Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
In each of my previous Compilation Or Catalog? posts I discussed a compilation which was the only album I owned by a particular artist. The goal was to listen to it a number of times, figure out which tracks made the most impact on me, and then ask my readers if it’s worth exploring more of that artist’s discography or if the compilation is all I need. In most cases I chose to do some further exploration and discovered many great albums in the process.
Now I’ve decided to try something slightly different. As I’ve stated many times before, I tend to be a completest when it comes to the artists I love, which means I usually own everything in their officially released catalogs. In the majority of cases I’ve started with one or a handful of particular albums and subsequently amassed my collection of that artist’s work, but in some cases my obsession began with a simple “Best Of” or “Greatest Hits.” These are the collections that inspired me to become a devoted fan of each artist, or what I refer to as MY GATEWAY COMPILATIONS. There’s no need for me to ask the question “Compilation Or Catalog?” with these artists. Instead, I’ll tell you about each compilation, approximately when I first heard it, and how many other records I own by those artists as a direct result of that initial exposure to their music.
Compilation Title/Original Year Of Release: CHICAGO IX – CHICAGO’S GREATEST HITS (1975)
Number Of Albums I Now Own By This Artist: 18, including all of their studio albums through Chicago 17, three officially released live albums and one unofficial live CD recorded in 1974
I’m pretty sure I got this Chicago compilation from the Columbia House Record Club as part of their “13 Records For $1” deal around ‘78 or ‘79. I knew many of the songs from the radio (“Saturday In The Park,” “Just You ‘N’ Me,” “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”) and from early attempts at forming a cover band (“25 Or 6 To 4”). For a few years this was all the Chicago I needed but I eventually became a big fan and realized that their album tracks often presented completely different aspects of their music. They incorporated hard rock, classical, funk, psychedelia and many other styles into their sound, and the musicianship was always impressive (especially their late, great guitarist/vocalist Terry Kath). How these guys have never even been nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame is beyond me but, considering what a joke that institution is, they should take it as a compliment.
Artist: BOB MARLEY AND THE WAILERS
Compilation Title/Original Year Of Release: LEGEND – THE BEST OF BOB MARLEY AND THE WAILERS (1984)
Number Of Albums I Now Own By This Artist: 17, including all of his Island Records studio & live albums (4 of them Deluxe Editions), a couple of collections of his pre-Island recordings, 2 other compilations, the 4-CD Songs Of Freedom box set and the Blu-ray edition of Legend with surround sound mixes of the entire compilation
My initial exposure to reggae, like many other white suburbanites growing up in the ‘70s, came via Eric Clapton’s cover of Marley’s “I Shot The Sheriff” and maybe Paul Simon’s “Mother And Child Reunion.” Then during the summer I turned 20 (in 1986), when I was working at my third record store (Sam Goody), one of the managers played Legend nearly every day. It took a few listens to fully sink in but I was quickly hooked and bought my own copy of the CD. A couple of years later I really dove into Marley’s catalog and became a huge fan. Legend might be the quintessential compilation…a perfect distillation of Marley & The Wailers’ output. Even though it misses out on some of their harder-edged and Afrobeat-inspired material found on albums like Survival, there isn’t a better introduction to Marley’s music. A friend of mine used to joke that “reggae is one song,” to which I always suggested he listen to just one Bob Marley album. Eventually he did and now he admits that his earlier opinion was misinformed. There’s so much diversity in his discography that he almost transcends reggae. I also give this compilation credit for expanding my reggae horizons toward artists like Jimmy Cliff, Peter Tosh, Burning Spear, Culture, Third World, Majek Fashek, Steel Pulse, Ziggy Marley, Black Uhuru and many others.
