greatest hits

REVIEW: Jim Crean – Greatest Hits (2018)

In a surprising turn of events, Jim Crean has been named the new singer for Vinnie Vincent! So it is a perfect time to review Jim Crean’s Greatest Hits.

JIM CREAN – Greatest Hits (2018 Visionary Noise)

Buffalo’s Jim Crean has four solo albums under his belt.   That’s a good minimum before you release a greatest hits.  There is enough material here for a solid listen, including two new songs from Crean’s forthcoming fifth album.

Several of the best tracks are hard rockers from Crean’s Insatiable. “Touch” remains a standout, a great song any rock songwriter would be envious of.  Not to mention Crean’s power-pipes lay waste to the chorus.  Check out the metal riffing on “Follow Your Heart”, too.  These taffy-sweet tracks claw into your cranium via your ear canal.  All you can do is surrender to it.

Crean’s also capable of standout ballads.  “Make It” and “Can’t Find My Way” (a duet with Mike Tramp) are fantastic.  Then he goes vintage Aerosmith on “She Goes Down”, a song that could have fit nicely on an album like Toys in the Attic.

There are a handful of covers on the 16 track album, and interesting choices too.  “Caught in the Middle” is, of course, Dio, performed with Jimmy Bain and Vinny Appice.  “Over the Edge” is early 90s L.A. Guns, an excellent groove.  Crean also covered fellow Buffalo band the Goo Goo Dolls with the acoustic “Cuz You’re Gone”, one of the Goo’s finest ballads.

What about the new songs?  “Scream Taker” sounds like a Ronnie Dio tribute, with the lyrics cut and pasted from Rainbow, Black Sabbath and Dio songs.  “Scream Taker” indicates that Crean has gone heavier on his fifth record.  The other new song, “Conflicted” has a strong traditional metal riffy vibe.  (Is that Billy Sheehan on bass?)  Both these new songs hint at a great album to come.  Guitarist Steph Honde, who plays on both new songs says that while the new Crean album will be a bit heavier, there will also be some great ballads.

Don’t have any Jim Crean yet?  Pick up his Greatest Hits to catch up.

4.5/5 stars

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REVIEW: Judas Priest – Greatest Hits (2008 Sony Steel Box)

 

Welcome back to GREATEST HITS WEEK! This week we are looking at different, interesting hits albums from various bands. Today we re- visit the Mighty Priest, for the second of a Priest double-shot!

Monday:  EXTREME – The Best of Extreme: An Accidental Collication of Atoms? (1997)
Tuesday: JUDAS PRIEST – The Best of Judas Priest (1978/2000 Insight Series)


JUDAS PRIEST – Greatest Hits (2008 Sony/BMG Steel Box Collection)

Ever buy a CD for no real good reason?  I have all these songs, because I already own every song Priest has ever released.  I saw this Judas Priest compilation, from the “Sony Steel Box” collection, at my local Best Buy for a few measly dollars.  There are a few artists who have hits albums in this collection, such as Aerosmith.  I just wanted one of the steel boxes, so I chose Priest.  I chose Priest because of the brief, but interesting track listing.  There are some odd choices for a greatest hits disc:  “Rock Hard Ride Free”, and “Rock You All Around the World”, for example, instead of “Heading Out to the Highway”, “A Touch of Evil”, “Painkiller”,  or other better know singles.  Hell, where’s “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” or any song from Screaming?  You do get two “new” songs from Angel of Retribution.  Needless to say, for a 10-track hits CD, it was an interesting selection of songs, so I chose this one.  I have only played it once, so it’s time to revisit and assign a rating.

This is where we run into the flaw with these Sony steel boxes — the front cover and back cover art is just a sticker, that wraps around the case.  When you open the case, it damages the sticker where it covers the hinge, digging huge creases all over the spine.  I’ve opened my copy a couple of times and see what it looks like already?  That’s me being careful.

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“Breaking the Law” has always worked well in the opening position.  Off with a bang (literally; the first sound is a snare drum), we are now off to the races.  This Greatest Hits concentrates almost entirely on material from British Steel and after, collecting a lot of Priest music from their simple, straightforward metal period of the 1980’s.  There is nothing wrong with that of course, but it lacks the balance that earlier more complex tracks like “Victim of Changes” would have brought to the table.  “Breaking the Law” and “Living After Midnight”, both classics culled from British Steel, get the job done on a hit laden note.  The sound is fine, as it appears these were lifted from the Priest remasters.

