who, ... whatever. I was thinking more along the lines of Billy Idol's Greatest Hits. I mean, the guy didn't have enough good material to produce a single decent album, but his Greatest Hits collection is a borderline classic.
posted by psmealey at 4:42 AM on May 10, 2008


Sometimes I think the world's gotten the Best Of me.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:46 AM on May 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


What part of bestoftheweb don't you understand?
posted by mds35 at 4:49 AM on May 10, 2008


OMG! FPP to Yahoo news story! Why not this? Why do this?

I am ringing up the flag hammer!

Wait...I just put more effort into my shitty comment than the post!
posted by zerobyproxy at 5:05 AM on May 10, 2008


Well, it's no Santa seen by NORAD, but I found it interesting.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:12 AM on May 10, 2008


That was totally ....uninspired.
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 5:37 AM on May 10, 2008


Purchasing a BestOf album in the age of iTunes is laziness beyond words. If your catalog of Nirvana or The Doors consists of nothing save the tracks picked by some studio tool you should be buggered in the ass with a trenching shovel and sent to work in the salt mines.
posted by docpops at 6:49 AM on May 10, 2008


Where's James Taylor's Greatest Hits? Think what you will of the man, but that greatest hits album is fairly ubiquitous across music collections. And there's really no better example of that era of singer-songwriter popularity.
posted by grabbingsand at 7:01 AM on May 10, 2008


pedestrian.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 7:11 AM on May 10, 2008


Think what you will of the man...

OK.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:11 AM on May 10, 2008


The Platinum Collection is better for Blondie. Hitsville USA: The Motown Singles Collection 1959-1971 is a better Motown box set. The Great Twenty-Eight is all the Chuck Berry you need unless you really like Chuck Berry.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:27 AM on May 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow. More than 6000 comments from Yahoo! readers. How do you even begin to wade into that? My guess, you don't.
posted by netbros at 7:33 AM on May 10, 2008


There are some gems among those 6K+ comments, like 'how can you leave off Thriller?' I love the internets.
posted by fixedgear at 7:41 AM on May 10, 2008


mds35: "What part of bestoftheweb don't you understand?"

Well this is the best of the best of the web.
posted by octothorpe at 7:49 AM on May 10, 2008


Purchasing a BestOf album in the age of iTunes is laziness beyond words. If your catalog of Nirvana or The Doors consists of nothing save the tracks picked by some studio tool you should be buggered in the ass with a trenching shovel and sent to work in the salt mines.

I think you miss one of the major points of the greatest hits album. It exists in part so that you can introduce yourself to a band/artist you know little about. If you'd never heard a Nirvana song and wanted to know what the fuss is about, how are you supposed to pick a representative sample from iTunes? The whole point is to have someone else pick it out for you. And what about an artist that spanned decades? How is a beginner to know to what key tracks and albums are low and highpoints? Sure you could do some research, read some articles, and not be 'lazy,' but who would do that for an artist you don't know if you will even like?
posted by boubelium at 7:49 AM on May 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Kevin: I'm not really a Doors fan, but sure I'd like to get into them...
Bruce: No no no my friend! Doors fans aren't made, they're born. I think right now in Africa there's some guy madly beating on a drum. He's a Doors fan. Or an old lady sitting on the bus sucking humbugs. She's a Rider On The Storm, but she ain't never heard the sounds.
[Bruce looks at Kevin and snaps his fingers.]
Bruce: So what about you?
Kevin: Well I heard a record of theirs last night at a party...
Bruce: Yeah?
Kevin: ...and I've always liked Love Her Madly.
Bruce: Well, if you become a Doors fan, Love Her Madly is the only song you won't like.
Kevin: Oh right! [Looking through the record bin eagerly] I guess I should start with the Greatest Hits?!
Bruce: Hey! Greatest Hits are for housewives and little girls!

posted by The Card Cheat at 7:52 AM on May 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


kirkaracha - I was just debating this morning whether or not I liked Chuck Berry enough to get the new complete 4 disc 1950's Chess recordings. You are spot on regarding the Great Twenty-Eight, which really is all the fun Chuck Berry and some extras thrown in for thoroughness.
posted by boubelium at 7:56 AM on May 10, 2008


BouBelium: "...think you miss one of the major points of the greatest hits album. It exists in part so that you can introduce yourself to a band/artist you know little about."