Artist: EARTH, WIND & FIRE
Compilation Title/Original Year Of Release: THE BEST OF EARTH, WIND & FIRE, VOL. 1 (1978)
Number Of Albums I Now Own By This Artist: 23, including every studio album through Millennium (many of which I upgraded from the original CD pressings via The Columbia Masters box set), 4 live albums and The Eternal Dance 3-CD box set
Once again, being a white suburbanite meant that I wasn’t often exposed to “black music” during my childhood, other than the most popular material that showed up on AM radio. Earth, Wind & Fire was a band I knew a little bit about based on their appearance in the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band movie (yes, I saw that when it was still in theaters), performing The Beatles’ “Got To Get You Into My Life,” and disco hits like “Let’s Groove” and “Boogie Wonderland,” but none of these songs appealed to me at the time. At my first job after college, a colleague was playing this compilation and it just hit me. I bought my own copy and became obsessed with it. How had I missed out on such uniquely funky music? Every song here is a winner, from upbeat tunes like “Sing A Song,” Shining Star” and “Getaway” to ballads like “Can’t Hide Love” and “That’s The Way Of The World.” Vocally & instrumentally they’re operating on another level from every other band of their era. They had plenty of amazing songs that came out after the release of this compilation (“In The Stone” and “After The Love Has Gone” are just two examples), but it’s still a great listen and the ideal introduction to the magic of EW&F.
Artist: ELTON JOHN
Compilation Title/Original Year Of Release: ELTON JOHN’S GREATEST HITS (1974)
Number Of Albums I Now Own By This Artist: 38, including all of his officially released studio & live albums (with the exception of Duets), an incredible unofficial live album recorded in 1979 with percussionist Ray Cooper in Moscow, the To Be Continued… 4-CD box set and his collaboration with Leon Russell, The Union
It was hard to escape Elton John’s music as a child of the ‘70s. “Crocodile Rock,” “Daniel,” “Rocket Man” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” were among many radio staples & were constantly played at summer camps by the counselors, and all of these appear on this excellent compilation. Although I knew many of his hits I didn’t own any Elton John albums by the time I began working at my first record store (Music Factory) in 1983. Then one of the managers started playing Elton John’s Greatest Hits every day and it was hard not to fall in love with all of these songs. A few years later I started collecting his individual albums (Tumbleweed Connection is probably my favorite), and his run of 10 great-to-incredible records between 1970’s Elton John and 1976’s Blue Moves has to be considered one of the most creative & prolific periods of any recording artist. This album has been replaced by numerous more comprehensive compilations over the years but it put me on the path to being a big Elton John fan and I still have a fondness for this particular track listing.
Artist: ELVIS COSTELLO
Compilation Title/Original Year Of Release: THE BEST OF ELVIS COSTELLO AND THE ATTRACTIONS (1985)
Number Of Albums I Now Own By This Artist: 20, including all of his studio albums, with & without The Attractions, through All This Useless Beauty, a 5-CD collection of live recordings with keyboardist Steve Nieve and his collaboration with Burt Bacharach, Painted From Memory
I probably first became aware of Elvis Costello in ‘78 or ‘79. I liked some of his songs (“Radio Radio” and “Pump It Up” being two early favorites) but when I bought my first Costello album, 1980’s Get Happy, it didn’t resonate with me (beyond his cover of Sam & Dave’s “I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down”) and I quickly exchanged it for something else. At the time I found myself drawn to similar “angry young man” artists Joe Jackson and Graham Parker, and Costello didn’t have the same impact on me. Over time I came to really like his music, starting with this excellent 19-track collection, and bought the majority of his albums (I’m now a big fan of the aforementioned Get Happy). I’ve since had a love-hate affair with Costello. I think he can often be a little too clever for his own good and he lost me by 2002’s When I Was Cruel. Hopefully one day I’ll rekindle my enjoyment of his music and check out some of his later releases, but I can still highly recommend The Best Of Elvis Costello And The Attractions to anyone who’s curious about his early years.
