Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Greatest Hits

I guess it was the last Bob Dylan Greatest Hits package that prompted me to thinking about Greatest Hits. I can understand why Dylan's had so many – he's still churning out albums that have at least one potential nugget on them, though many of his Greatest Hits albums are pretty repetitive (Pitchfork gave Dylan, the 2007 compilation, a 1.3 rating, along with a list of other Greatest Hits where the songs had appeared before). Other artists have died, or stopped making records years ago yet still have a re-packaged Greatest Hits album out once every couple of years.

Dylans include:
Greatest Hits (1967); More Greatest Hits (also known as Greatest Hits Vol II) (1971); Masterpieces (1978); Biograph (1985); Greatest Hits 2 (1993); Greatest Hits Vol.3 (1994); The Best of Bob Dylan (1997); The Very Best of Bob Dylan (2000); Best of Bob Dylan Vol.2 (2001); The Essential Bob Dylan (2000); The Best of Bob Dylan (2005); Blues (2006); Dylan (2007); The Collection (2009); The Best of the Original Mono Recordings (2010)...

Even Dylan – whose recording career has lasted something like fifty years, hasn't released many more Greatest Hits albums than, say, Roxy Music – who I love, don't get me wrong. But they haven't made a studio album since the early 80s (and only released less than ten albums) yet seem to have a repackaged Greatest Hits every couple of years. Okay, Ferry is still bringing out stuff, but nothing worthy to put on a new Greatest Hits.

Roxy Music/Bryan Ferrys include:
Greatest Hits (1973); The Atlantic Years (1983); Street Life: 20 Greatest Hits (1987); Bryan Ferry – the Ultimate collection with Roxy Music (1988) – NB: This was the first CD I ever bought. I was hesitant about buying CDs at first – the media all said they wouldn't last (physically) and recommended keeping them in the freezer to prolong their longevity. Which I may have actually done once or twice; More Than This: the Best of Bryan Ferry & Roxy Music (1995); The Thrill Of It All (4CD Box Set) (1995); The Early Years (2000); Bryan Ferry: Slave to Love – The Best of the Ballads (2000); The Best of Roxy Music (2001); Roxy Music: The Collection (2004); Bryan Ferry: The Collection (2004); Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music: The Platinum Collection (2004)...

I know of people who never buy Greatest Hits and frown upon those who do (though the annoying thing with some of Dylan's is they'll contain a song or two previously unreleased... meaning completists like myself have to buy them). They often disagree with the choices and believe if you like the artist, you should buy all their albums (though in the age of mp3s we can all make our own Greatest Hits). I don't know, with some bands you only really need a Greatest Hits package; buying all their albums can be an expensive (and bulky) way to find out you don't really like them that much after all. But then there's bands like The Libertines who only released two albums – and yet have a Greatest Hits album. Come on, if you like them you may as well buy both albums.

Aside from Greatest Hits, record companies are good at other ways of repackaging what we've already got and make us want it again. Remastered CDs, reissues with bonus tracks, live tracks, out-takes, bonus DVDs of live tracks, SACDs... Talk about flogging a dead horse. I invariably fall for it sometimes. The Band's remastered CDs all have plenty of bonus tracks of out-takes and as I only had their albums on LP I thought I'd revisit them again. They're great.

(It seems worse with DVDs. Directors cuts, extra footage, and now Blu-Ray and HD DVD ensures we buy the same thing at least twice. Do they think we're stupid or are we stupid?

DVDs annoy me. Every time I want to do something a little crossed circle appears. Usually I just want to play the film and not have to watch the piracy commercial and various trailers and wait for the menu to come up (with VHS you just FF!). This is especially annoying when my daughter wants to watch a DVD. This means she wants to watch it now. By the time I'm able to press 'Play Feature' it's five minutes later and she's either lost her temper or lost interest or both.)

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