Greatest hits albums have a poor reputation among the record-collecting elite. To some, owning a greatest hits record is akin to dismissing an artist’s oeuvre; it’s a big, fat sign that says, “I don’t care enough about this artist to explore their work further.” Well, we think that’s kind of a dumb assertion. Let’s face it, some greatest hits albums are not only the perfect representation of their artists, but they can play like a proper album on their own. Here are a few of the greatest hits albums we’ve deemed essential to own.
Yes, we know that Hotel California is missing off of this comp, but there really isn’t enough beyond Hotel California to justify including any of the more career-comprehensive Eagles collections. Besides, a singles collection is the best way to go with a band who was, at their early ‘70s peak, one of the greatest singles bands going. There’s a reason why this was the best-selling album of all time for so long.
For reasons both iconoclastic and financial, a lot of the early British punk bands never released proper albums, preferring to put out 45 after 45 for their brief existence. The Buzzcocks are the prime example of this, and their singles collection is easily one of the essential documents of the punk era. An inspiration to the likes of Green Day and the Libertines, Singles Going Steady is proof that a good single (or twenty) is all you need to change the world.
Queen were a band whose ambition led to the occasional mis-step on their albums, but they knew their way around a killer single. The cutoff date here means that a few of the band’s later singles aren’t represented (no “Radio Ga Ga” or “I Want To Break Free”), but all of the truly essential Queen songs are here, along with the undeniable “Under Pressure.” That song alone is worth the price of entry; the rest of the tracklist just makes the deal sweeter.
This one is a bit of an anomaly, since CCR’s albums are top-notch from beginning to end. Still, Chronicle is a remarkable collection that takes the form of a proper album thanks to CCR’s consistent, unmistakable sound. Also, any band who puts something like CCR’s 11-minute rendition of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” on an album ostensibly meant for casual fans deserves some respect.
Nowadays, most compilations include the “obligatory two new songs” to get longtime fans to buy songs they already own. Green Day were no exception to this, throwing “Maria” and “Poprocks & Coke” into this collection of their pre-American Idiot singles. Still, International Superhits never plays like a cheap cash-in; it’s a carefully collected, streamlined album that picks out a lot of the best moments from a band that was still trying to find their feet after unexpectedly becoming mainstream stars.