Artist: CAT STEVENS
Compilation Title/Original Year Of Release: GREATEST HITS (1975)
Number Of Albums I Now Own By This Artist: 13, including all of his studio albums beginning with Mona Bone Jakon, a 2-LP set of his earlier pop material, an unofficial live CD recorded in the mid-‘70s, his two most recent studio albums (billed as Yusuf) and the 4-CD box set Cat Stevens (aka On The Road To Find Out)
Growing up I had very little exposure to Cat Stevens. The father of a kid who lived on my street owned one of his albums on 8-track and I probably heard a few songs in the background, but it always seemed like “parents’ music” to me. That viewpoint changed in 1983, again thanks to my job at Music Factory, where this Greatest Hits album was constantly on the turntable. I may have been into hard rock and more contemporary guitar-based bands at the time, but it’s hard to argue with the quality of songs like “Wild World,” “Moonshadow,” “Peace Train” and the exquisite “Father And Son.” For anyone who thinks it’s nothing but twee acoustic singer-songwriter material, check out his version of Sam Cooke’s “Another Saturday Night” for the rock & roll side of Cat Stevens. His decision at the end of the ‘70s to step away from the limelight, get rid of his possessions and convert to Islam was not without controversy, but his fans remained loyal & eventually he re-emerged (under his new name of Yusuf Islam, or simply Yusuf) and has continued his recording career with that unique voice still intact. It’s nice to have him back, and without this compilation I might never have appreciated him like I do today.
Compilation Title/Original Year Of Release: SANTANA’S GREATEST HITS (1974)
Compilation Title/Original Year Of Release: VIVA SANTANA! (1988)
Number Of Albums I Now Own By This Artist: 32, including every official studio & live album released by Santana (the band) and Carlos Santana up to but not including the crossover pop sensation Supernatural, a couple of officially released archival live albums, the Dance Of The Rainbow Serpent 3-CD box set and an unofficial live CD of the 20th anniversary reunion of the original Santana lineup
Rock radio stations in the late-‘70s didn’t play a wide variety of Santana songs. Usually it was “Oye Como Va,” “Evil Ways” or “Black Magic Woman.” Their Latin-flavored, percussion-heavy music made them stand out from other artists, and my first album was this excellent Greatest Hits collection. My only complaint is that they separated “Black Magic Woman” from its follow-up track on the original album, “Gypsy Queen,” which was omitted here. The fade-out at the end of the track always made me sad, knowing I was missing out on some incredible musicianship that I always heard when they played it on the radio. In 1988 I was shopping in Compact Disc World when I heard an incredible instrumental with stunning guitar work. It was obviously Santana, so I asked one of the clerks & they pointed me to the newly-released 2-CD compilation of album tracks & rare live recordings called Viva Santana! I bought a copy that day and played it over & over in the weeks that followed. The song that caught my ear that day, and which still sends shivers down my spine, is a live recording of “Europa (Earth’s Cry, Heaven’s Smile).” I credit that one track for turning me into a dedicated Santana fan, making this compilation an essential part of my record collection.
Artist: DAVID BOWIE
Compilation Title/Original Year Of Release: CHANGESONEBOWIE (1976)
Number Of Albums I Now Own By This Artist: 31, including every official studio & live album, the original pressing of the Sound + Vision box set and expanded editions of his self-titled debut album and his most recent release, The Next Day
David Bowie was one of those artists I knew about in my pre-teens but had never heard any of his music. None of my friends listened to him and the only image I ever saw was a giant poster over the bed of one of my fellow campers during summer camp. Musically & visually he was a complete enigma to me for many years. Once again, my job at Music Factory would provide a valuable introduction to an essential artist via this wonderful compilation. I’ve already discussed his catalog in great detail via my David Bowie series so I invite you to check that out if you haven’t already done so. That was not only my most popular series based on number of visitors & comments, but his discography was the most eye-opening of all the artists I’ve revisited so far. I believe there are numerous Bowie collections on the market, many covering a larger portion of his career, but I can’t imagine a better primer than this one. If you don’t like what you hear you probably won’t become a fan, but if you love it you’ll definitely want to dig a lot deeper.