Best Of albums exist solely so the companies that have swindled the rights to the music out of the hands of the musicians who wrote and performed the songs can squeeze yet more profit out of the same material packaged in a different way. There's nothing "best" about that.

Yes. I've bought best of albums before. Yes I feel like a tool. Bite me.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:58 AM on May 10, 2008


I used to say that I hated James Taylor so much that I wanted to set his house on fire and beat him and his family to death with a baseball bat as they ran screaming from the flames. But I've mellowed since then. Not enough to be able to stand James Taylor songs, but mellower nonetheless. So I'm glad his greatest hits didn't make this lazy list.
posted by goatdog at 8:24 AM on May 10, 2008


The problem with any "Best of..." list is, of course, that it immediately attracts a storm of "OMG I can beleeve you lef off Neil Dimond's dimonds... Man You suk!" retorts (not so much here -- but there was certainly some vitriol in the comment stream attached to the list link itself.)

So rather than rant about its absence, I will simply add to the musical quality of everyone's world by suggesting to you that, if you're into "Best of..."s and you're a fan of The Band, then you simply can't do better than: "The Band: A Musical History". I suppose to be completely correct it isn't so much a "Best of..." as it is an "Everything from..." Its five CDs (102 tracks starting from their days as The Hawks when they backed Ronnie Hawkins) and one DVD (nine video pieces) come beautifully bound into a coffee table book that is in itself a wonderful literary history of the group, populated with dozens of photos. There are other Band "Best of..." albums out there, but this one has what's on all of them, and a whole lot more. It's definitely for fans; way too much for the simply curious. (If you are just curious, then I strongly recommend you get hold of Scorcese's film of their farewell concert, "The Last Waltz". Although I should tell you that it is so damned good it likely will make you an instant fan.

I wonder why that scheisskopf list maker left this one off his list. Oh man he sukks like a HepaFilter.
posted by Mike D at 8:28 AM on May 10, 2008


Sucks
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:38 AM on May 10, 2008


MetaFilter is somehow simultaneously the best and worst place to talk about music.
posted by danb at 8:55 AM on May 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


James Taylor is a saint, GoatDog! How dare you! You take that back!!1! You meanie!

I once made a YouTube video where I completely failed to sing one of James Taylor's songs, I like his stuff that much. I would link to it here, but I'd hate to derail this thread by tricking everyone into insulting and criticizing my terrible singing so as to stop this insipid best of best of best of talk.

*dramatic pause*

Actually, come to think of it, I'd love to derail this thread, cuz talking about best of lists, and how bad best of lists are, is almost as stupid as me singing on YouTube. ...God I'm fat.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:22 AM on May 10, 2008


Thank god Sly was given props.
posted by nonmerci at 9:40 AM on May 10, 2008


Best Of albums exist solely so the companies that have swindled the rights to the music out of the hands of the musicians who wrote and performed the songs can squeeze yet more profit out of the same material packaged in a different way. There's nothing "best" about that.

Yes of course record companies are huge dicks, but writing all of them off is pure ignorance. For starters you are ignoring the Best of Singles collections which can often feature tracks that were released as singles but never part of any album. The Brits do this to me all the time, and everyone did it pre-1970. Now with iTunes it is easier to track down all the singles, but not everything is available. For instance, the Beatles standard Lady Madonna, is not on any album. It is only available as the original vinyl single or from a compilation/best of album. So, while many Best ofs are lame attempts at squeezing out profit, the existence of non-album singles alone is reason enough for the existence of the Best of.
posted by boubelium at 9:44 AM on May 10, 2008


Though, in retrospect, his knowledge of the inner-workings of Stone himself is disappointing. It's common knowledge that Sly was a pretty serious cokehead, so I think if we're going to theorize on his ability to work his band into overdrive or possible craziness, it'd be irresponsible and even laughable to ignore this fact.