I’m not sure the logic in choosing “Out of the Cold”, a synth-laden slow crawler from Turbo.  There is nothing wrong with it of course, it was and remains a stormy fan classic.  That’s just it though, it’s a fan classic, not a well known hit that the band play in concert.  On a 10 song CD, it seems an odd choice, but it leads well into the dark “Love Bites”.  I went through a period of about three days in grade 8 of being completely obsessed with this song.  The things I liked about it, such as the choppy rhythms and hypnotic vocals, are still striking today.  It also flows perfectly into “Rock You All Around the World”, which unfortunately is pretty much just filler that should have been donated to the Scorpions.

I still think it terms of albums having “sides”, and I wonder if whoever sequenced this CD had the same thought?  “Rock You All Around the World” is a great side closer, as it filled that slot on Turbo.  Then the next track is the very different “Diamonds and Rust” (live version from Unleashed in the East).  It’s as if you have started a new side.  Another track from Defenders of the Faith (“Rock Hard Ride Free”) brings the listener back to the 80’s.  Although it was not a single, it was good enough to be one.  Back to the Turbo album for the third time, “Turbo Lover” is a song that still gets occasional radio airplay.  It’s funny how this robotic and very dated song is still loved today.  I wouldn’t have predicted that.

“Turbo Lover” is the last of the golden oldies, since the last two tracks are off Angel of Retribution, Priest’s glorious reunion album with Rob Halford after a long solo career.  Strange though that the single “Revolution” is not one of these tracks.  “Deal With the Devil” was an OK tune, a good heavy album tune that was of the same quality as similar songs from Painkiller.  “Worth Fighting For” was excellent – a midtempo quiet rocker that almost borders on ballad territory.  This song was a triumph, a really excellent song worth of the Priest canon.  Unfortunately in this case, a quiet midtempo near-ballad does not work to close a Priest compilation.  It works as a song to build into another song, but here it just leaves you hanging.  Sloppy sequencing.

Rating the steel book CD is not a reflection on the songs or the band, just the CD itself.  There are too many serious omissions (“Metal Gods:, “Freewheel Burning”, hello!) for it to rate highly.  The flawed packaging design is the final nail in the steel box.

2/5 stars

JUDAS PRIEST GREATEST HITS 2008Thanks to Geoff over at the 1001 Albums in 10 Years for the “Excel”lent inspiration!

 

 

 

#367: Greatest Hits 2

lebrainsgreatest2

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#367: Greatest Hits 2
A sequel to #364: Greatest Hits

The last time we talked about greatest hits albums, I listed seven reasons that die-hard fans usually shun them.  Readers came up with some of their own, and also arguments to defend greatest hits albums.  I usually advise fans to buy key studio albums rather than compilations, depending on the person.  Yet I still own a few hundred greatest hits albums. There have to be good reasons.

And what about you?  How many do you own?  What are your favourites?  Why did you buy them?  I asked myself those three questions too.  #1. I don’t know.  #2. There are many, but Double Platinum and Killers by Kiss are up there.  #3.  Let’s talk about that in depth…I broke it down into seven points:

KENNY_00011. There are some artists that I barely know. Neil Diamond or Kenny Rogers, for example.  There might be a handful of songs I like, but not enough that I have heard to take the plunge and buy an actual album. Or, I know it’s an artist that I don’t want many albums from.  I have a feeling that I only want one or two CDs, so one of them is usually a greatest hits.  I collect a lot of music, but I can’t collect everybody. Sometimes I’ve done the research to know that I need one or two CDs and nothing more.

2. Exclusive tracks are often dangled as bait. But sometimes greatest hits albums are stuffed with exclusive radio edits and remixes that aren’t obviously credited. Kiss’ Double Platinum is one such album. Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits had a number of special edits of songs. Collectors like myself often look for such versions. They make for an enjoyable way to hear a familiar song with a slightly different slant.

SAM_17443. Artwork. Younger folks might not understand why this matters, but I come from the age of physical product. With some bands, you don’t want just the music. You want all the album covers too; they are sometimes as important as any other aspect of the music. Iron Maiden is the first, obvious example. I own several Iron Maiden greatest hits discs simply because I wanted to own all the Eddies. There is a certain satisfaction in viewing them all lined up in order.

4. Historical importance. Some greatest hits albums are just historically important. Best of Van Halen Volume I for example – even if I didn’t buy it for the two new songs, I would have wanted it for the significant role it played in breaking up Van Hagar! You might want to own Their Greatest Hits by the Eagles for the fact it’s the top selling hits album of all time.