This post was originally going to be longer since I have a number of additional titles to discuss, but I’ve decided to split it into two posts since it’s already a little too long as is. I’ll be back in a few days with Part 2, and then somewhere down the line I’ll share more of my favorite compilations with you. I’m eager to begin my next artist series so that’s where my efforts will be focused after the next post. Please let me know which compilations have inspired you to further explore certain artists’ work, and if any of the ones listed here are included. Thank you.
I like the twist on the catalog series!
For me the Billy Joel volume I & II was a gateway double CD that led to some more solid studio efforts (ditto with Sir Elton and the greatest hits you mentioned).
Not your favourite group I know but the Smiths “Best…1” was the start of that obsession for me. There’s since been an obscene amount of compilations for those lads, the lyric “reissue! repackage! repackage!” in one of their tunes has sadly come true.
CCR’s Chronicle, Jimi Hendrix: The ultimate experience, and of course the Beatles ‘red’ double cd opened a few more doors
Glad you like my little twist here, Geoff. By the time that Billy Joel compilation came out I was already a mega fan. Of course I bought it for the two new songs and still revisit it from time to time. There’s no doubt that it’s an awesome introduction to his music.
I actually have two Smiths LPs and a homemade CD compilation that a friend made for me. I like ’em and hope that one day I become a bigger fan, but for now those are sufficient for my needs. I’ve heard that some fans don’t like that “Best…1” comp because it’s not representative of their best material.
Hendrix will definitely be on a future post in this series (and will eventually get his own multi-part series). CCR is a good call. I might have to add that to the list for a future post since “Chronicle” was also my first purchase and I now own all of their albums AND all of Fogerty’s too.
As for The Beatles, those “red” & “blue” comps were stellar. Anyone who came to their music through those records had to be inspired to check out the individual albums.
Thanks for checking in. I appreciate it, as always.
Surprisingly, although I much prefer the later Beatle records, the red 62-66 set is the stronger of the compilations in my opinion.
I’d second that notion about the Smiths Best…1 being a misnomer but in a way, I think that may be a good thing.
You know the movie trailers for comedies where they look promising but then upon seeing the film, you realize all the funny jokes were in the preview?
That’s like the “compilation” artists, where you can condense the career into a snappier set. Further exploration isn’t all that rewarding.
I’ve always preferred the movie trailers that looked somewhat amusing but then the actual movie ended up being hysterical (Old School comes to mind).
I’d say that’s more the case with the Smiths best…the greatest hits ‘preview’ or ‘trailer’ left out most of the best bits!
You’re probably right about the “red” Beatles compilation being the stronger of the two, but they’re both excellent introductions. I don’t have a preferred era of their career…I get just as excited by With The Beatles, Rubber Soul and The White Album…and I’m always amazed by how much musical ground they covered in a recording career that barely lasted 7 years.
I love your points about movie trailers. It’s true that I’d rather have a best-of CD or LP that scratches the surface & leads me to explore even more great music from that artist than finding out that all the best songs were on that compilation.
Is there a more definitive Smiths anthology than fans generally approve of?
Good question – for me there’s no substitute for the book, the songs that saved your life (Simon Goddard), the full recording history.
But in terms of a compilation, the best one would have to be whatever one inspires people to check out more!
Thanks Geoff. I’ll revisit my friend’s homemade Smiths compilation and see if it strikes me more now than it did when I first got it 10 years ago.
Where will you end with Hendrix? LoL
Nelson, I almost included Hendrix in these posts but will probably save him for a future entry in this series. Smash Hits was a big compilation for me when I was a teenager, and it led to a pretty sizable Hendrix collection (although I haven’t bought every barrel-scraping release, just the good ones).
I can’t believe you own 23 Earth Wind & Fire albums.
