I still own Bruce Springsteen’s single-disc Greatest Hits and the triple-disc set, The Essential Bruce Springsteen. What about when he released that four-disc box-set Tracks. Then the bastards put out a single-disc version called, somewhat unimaginatively, 18 Tracks. And that featured three songs that were not on the box-set. Man, that’s cruel. I actually tempered my approach to being a completist music buyer because of that particular example right there. That and the fact that I one day realised I owned at least five different Lou Reed anthologies of one kind or another.
It is annoying. You get used to the version of the hits that you grew up with, and/or first heard. To me, The Very Best of Cat Stevens, which I basically simultaneously love and loathe, is the one with the cover that references Teaser and the Firecat and Tea for the Tillerman with its similar cover-pic. Not the one with that beardy-folky pre-Jose Gonzalez in side profile. Sure, that one’s got extra songs. But it’s not as good as the one I first had on tape, and which my dad did his best to ensure would become synonymous with the Napier-Taupo road during car-trips to Auckland.
I am not that happy with that newer Dylan set – again – there’s a single-disc and a 3-CD version. Pah! I would rather have Masterpieces. That’s the one I know. And sometimes the new, extended greatest hits has far too much of the band on it. Give me the 14-track Cars’ Greatest Hits over the alleged Complete Greatest Hits (which, to me, is inferior).
Double-disc greatest hits albums can be as great – or as bad – as the dreaded double-live album. But often a compact setlist on a compact-disc is what is required. And I know none of this matters anymore – what with playlists and listening to music online and away from ‘albums’ as such. But a collection – a compilation – is a collection. You want it curated. You want the very best. Not the best of the best and then most of the rest as well because there’s room or it’s a way to charge more or whatever…
Legend is probably one of my favourite ever Greatest Hits albums. This is a top greatest hits album. So, why do we need One Love: The Very Best of Bob Marley and The Wailers. Dumb.
Is it just me, or does this multiple-versions-of-greatest-hits thing bug you too?