5. Sometimes, I actually do listen to greatest hits! Sure, not often by comparison. But if I’m in the car with the Mrs., she might prefer a Deep Purple greatest hits set to a 5 disc version of Made in Japan. I own ‘em, so if they’re good I may as well play ‘em. Also, If I’m going somewhere and I only have an hour or so to listen to music, a greatest hits album often scratches whatever itch I have.

6. Gateway music. My entrance into the world of Thin Lizzy was one CD (Dedication: The Very Best of).

DEDICATIONThat point is the most important one.  Using a greatest hits album to delve further in the discography is such an excellent experience.  My first two Deep Purple’s were greatest hits.  Now my Purple collection is of a prodigious size.  I don’t even know how many I have.  100 maybe?  More?  And it keeps growing!

My first Floyd? Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd.  My first Rush?  Chronicles.  First ZZ Top? Greatest Hits.  See where I’m going with this?  These are bands that, today, I am still collecting.  I still buy whatever’s coming out.  Which brings me to my last point.

7. Personal history.  I’ve developed a relationship with some of those greatest hits albums over the years, even if they have been superseded by better ones.  Something about the familiarity, I suppose.  But even though all my first greatest hits albums were on cassette, I still went and bought CD copies of them all.  In some cases, vinyl too!

What are your favourites?  Does it bother you to own multiple copies of the same songs?  If your favourite band came out with a greatest hits album tomorrow, would you consider buying it?  Let me know!

 

REVIEW: Whitesnake – Greatest Hits (1994)

WSWHITESNAKE – Greatest Hits (1994 Geffen)

I don’t own this CD.  Never have, actually.  I gave it enough in-store play (only while working alone!) that I have no problem reviewing it. This Greatest Hits CD dates back to 1994, the year I first started working at the Record Store. As such, it was the first ever official Whitesnake Greatest Hits CD, the first of many. The band had been broken up for about four years at that point. Even by 1994 standards, it was only an OK release. It did contain some rare tracks, but was limited to Whitesnake’s 1984-1989 Geffen output only. For budget-priced collections, I would recommend the cheaper 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection because it still has all the hit singles from that period at a lower price. For fans who need more, the much better Whitesnake Gold or Silver Anniversary Collection make a more complete picture with more rarities and deep album cuts. These of course weren’t available in 1994.  Today music buyers have a lot more to choose from.

One inclusion that some listeners may not enjoy about Greatest Hits is the version of “Here I Go Again” chosen. This is not the well-known album version that most people have heard. This is the “single remix” with different guitar solos (by guest Dan Huff) and more keyboards. Some radio stations do play it from time to time, but I think most casual buyers would listen to this and say, “I don’t like it as much”.  And nor do I, but it is a rarity.

Otherwise, this album (like 20th Century Masters) contains every hit single from the period, and nothing from the blues-based records before. It does feature some other cool rarities: the B-side “Sweet Lady Luck” featuring Steve Vai, “Looking For Love”, and “You’re Gonna Break My Heart Again”. However, with the many compilations and remasters released since 1994, these songs are no longer hard to find. “Sweet Lady Luck” was even released on a Steve Vai boxed set!

Rounding out this selection of hits and rare tracks are deeper album cuts.  These are include the glossy Kashmir-esque “Judgement Day”, “Crying in the Rain ’87”, “Slow Poke Music” and the wicked “Slide It In”.  They help balance out the ballad-y hits that Whitesnake were adept at writing.

Interestingly, when this album was released, David Coverdale assembled a new, shortlived Whitesnake and toured for it. That version of Whitesnake included former members Rudy Sarzo and Adrian Vandenberg, both of the 1987-1990 version of the band. It also included drummer Denny Carmassi (Coverdale-Page) and guitarist Warren DeMartini (Ratt). Shame that no live recordings from this version of the band have never been released. The band disolved for several year again after this, only to reform in 1997 with a new lineup including Carmassi and Vandenberg.

This album is only mildly better than 20th Century Masters, but is inferior to the more recent, more comprehensive compilations I have mentioned. Buy at a sensible price point.

2/5 stars
WSBACK

#364: Greatest Hits

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#364: Greatest Hits

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, greatest hits records have been around for as long as rock and roll has.  Elvis’ Golden Records, one of the most famous early greatest hits albums from 1958, has sold over 6 million copies.  Some believe it to be the  very first greatest hits album, ever.  Elvis only had four albums out at that point, one of them a Christmas record.  It was a selection of Elvis’ single A’s and B’s, and its success meant that it would be followed by many sequels.  (Interestingly, five hits on it were composed by the duo of Lieber and Stoller!)