Gary, you may not believe this, but I predicted you were going to say that. Wasn’t sure if you would tell me in person or write it here, but thanks for proving me right. There are at least 7 or 8 EW&F studio albums that are phenomenal from start to finish. Add in the excellent live albums & box set and I’ve got a pretty good collection of their music. A few of them are forgettable, but that’s the case with most artists.
Great post! My main comment is yes, you absolutely need to dive more into Elvis Costello’s later catalogue! His voice continues to improve, and his songwriting skills are as sharp as ever. Take a listen to “The River in Reverse,” his album with Allen Toussaint, for example — fantastic. If you’re a fan of the earlier stuff, you’re doing yourself a disservice to not listen to his more recent albums — he covers so many styles in the process that you really need to give each album its own listening space, rather than thinking that he’s gone in one particular direction after some given point (in your case, “When I Was Cruel”) that didn’t interest you.
Thanks Dagersh. At some point in the future I will probably warm up to Costello’s music again. My issues have less to do with his songwriting or genre choices (I always admired his diversity) and more to do with the preciousness of his lyrics and his over-enunciated, ultra-vibrato, almost opera-esque vocal stylings. He’s certainly a stronger singer now than he ever was, but his vocal approach hasn’t appealed to me in at least a decade. I appreciate your enthusiasm for his recent work and will take your comments into consideration when I decide to explore those records. The Allen Toussaint collaboration will likely be my first purchase.
Great post! Tempted to give Chicago and (early) Santana a bash. See them often enough …
That Bob Marley compilation is, I dare say, one that most folks will own even if they don’t like the genre. My wife had that one when we met and I actually only really fully appreciated it and Marley’s output recently.
Thanks for stopping by, J. I will be very pleased if this post inspires you to check out Chicago &/or Santana. The former is criminally underrated due to their later ballads and MOR pop hits, but they were a truly groundbreaking band and their first 5 or 6 records are phenomenal. Santana had a longer streak of impressive albums, so I’m sure there must be a good 2-CD anthology of their Columbia years.
Marley’s Legend is definitely the starting point for most listeners, and I’m guessing the majority of them are content with just those songs. Once you explore the individual albums, though, you realize how much amazing material was left off.
Are there any artists you became obsessed with after discovering them via a discography?
I’ll keep an eye out for one of those first 6 in my favourite haunt (they didn’t have anything yesterday).
I think I hit Marley quite a bit after really discovering Legend. Likewise, I discovered Leonard Cohen via a compilation and eventually sought out the majority of his work.
… and the Doors! I fell in love with the Doors via the soundtrack for the Oliver Stone flick.
… The Rolling Stones! Hot Rocks! How could I forget that one? Let me think … what else … Johnny Cash! The Man In Black compilation.
… phew. I expect there are more.
Good call regarding Leonard Cohen. He will probably be included in a future post in this series. I got the 2-CD Essential collection a couple of years ago and within a few months I bought the Complete Studio Albums box set (and have since gotten a number of his live albums). Didn’t think I would fall so hard for his music so it’s been a pleasant surprise. Looking forward to his new album coming out later this month.
Hot Rocks is a fantastic compilation. The Stones have so many comps that it’s hard to pick the best one, but back then it was as comprehensive as we could hope for, at least for their ABKCO years. I became a fan via a number of key studio albums but I still own a number of their comps (they were savvy enough to include rarities or singles-only songs on nearly every one, making them essential for us completists).
Not sure about that particular Johnny Cash compilation but I assume it included his classic Columbia years and possibly his Sun recordings. I became a Cash fan when I was a kid thanks to my dad’s love of country music (Hank Williams Sr. being my all0time favorite), and over the years I’ve accumulated a number of his studio & live albums. There are some great comps & box sets out there which are probably all the Cash that most fans need.
Thanks for sharing those examples. If any others pop into your head, please let me know.