All you have to do is listen to "Everybody is a Star" for evidence--you do not write this kind of song without being hopped up on cocaine. Listen to all of those perfect "ba-ba-ba"s if you're unconvinced.
posted by nonmerci at 9:45 AM on May 10, 2008


On the note of worthwhile Best Ofs, you really can't beat "Troubadour" by Donovan. It's two CDs jam-packed with some early stuff (like the Buffy St. Marie cover, "Codine") and various songs that didn't get on any of his albums ("Lalena", "Teen Angel", "Epistle to Dippy" and loads more great psychedelic stuff with Jimmy Page, John Bonham and John Paul Jones providing the studio support). It's a wonderful two-CD set and even though I'm a Hardcore Donovan Fan, I still find myself listening to it from time to time because of what a wonderful collection it is. I mean, you'll be hard-pressed to find a lot of the unreleased stuff on it ("Breezes of Patchouli" being one of my favorite examples) and it also has several of his later songs that have thusfar not been rereleased (tracks from Cosmic Wheels, a beautiful song called "Dark Eyed Blue Jean Angel" off of Slow Down World).

It's nice to be able to hear on CD what you can otherwise only hear on LP (and yes, I have several Donovan LPs for this very reason).
posted by nonmerci at 9:52 AM on May 10, 2008


God, this is another ballad of idiotic RONGness from Rob O'Connor. It manages to combine lazy, obvious choices with veneration of favorite artists over good music. That Prince "Best Of" is weak, especially in the second half (mostly because Prince has never had a Best Of that truly is). He misses canonical entries like Singles Going Steady and Madonna's Immaculate Collection, Bowie's Changes, Abba Gold, 50000 Fall Fans Can't Be Wrong… Look, for more Greatest Hits, generally chosen by people who know what the fuck they're talking about, who aren't glib dipshits, try here.
posted by klangklangston at 10:06 AM on May 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


the Beatles standard Lady Madonna, is not on any album. It is only available as the original vinyl single or from a compilation/best of album

Arguably, we'd all be better off, and that includes the Beatles, if Lady Madonna (and the rest of McCartney's tin pan alley dreck) had never seen the light of day.
posted by psmealey at 10:23 AM on May 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Your favourite 'best of' album sucks.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:27 AM on May 10, 2008


this is one long confusing garden path that leads to patches of poison ivy and long afternoons of tea along the English countryside.

Tea along the English countryside isn't the first thing I think of when I think of the Kinks, but whatever.
posted by blucevalo at 10:32 AM on May 10, 2008


"Your favourite 'best of' album sucks."

Yes, but your favorite clichéd Onion-ism sucks more.
posted by klangklangston at 10:57 AM on May 10, 2008


"Your favourite 'best of' album sucks."

Yes, but your favorite clichéd Onion-ism sucks more.
posted by klangklangston at 7:57 PM on May 10 [+] [!]

Because it's clearly only PeterMcDermott that ever uses this trope. But hey, glad to see you flexing your tired self-righteous muscle!
posted by nonmerci at 11:11 AM on May 10, 2008


Whoops, forgot the italics.
posted by nonmerci at 11:12 AM on May 10, 2008


Best Of's are better when they come from bands in which the individual albums are not great on the whole but a few tracks from each album make one great one. In that sense, I can't consider a best of from the Beatles a great best of for the simple reason that each Beatles album was great on its own.

A band that I never wanted a full album from but still love every minute of this best of.

posted by gfrobe at 11:39 AM on May 10, 2008


"Because it's clearly only PeterMcDermott that ever uses this trope. But hey, glad to see you flexing your tired self-righteous muscle!"

I'm sure yours sucks too.

(And he said it this time. That's why I quoted him.)
posted by klangklangston at 11:48 AM on May 10, 2008


'Greatest Hits' spelled sideways is 'Shite targets'. COINCIDENCE???
posted by subgear at 12:03 PM on May 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Thank you The Card Cheat! Exactly what I think of every time I look askance at a "greatest hits" collection.

This sort of thing really needs some sort of angle, or at least some rules. Like, the 25 "best of" albums that people usually own in place of a proper studio album. Or, the 25 "best of" albums from bands that only had two hits and the rest of their catalog absolutely sucks. And, btw, boxed sets are not really greatest hits collections; two-disc maximum, please, and even that's a stretch.