A couple decades later, the Eagles released their best selling album of all time.  Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975) has sold over 42 million copies to date, and is the third highest selling album in history.  Not long after, Aerosmith released their first Greatest Hits, a collection of single edits and radio versions of their best songs, and one non-album track (“Come Together”, from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band soundtrack).  It has sold over 11 million copies.

These releases, and many more, have made greatest hits discs a lucrative cash cow for record labels.  On it on it goes; you’re not a success until you’ve released your first greatest hits disc.  Some bands have always resisted releasing collections of pre-existing music, others have not put such value in their integrity.  Hits albums are usually looked at with disdain by the die-hards and “purists”, but make an easy gateway purchase for people not (yet) interested in the discography.

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Why do die-hard fans look down on hits albums so much?

1. A more recent practice from the 1980’s and 1990’s was to include two or three new songs, forcing fans to buy old songs over again just to get the new ones.  It’s such a common practice now that it’s expected, but we still resent it.

2. Live versions. Even if we choose to buy or listen to a greatest hits album, a lot of the time the familiar original versions are replaced with inferior live ones.  Casual music listeners don’t usually seek live versions, and die hard fans usually already have the live albums.  It just serves to make the listening experience less than it should be.

3. While it is certainly not a rule, for the kind of music we listen to, a studio album is often a self contained work, not just a collection of songs.  There is usually a direction and purpose for the songs.  Listening to songs out of their intended context doesn’t always work, but nine times out of ten, they are best appreciated on the original album.

4. Who else but a die-hard fan would be a better self-proclaimed expert to criticize the song selections on a “greatest hits”?

5. Artistic non-involvement. Few hits albums have any input from the artists themselves.  Without the artist contributing, a greatest hits becomes just another product assembled by record company suits, most of the time.

6. Cash grab. Many greatest hits album stink of the whiff of “record company cash-grab”, usually at opportune times.

7. Snob attitude. “Don’t buy the greatest hits!  Just buy all the albums!”

What do you like about greatest hits albums?

lebrainsgreatest

REVIEW: Foo Fighters – Greatest Hits (CD/DVD set)

These 16 songs are what we’re calling our “Greatest Hits.” Not to be confused with “Our Best Songs” or “Our Favorite Songs,” it is a collection of the songs that have defined our band’s identity to most people over the years. The other 65 album tracks… well, some of those might be our greatest songs. “Aurora”, “New Way Home”, “MIA”, “Exhausted”, “A320” … depends on whom you ask. Personally, I don’t think we’ve written our greatest songs yet. But that door is always open. – Dave Grohl, 2009

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FOO FIGHTERS – Greatest Hits (2009 Roswell Records CD/DVD set)

November 2009 was a great month for Dave Grohl fans, with this release of their Greatest Hits CD, a slew of Nirvana, and Them Crooked Vultures. As far as the hits disc goes, I would recommend that you purchase the version that comes with the bonus DVD. It includes almost all of the Foo’s wonderful witty and goofy music videos as well as live cuts.

I actually don’t have too many beefs with the CD track listing itself. Granted, Foo singles and Foo album tracks are often two different beasts and equally good. As Dave points out in the liner notes (great liner notes by the way) maybe “Aurora” should have been included in a tracklist of the “best” Foo songs. More songs from the first album could have been here. I’m sure you could pick out a dozen more. All the tracks here are singles or new songs. By and large though, no big deal, as long as you dig deeper into the Foo catalogue after hearing this CD.

What about those two new songs?

“Wheels” has a neat opening riff that sounds like country music with feedback! I like this song alot. Honestly, I think this is a country song in disguise. Imagine Dwight Yoakam doing it. See what I mean? As far as Foo songs go, maybe this would fit right in with There Is Nothing Left To Lose material. Great chorus, there’s even a little twang in the chorus. It has an epic quality. Cool crashing chords in the chorus, too.

“Word Forward” starts acoustic, punctuated with some electric guitar. Not quite as strong as “Wheels”, the melody is a bit more awkward. This sounds more like B-side material to me. It’s a shame because I quite like the clean-picked opening guitar, the dynamics, and a lot of the chords, it’s just the melodies of the song that don’t work for me.

