My name is Mike. I live in Lancsater County. I used to live in Hawaii. i like Burritos, Guitars and Stuff.
A lot of music collectors look down on the Greatest Hits album, the Best Of Compilation and the “Singles” collections of our favorite recording artists. Oddly enough, much hullabaloo has been bandied about for the lofty and occasionally bloated “box set’.
There are greatest hits collections that serve as little more than a contractual obligation album. Ted Nugent’s Great Gonzos comes to mind. Epic records needed one more album from Terrible Ted, they rounded about 45 minutes worth of music and tossed it into the marketplace.
One of the more interesting greatest hits strategies that I witnessed was from Badfinger. In 1990 Rhino records released The Best Of Badfinger Vol. 2, covering their recorded output from 1974 to 1980. It would be another five years before Capitol (Apple) records would release “The Best Of Badfinger” covering their recorded output from the first half of their career.
There are some bands I just don’t have the time to chase around. Many recorded artists in my music collection have been scaled down to a “Best Of Playlist” in my iTunes. Soundgarden, John Mayer, Dave Matthews and Kenny Chesney all have a “go to” greatest hits collection that I draw up when I want to listen to them. The nice thing is, I decide what a “great hit” is and what ain’t.
Below is a list of “Greatest Hits” albums that I think were done right..
Being a dyed in the wool Monkees fan that I am, I have to hold their original Greatest Hits album in very high regard.
For me, this album had everything. Released in 1969, the pre-fab four were falling out of favor with the record buying public. Things were not going well in the band. Peter Tork had left the group that year. This is a look back at the best of times. But we weren't looking back.
This was my Holy Grail of Monkees records.
The Monkees Golden Hits was a hard album to get. You could not just roll into a record store and buy it. No.. You had to save up box tops from Post cereals and send it a few bucks,which my Mom did out of the goodness of her heart. I waited every day by the mailbox for this to arrive. And when it did, it arrived in two pieces. I never got a good copy of this album, I did however create a digital version of this one to listen to. It's shorter than the original Greatest Hits album. But there was yet one more nostalgic look back.
This was the last hurrah for the Monkees. Now reduced to a duo after the departure of Michael Nesmith, this album focused on many of their lesser known tracks (this was a double album), I enjoy this collection. In the years ahead, Bell Records, Arista Records and Rhino Records have released best of collections, but i remain faithful to the original Colgems records.
What you see here are two albums with the exact same titles. But two drastically different listening experiences. (Both very good)
The Steve Miller Band
Few have enjoyed the longevity and staying power of Steve Miller. While not a teen idol, he was a perrinial prescence on both the pop charts and in the record collections of the most discriminating rock afficianado.
Steve Miller's career and be divided into two parts by these two collections. "Anthology" covers his early period from the 1960's into the early 1970's. Anthology is in my opinion a great document of Miller's experiental phase, on occasion teaming up with of all people Paul McCartney on a couple of songs. Living In The USA, Space Cowboy and Seasons are worth the price of admission. "Greatest Hits 1974 - 1978" is his commercial best, however incorrectly branded. The earliest track on this album is "The Joker" which came out in 1973. Miller once told me that this collection sold approximately 3 million copies a year.
This album features edited versions of many of Queen's best songs. It would have made a great double album, and the vinyl versions of this album suffered in sound quality by having so many songs crammed on one side of vinyl, but dang it. You can repackage it all you want. THIS is THE Queen Greatest Hits collection, all others pale in comparison. A sly trick that Freddie and company pulled was the inclusion of "Under Pressure" the duet with David Bowie would appear on Queen's NEXT album called Hot Space. We just didn't know that at the time. Tom Petty would perform a similar stunt on two different compilations by adding a song that did not appear on any earlier albums. Special points also given to Journey and The Foo Fighters who used this chess move to their favor.
Pink Floyd made me laugh for two reasons on this one. First of which, a best of collection from a band known for 23 minute songs, to fit on one album was an ambitious undertaking. And titling it as a "Collection of great dance songs", there's even more irony there. Of all of their compilations, I enjoy this one the most. Special points awarded for the rerecorded version of "Money".
Is this the "Third" Boston abum?
For as long as musicians have been playing in bands, their legacies have been wrought with the age old malady of “Creative Differences”. These differences will cause one of three things to happen.
Ahh, the solo album. The musical nugget of self indulgence. That moment to show there world that the old band would be so much better off, if they’d just use some of my songs.
The original line of a band is a sacred thing among fans. In 1974, drummer John Rutsey left Rush and caused the only line up change in Rush’s 40 year history. Neil Peart joined the band just in time to record their second album “Fly By Night”, but is still widely regarded as “the new guy”. So when the original line up of a band splinters, it causes some separation anxiety among long time fans. Sometimes the solo album is like an assuring note to fans that “everything is going to be OK”.
