I very rarely agree that best-of albums are a good idea. Maybe you could make the argument that they are a gateway into an unknown artist’s work for a beginner, but what if that artist’s songs are inseparable from the album? But sometimes there can be sense in releasing a greatest hits record other than being a complete cash grab. The below listed are my favourite greatest-hits, singles, and “best-of” compilations that I bought upon release at a young age, when I was just a young’un wearing baggy jeans and wallet chain, sculpting my music taste that it is today. This is probably the only list you will see the following artists/bands share.
5. Green Day – International Superhits!
I stand by the fact that Green Day is not a very good band, more so than ever right now, and that’s why this greatest hits album is great, because Green Day have some amazing angsty tracks, especially from their run in the late 90s, which is where the majority of these tracks come from. ‘Superhits!’ was released years before the coveted American Idiot too, so a follow-up “best-of” was of course put out, but it shared 11 of this album’s tracks. And that is why I think best-of comps a complete cash-ins.
4. Basement Jaxx – The Singles
Basement Jaxx’s singles are the best club tracks to grace the earth. The Singles features every variant of dance music possible. This album, one track after another, is hit after hit. It bounces from r&b, to soul, to alt-rock, sometimes the songs don’t even sound like they’re by the same band. And that’s why a compilation album makes sense. The record also comes with two brand new tracks that are of chart topping caliber, “Oh My Gosh” being probably my favourite Jaxx track ever.
3. Nina Simone – The Very Best of Nina Simone
Nina Simone was a hot commodity around the time this comp came out, it surely must have been marketing ingenuity having Nina’s songs feature all over the place, and when attention is peaked, BAM, drop a best-of record. A Nina track was all over a yoghurt commercial in the UK at the time, and strangely enough, “Sinnerman” was featured in a gritty graffiti video game. The moment I first heard “Sinnerman,” I knew I had stumbled on to something special. I put two and two together and figured out “Sinnerman” and the yoghurt track were the same artist, and then this comp presents itself to me. I think a best-of Simone works well because she has about 50,000 albums, so knowing where to start could be tough, though it is missing some key Nina tracks.
2. Fatboy Slim – Why Try Harder: The Greatest Hits
At the age of 14, this was the greatest musical package I could ever get. 18 classic Fatboy Slim tracks and DVD featuring some of the greatest music videos of all time. Again, there are a couple of new tracks that totally steal the thunder of the classics. Fatboy Slim’s proper albums, if I’m being totally honest with myself, can be a but spotty, and the big beat and funk nature of the tracks lends itself well to a sprawling hit-heavy greatest hits record. Also, it features great artwork; Norman Cook’s mascot literally gracing the cover of the album (the US Edition cover is so great too.)
1. Pavement – Quarantine The Past: The Best of Pavement
I was already well aware of indie rock’s punk pranksters long before the release of their best-of attempt. The magic of this compilation is that the music was clearly hand picked, and “best-of” doesn’t mean the hits in this case, as there are some deep cuts here, and I mean real deep cuts. There could be several other versions of this that would be much more linear featuring many better known hits. It’s hard to understand who this is for, newcomers aren’t really gonna appreciate “Mellow Jazz Docent” being on here, and fans who already own the band’s albums and have no need for it, but it’s a great retrospective of one the greatest bands of all time that compiles all sides of Pavement. And the artwork is killer.