IMG_00001618_editThe flow of the songs isn’t perfect. A song like the electric version of “Everlong”, to me, is a song that goes on the later half of a CD (aka “side 2” to us old folks). To me it’s a song that builds up to a closing climax of an album. If I had chosen this exact same track list, I would have had the songs in a different order so they flow better in terms of mood. Also, I think a few too many fast Foo tracks are presented in a row without enough of their wonderful slower songs to break things up. Look at the first four tracks in a row: “All My Life”, “Best Of You”, “Everlong” and “The Pretender” are four fast heavy ones in a row, followed by “My Hero” which is still pretty heavy. It’s like putting your foot on the gas pedal and not taking it off even when your passenger is giving you terrified looks!

The album ends with an acoustic version of “Everlong” (not from the Skin and Bones CD, this is an unreleased 1996 demo). While this spare, Grohl-only version of the most epic of epic Foo songs is great, as a closer it’s not my choice, at least not for an album like this. It kind of left me hanging.  I’m not bitching about getting an unreleased demo of a classic song, I just don’t think last was the right place in the running order for it.

I can only give the CD-only version 3.5/5 stars, because it’s a little underwhelming and I’m sure you, as a fan, could have made a better mix CD. Pick up the version with the DVD — 4.5/5 stars on that one.

REVIEW: The Jam – Greatest Hits (1991)

 

THE JAM – Greatest Hits (1991 Polydor)

I’ll admit that this is the only Jam that I own; about 10 years ago I decided that I loved this compilation enough to buy the Direction Reaction Creation box set. That box contained the entirety of their studio recordings.  Maybe it was too much Jam at once, or maybe their albums were just not as good as their singles. Whatever; I found that this Greatest Hits was enough Jam for me.  Yet I love all 19 songs.  You’d think I’d be into their albums, if I already liked 19/19 Jam songs on this CD

There’s a great variety of tunes on Greatest Hits: everything’s here from the punk rock snarl of the opener “In The City” to the mournful “That’s Entertainment” to the upbeat fun of “Beat Surrender”. In between you will find some of the catchiest bass lines ever recorded, topped by the undeniable lyrics of Paul Weller. To write this many truly great singles…well you just don’t see it that often.

The Jam rocked, The Jam were cool, from punk rock to Motown soul and funk, these guys did it all and did it well. You would be well advised to pick this up.  It’s cheap now, too.  Less than $5, used.

Songs I really, really like that you may already know:

  • “Down at the Tube Station at Midnight”
  • “The Eton Rifles”
  • “Town Called Malice”
  • “David Watts”
  • “The Bitterst Pill (I Ever Had To Swallow)”

I later bought a second Jam compilation album called Collection.  It concentrated on album tracks and deep cuts and I didn’t like it.  Normally I would advise readers to pick up original studio albums rather than compilations.  This time I feel the opposite way.  I have to rate Greatest Hits:

5/5 stars

REVIEW: KISS – Greatest Hits (European import 1997)

Part 37 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster

KISS – Greatest Hits (1997, Europe only)

Wait a minute — wasn’t the last review I did a Kiss compilation from 1997 called Greatest Kiss?  Yup!  Welcome to Kiss – the compilation years.  This is why fans such as me were losing their patience.

Yet, I paid $40 to order this from Europe, wanting my Kiss collection to be as complete as possible.   My employers wondered what the hell was wrong with me, spending $40 for 20 songs that I already had.  I guess it’s hard to understand if you’re not from the Kiss Army!

Greatest Hits was released in Europe hot on the heels of Greatest Kiss. For the fifth time in a row, Kiss had released a non-original, non-studio album. This had never happened before. (For the record, the four before this one were Alive III, MTV Unplugged, You Wanted The Best, and Greatest Kiss.  And this doesn’t include Kiss My Ass.)

The tracklisting is actually a little interesting. Greatest Kiss only had one non-makeup song (“God Gave Rock And Roll To You II”) and this one has three: “Crazy Crazy Nights”, “Lick It Up”, and “God Gave”. That alone was unexpected and I remember listening to this CD, glad that Kiss weren’t totally disregarding the 80’s.

Aside from this, it’s a pretty ordinary compilation and covers a lot of ground already on Greatest Kiss. I did detect one bad edit between tracks, where a fade did not end completely. This was dissapointing to me, and combined with the lack of any sort of liner notes in the packaging, smacked of a rush-job and cash-in.

Thankfully, Kiss were listening, and finally released a studio album next.  Puzzling the general public even more, the next album didn’t have the original lineup.  TO BE CONTINUED…

2/5 stars