In the increasingly hip world of indie/alternative fans, compilation albums are almost blasphemous. Why would you buy Radiohead: The Best Of, when each Radiohead album is a masterwork? However, some artists are best appreciated when heard in the context of a well-constructed compilation album. Here are seven compilation albums that are definitely worth owning.
1. The Smiths - Hatful of Hollow/Louder Than Bombs
Though the Smiths released four excellent studio albums during its five-year career, the standalone singles the band released are just as important to its legacy, if not more so. 1984's Hatful of Hollow compiles the gloomy singles, b-sides, and radio sessions from the Smiths first year together, while 1987's Louder Than Bombs does the same with the brighter songs of the band's later days.
2. The Kinks - Well Respected Kinks
The Kinks was just one of the many bands that established the LP as a work of art in the mid to late-'60s, but none of its earliest LP's are quite as essential. Despite this, the band released its most popular songs during this early period, including "You Really Got Me" and "A Well Respected Man," which can be found along with eight other classics on the extremely brief Well Respected Kinks compilation.
3. Morrissey - Bona Drag
Viva Hate and Your Arsenal might be the best of Morrissey's studio albums, but his best solo release overall is 1990's Bona Drag, a compilation of 14 songs (A-sides and B-sides) released as singles during his first two years as a solo act. This album contains some of Morrissey's most essential songs, such as "November Spawned a Monster" and "Interesting Drug."
4. Rush - The Spirit of Radio: Greatest Hits 1974-1987
Though Rush fans may disagree with me (and I have felt their immense wrath before), the band's only start-to-finish great LP is 1981's Moving Pictures. However, Rush has a ton of excellent songs spread out over its entire career, and all of the best can be found on The Spirit of Radio: Greatest Hits 1974-1987. Most essential on this compilation is the track "2112 Overture/The Temples of Syrinx," which is the first seven minutes (the best part) of the band's twenty-minute "2112" suite, probably the band's greatest song.
5. The Beach Boys - Endless Summer
Much like the Kinks, the Beach Boys released a ton of incredible singles before settling down to focus on LP's, and instead of buying all of the band's early albums to hear these singles, you'd be better off just getting Endless Summer, which compiles the band's hits from before Pet Sounds. This is one of those albums where you know pretty much every song before you even put the record on.
6. Chuck Berry - The Great Twenty-Eight
It's almost a travesty to me that Elvis Presley is considered to be the king of rock & roll. Not because Elvis isn't great, but because Chuck Berry is even better. He was the greatest rock guitarist in the pre-Beatles era, and most importantly, he wrote all of his own songs, twenty-eight of which are compiled on The Great Twenty-Eight, which Rolling Stone named the 21st greatest album of all time.
7. The Supremes - The Ultimate Collection
Whenever I hear a song as perfect as "You Can't Hurry Love," I can't help but wonder why record producers felt the need to try any other techniques, when they had the formula nailed right then and there in 1966. Though The Supremes Anthology may be the most expansive collection of Supremes songs, it's an absurdly massive compilation with three different editions, each with altered tracklistings. A more concise alternative would be the single disc Ultimate Collection, containing 25 of their best-known hits (though tracks 1-17 is the gold mine, all written by Motown genius team Holland-Dozier-Holland).
What are some of your favorite compilation albums? Let us know in the comments section!