Just trying to keep the pedantic thing going.
posted by eric1halfb at 12:28 PM on May 10, 2008


The Platinum Collection is better for Blondie.

I agree. Also, Louder Than Bombs isn't a "best of" album. It's a collection of singles and B-sides that weren't widely released in the US. The Smiths' best-of is, not surprisingly, "The Very Best Of The Smiths", and it isn't that great. You'd be better off just buying Meat Is Murder and The Queen Is Dead. And the two "All The Stuff And More" albums are better than "Ramones Mania".

My favorite best-ofs:
Buzzcocks - Operators Manual
New Order - Best Of New Order (1995 version, there's also a newer Europe-only one which isn't as good)
Suzanne Vega - Retrospective

And I'm probably forgetting one or two. All of these are great because they have songs you can't get just by buying all the albums. "Best-ofs" that just lazily throw together a bunch of album tracks are basically useless.

Of course, all of these kind of lists only exist to fill space and no one ever agrees with them except the person who wrote it.
posted by DecemberBoy at 1:01 PM on May 10, 2008


It's all Johnny Mathis' fault. His 1958 Johnny’s Greatest Hits was the first-ever best-of and was on the Billboard Album Chart for 490 consecutive weeks (nine and a half years).

The Housemartins did two albums and a double-album best-of (which had different versions of some of the songs).

Like, the 25 'best of' albums that people usually own in place of a proper studio album.

#1 Steve Miller Band, Greatest Hits 1974-1978
#2 Squeeze, Singles - 45's and Under

posted by kirkaracha at 1:09 PM on May 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


No love for The Faces "Good Boys...When They're Asleep"? That collection trumps at least half that list.
posted by Ber at 1:32 PM on May 10, 2008


Back before iTunes, I would use greatest hits albums as a way of either introducing myself to a band that I did not previously know or of getting singles from artists whose albums I didn't especially want or because I could afford one album instead of six. Frankly, I could care less whether that makes me a philistine or not. Occcasionally, I would even buy one because it had new or different versions of songs on it.

In the iTunes era, I generally download whole albums.

Some Greatest Hits albums that I enjoyed include:

Sand In the Vaseline by The Talking Heads (early rarities; four "new" songs; eliminates need to buy True Stories and Naked)
Just What I Needed by The Cars (if you're a fan and already own their debut album, this eliminates the need to purchase any other Cars products ever)
Time Capsule by Matthew Sweet (Man, could he write singles)
Carry On Up The Charts by The Beautiful South (barely played in the U.S.A. thus a good introduction)
The Best of Blur by Blur (Rarely played in my area and thus a good inctroduction)
Supergrass is 10 by Supergrass (see above)
Absolute Classic Master Pieces by Felt (see above)
Queen's Greatest Hits by Queen (because I had to have about 10 of the songs and wanted to save $$$)
Girls Girls Girls by Elvis Costello (because, at the time, I couldn't afford to buy his first six albums, which I've since bought)
Greatest Hits by Duran Duran (because I gave up trying to hate them buy didn't want to buy a full album)
Singles - 45's and Under by Squeeze (because I was 16 when it came out and didn't know it was a greatest hits album for like another year)
Steppin' Out by Joe Jackson (an album he disavowed, but I didn't know that at the time and it saved me from having to buy his back catalog)
Minor Threat: Complete Discography by Minor Threat (because its basically everything they ever put out on one CD)

Actually, there's about 10 more.

Now that there is iTunes and have a steady stream of income, the only reason I'd buy a greatest hits collection would be if I wanted to purchase more than $10 in singles from a specific artist. In that case, the $10.99 greatest hits collection would make a certain amount of economic sense.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:39 PM on May 10, 2008


Minor Threat: Complete Discography by Minor Threat (because its basically everything they ever put out on one CD)

It IS everything they ever released. The self-titled LP, "12XU" from the "Flex Your Head" comp, and the later EPs after Brian Baker moved to guitar. If there was anything else, I've never heard of it. They definitely have the highest influence-to-recorded-output ratio ever. Another one like that is The Germs' "MIA", which I think is also everything they ever released.