In 1968, things were not going well in Pink Floyd. Their leader, guitarist and singer Syd Barrett had suffered the rigors of hallucinogenic drugs, and bizarre behavior and depression had made him become a liability to Pink Floyd. His eventual ouster came, by replacing him with his childhood friend David Gilmour, who coincidentally taught Barrett how to play guitar. His departure was needed, but approached reluctantly. When it was time for Syd to continue with his recording career, his first solo album “The Madcap Laughs” was produced by Floyd bassist (and then leader of Pink Floyd) Roger Waters. Syd’s follow up album simply titled “Barrett” was produced by Floyd guitarist David Gilmour. The music on those two releases were erratic, humorous, manic and brilliant. At this point Syd Barrett was a different man. In the coming years, each member of Pink Floyd would release solo recordings. Roger Waters “The Pros And Cons Of Hitchhiking” and David Gilmours’ Self titled effort were magnificent. Nick Mason’s “Fictitious Spirits” and Richard Wright’s 1978 album “Wet Dream” were monumentally forgettable.
In the early 1980’s CBS records, (home to such musical heavyweights of the time like Ted Nugent, Aerosmith, Blue Öyster Cult and Boston) realized that there was money to be made by releasing recordings of members of dormant bands, or by members who have recently left high profile bands. One album to raise the eyebrows of fans was Barry Goudreau, who in 1979 split from the group Boston. Fans were hungry for a third Boston album, and since his former band would take the next few years recording the follow up to 1978’s Don’t Look Back, a subsidiary of Epic records, Portrait records offered Barry a solo contract. What came out, sounded too much like Boston for his former boss Tom Scholz to feel happy with. Armed with Boston vocalist Brad Delp, drummer Sib Hashian and another vocalist who doubled on bass named Fran Cosmo (The original bass player for Boston was named Fran Sheehan.. Coincedence? You decide), lawsuits ensued. CBS also issued an interesting effort by former Ted Nugent Vocalist Derek St. Holmes, and recently emancipated Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford simply called “Whitford St. Holmes”. While the musical direction of the album was not what one might expect from members of Nugent/Aerosmith, the album was very good. Blue Öyster Cult guitarist Buck Dharma released a solo album at the height of BÖC’s popularity called “Born To Rock”, also a solid effort.
One solo project which ha confounded me for years, was that of Thin Lizzy leader Phillip Lynott. Lynott called the shots in Thin Lizzy, he was their leader, songwriter and frontman. In 1980 he released “Solo In Soho” and “The Phillip Lynott Album” in 1982, to critical acclaim, but confusing many longtime Lizzy fans. The music on these albums embraced the “New Wave” boom happening at the time, and had less to do with guitar driven rock of Thin Lizzy.
The 80’s also brought a solo career by Phil Collins. which brought forth fruit that was musically indistinguishable from what his band Genesis was doing at the time. Even Tom Petty could not resist the lure of a solo project. In 1989 he released Full Moon Fever which was released free of the “Heartbreakers” moniker, but not without every member of his band with the exception of drummer Stan Lynch.
In the most bloated, ego driven move in modern music, all four members of Kiss released solo albums. It showed the world what talent Paul Stanley and Ace Frehley had, and showing how much Gene Simmons did not.
There is one solo project was one that never “actually” existed. In 1972, Spinal Tap guitarist Nigel Tufnel recorded a solo album called “Calm Caravan”, but due to a mixup while the album artwork was being done, the album was “released” under the name “Clam Caravan”.
My personal favorite solo albums..
Davey Johnstone - Smiling Face (Elton John Guitarist)
Neal Schon - Beyond The Thunder (Journey Guitarist)
Glenn Hughes - Feel (Deep Purple/Trapeze Bassist - Black Sabbath Vocalist)
Syd Barrett - The Madcap Laughs - (Pink Floyd Guitarist)
Bill Ward - Along The Way (Black Sabbath Drummer)
Barry Goudreau - ST - (Boston Guitarist)
Nigel Olsson - Drum Orchestra and Chorus (Elton John drummer)
Bob Mould - Black Sheets Of Rain (Hüsker Dü guitarist)
Peter Green - Reaching the cold 100 (Fleetwood Mac Guitarist)
Jerry Garcia - Garcia (You know who he is)
This not a live album for those who wanna get "mellow"..
The early 1970's treated us to some noteworthy "double" live albums.. Albums who's volume of sheer awesomeness could not be contained on one mere 12 phonograph record. No, this was going to take TWO albums. Grand Funk, Humble Pie and The Allman Brothers were front runners in the art of mind blowing, headphone cranked, epic live album. Heck, Yes offered up a triple live album, which still stands as one of the great all time live albums. The Grateful Dead's Europe 72 was a great triple offering which still stands up today.