Also, your mentioning Elvis Costello reminded me that the "Very Best Of Elvis Costello and The Attractions" that Rykodisc put out in the mid-90s is another best-of I like, since it basically introduced me to his music, but it does fall into the thrown-together album tracks category. I also have 2-disc greatest hits collections by George Jones, Hank Williams and Patsy Cline that I like a lot, which are good because a lot of their output never made it to CD except in compilation form.
posted by DecemberBoy at 3:08 PM on May 10, 2008


Staring At The Sea--The Cure

You know, I just put a GH's double-album of theirs on my mp3 player, being only passingly familiar with them, and when I listen to the first three seconds of each of their songs, I suddenly realize that 95% of them are started with the sound of drumstick strikes. Ok, a song or two, that's cool. But almost all of them??
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:20 PM on May 10, 2008


It's all fine and good as long as I never, ever have to hear Bob Marley Legend again.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:32 PM on May 10, 2008


I suddenly realize that 95% of them are started with the sound of drumstick strikes.

I just played the first couple seconds of each song on several Cure albums (Disintegration, Faith, Japanese Whispers, The Head On The Door, and Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me) to see if you were right and I'd never noticed it before, and almost none of them start with drumstick strikes. Only a few even have any kind of drum intro. I don't know what songs you're listening to.
posted by DecemberBoy at 6:57 PM on May 10, 2008


Perhaps it's just the ones that made it onto this GH compilation. I don't actually own any Cure albums. Do their "best" songs start that way? It was rather odd.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:50 PM on May 10, 2008


My top 5 (in no order whatsoever):
Singles Going Steady - The Buzzcocks
Sunrise - Elvis Presley
Star Time - James Brown
40 Greatest Hits - Hank Williams
20th Anniversaire, Vol. 1 - Franco

As mentioned above, compilations are an excellent resource for singles and other non-album tracks. Since the LP is a postwar innovation, most releases by an artist whose heyday was prior to the late '50s is a compilation. Discounting the form out of hand is, in other words, preventing yourself from enjoying pre-Verve Billie Holiday, Hank Williams, Sun-era Elvis, Louis Jordan, etc., etc. Rock-era compilations serve a useful purpose, too, and occasionally outstrip any LP in an artist's catalog (e.g., the aforementioned Billy Joel and James Taylor, plus best-ofs from the Isley Brothers, Animals, Zombies, Ohio Players, Hollies, Monkees, ad nausuem, YMMV).
posted by joseph_elmhurst at 1:40 AM on May 11, 2008


Air Supply's Greatest Hits was a triumph of musical engineering! A coup de grace aforementioned beyond the pale of civilized discourse in a modern world of strength, excellence and virtue far surpassing the veil of truth and the shroud of discovery! And no, I didn't just type all that with a straight face.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:59 AM on May 11, 2008


I believe that there are entries on this list that are inappropriate, and I would replace them with other entries.
posted by Kwine at 7:37 AM on May 11, 2008


I believe there are best of compilations that are inappropriate, and I would replace them with actual albums.

No wait...

I believe the recording industry should make their music libraries for the past century digital, free, and available online, and then they should board up their windows and go out of business. I would replace them with actual musicians of the future representing themselves.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:28 AM on May 11, 2008


grabbingsand: "Where's James Taylor's Greatest Hits? Think what you will of the man, but that greatest hits album is fairly ubiquitous across music collections. And there's really no better example of that era of singer-songwriter popularity."

Also notably absent, Cat Stevens.
posted by geekyguy at 12:19 PM on May 11, 2008


Sand In the Vaseline by The Talking Heads (early rarities; four "new" songs; eliminates need to buy True Stories and Naked)

I'm with you on both the quality of "Sand In The Vaseline" and the elimination of the need to buy "Naked", but I love True Stories. I mean, really, I wouldn't object too much if Sand also included two of my favorite songs ever "Dream Operator" and "People Like Us", but jeez.

At least it has "This Must Be The Place", which is the best song ever written ever by anyone.
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 7:36 PM on May 11, 2008


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