Something strange happened in 1975. Peter Frampton was having a hard time getting his solo career going after leaving Humble Pie. He had released three solo albums, to great critical acclaim, but to a commercial strike out. In a masterstroke A&M records released Frampton Comes Alive as a hail mary. The album recorded well, with performances that sounded inspired, and a crowd that was whipped into a frenzy. It didn't take long for Frampton Comes Alive to be a staple of rock radio. It took off like a rocket commercially, causing music fans to ask themselves where this Frampton guy was hanging out, and how did they miss him?
Pretty soon, there was a flood of live albums in the market place. Double albums were soon released by everyone from Barry Manilow to Grand Funk (again) to Kiss (Twice within 3 years), The Bee Gees and Genesis. Record labels saw the live album as a way to jumpstart an artists career or breathe new life into a waning commercial career. This was all bandwagon jumping trying to cash in on the fervor of Frampton.
Aerosmith released "Live Bootleg" in 1978. Joe Perry told Hit Parader magazine that the album was made of bootleg tapes they had siezed, and they put a stereo mix to the tapes and released it. However, a standard practice would make his statement to be false. There were a lot of studio tricks going on, fixing a guitar solo here, a vocal here. Bass guitarist Billy Sheehan (David Lee Roth, Mr. Big, UFO, Talas) lamented in an interview that he was sad to find that many of the live albums he grew up loving were in fact studio recordings, with drum tracks (and occasionally bass guitar tracks) recorded live. Both Kiss and Thin Lizzy came under fire for their use of studio "fixing" of classic live albums. Still the double live format continued. Ted Nugent's Double Live Gonzo was a must have for every hard rock fan that I knew growing up.
There was also a surge in single album released happening. The Pat Travers Band, Blue Öyster Cult and Foghat put out landmark live albums. Paul McCartney and Wings released the loaded "Wings Over America" triple album to great response.
Here is my list (in no particular order) of great single live album releases.
Blue Öyster Cult - Some Enchanted Evening
Foghat - Live
Judas Priest - Unleashed In The East
Johnny Winter And - Live
AC/DC - If You Want Blood, You Got It
Joe Walsh - You Can't Argue With A Sick Mind
Cheap Trick - At Budokan
Ted Nugent & The Amboy Dukes - Survival Of The Fittest
Black Sabbath - Live At Last (seek out the remaster, the first pressing sounded awful)
Pat Travers Band - Go For What You Know
Motorhead - No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith
Here is a list of some of the double live albums I thought were really good. Some of them were popular, some, not so popular..
Peter Frampton - Frampton Comes Alive (That's a given)
Kiss - Alive
Thin Lizzy - Live And Dangerous (Their follow up live album "Life" is also really good).
UFO - Strangers In The Night
Gary Moore - We Want Moore
The Bee Gees - Here At Last.. Live
Aerosmith - Live Bootleg
Humble Pie - Live At The Filmore
Allman Brothers - Live At The Filmore
Ian Hunter - Welcome To The Club.
Scorpions - Tokyo Tapes
Queen - Live Killers
Genesis - Seconds Out
Rush - All The World's A Stage
Ted Nugent - Double Live Gonzo
Jethro Tull - Bursting Out
There were a few live albums that looked good on paper. Both Grand Funk Railroad and Styx released double live albums called "Caught In The Act". Both albums suffered a disasterous reception, and a commercial failure that for all intents and purposes derailed their respective bands. Fleetwood Mac's live album from the early 1980's looked and sounded great, but went nowhere for the band. The Eagles' "Live", was an example of a good album that didn't connect with the listening public as well as it should have. The Rolling Stones live output has been dicey at best. "Get Your Ya Ya's Out" garnered "classic status among Stones fans, where their double live offering "Love You Live" did the band no favor. To my ear, 1982's "Still Life" (single album) stands as their best live recording, along with the recently released and deleted "Rolling Stones At Hyde Park" live album.
These days, the medium of the CD and the MP3 has blurred the single/double paradigm. The Clash's "From Here To Eternitiy" is another live recording which is ambitious and gratifying. Dave Matthews, Pearl Jam, Phish and The Grateful Dead have released many double and multiple live collections..
One album stands above the fray, with a release as a single disc, but then fattened up to a double album - and actually IMPROVED the album would be The Who - Live At Leeds. UFO's bonus track treatment of their "Strangers In The Night" album took om the musical appearance of the Mona Lisa wearing a T shirt.
I'd be interested in knowing what live albums that you the reader enjoy.