Fascinating post, Rich. You really are a serious music collector. Or perhaps (and I mean this most affectionately) seriously deranged. Thirty-eight Elton albums?
Thanks Bruce. I’ll take that “seriously deranged” comment as a compliment. I know 38 EJ albums is a bit of overkill, but this is where being a completist can occasionally work against me. With that being said, at least a dozen of his albums are top-to-bottom classics, another 7 or 8 are very good with a few killer songs on each, and the remainder are somewhere between hit-and-miss and truly awful. He’s a perfect example of an artist whose credibility has been damaged by years of subpar material. Had he stopped recording in the late-70s, or even after his mid-80s resurgence, he would probably be much more highly regarded now. Disney soundtracks and Vegas residencies have not been kind to reputation.
Are there any artists you’ve gotten heavily into as a result of a compilation?
Thanks, as always, for stopping by. I really appreciate it.
Sorry, meant to add to the conversation…
For me, compilation albums are perfect to cover mainstream commercial artists where I’m not especially interested in their catalogue but enjoy hearing the ‘hits’ now and then. T-Rex is an example and The Doors another. Patchy records but an albums worth of entertaining songs.
The first and the last 2 Doors records are killer imo. They did record some fluff but the harder edged and bluesy material is great.
I’m not an expert on The Doors although I own all of their studio albums and one live album, but there’s no doubt that a good 2-CD compilation like The Best Of The Doors is all any casual fan will ever need. I started with a single-disc comp years ago and moved on to that Best Of CD before getting all the individual albums (they will likely be included in a future post in this series, as well as getting their own multi-part series on their discography). I do agree, though, that the first two albums are pretty spectacular and should be heard in their entirety.
Reading this is timely for me! Since reviewing the Snoop Lion movie recently I have reignited my interest in Reggae a bit. I own two Marley albums -Legend (regular edition) and Catch a Fire (deluxe). Catch a Fire was sold to me by Aaron, actually. But I do want more and the deluxes are an obvious place for me to go.
Mike, it’s always a good time to reignite one’s interest in reggae. Marley’s music actually transcends reggae into a style all his own. Of course I knew you would be most interested in the deluxe editions and they’re all highly recommended, but don’t avoid certain releases because they’ve never been “deluxed.” Albums like Uprising and Survival shouldn’t be overlooked. The latter has been a personal favorite for more than 25 years.
Either way I’m sure they have all been remastered & reissued? I remember there was a live album I played in store that I liked. I have some Peter Tosh at home too, but this is a collection I’d like to grow.
I”m pretty sure all of the Island albums have been reissued, in either expanded or deluxe formats. I only got the deluxe editions. Any of the others are still my original ’80s-pressed CDs. If you ever want any recommendations for key albums by reggae artists I’ll be happy to give you some suggestions, but only if you ask. I’m not one to give unsolicited advice.
Rich, very provocative stuff here, I’m hard pressed to think of many Hits comps that have really inspired me to further investigate. I prefer live albums to comps (Yeah I’m that guy). Most of these artists, except Bowie and EC I get my fill of hearing on the radio. Santana and Chicago I have delved into slightly, like you say the first 6 or so studio albums of Chicago and I love the jazzier mid 70’s Santana stuff. Some how or another when I was a wee lad My parents had some EWF in their collection. All in All and Spirit are two I distinctly remember really loving. Still great memories of them to this day.
One artist that does fall into this category I can think of off the top of my head is Steely Dan. I had A Decade of for years before I decided to dive right in, round about 2000 when they came back. I have everything studio they have done, which really isn’t that much if you think about it. I love all their work, I have all the Fagen and Becker solo stuff as well.
It’s interesting that you’re more of a live album guy. I love live albums but they’re usually a welcome bonus in an artist’s catalog, not an introduction (with a few exceptions). Then again, so many live albums have been doctored in the studio that it’s almost like listening to a studio album with crowd noise & more energy from the performers. Both of the EW&F albums you mention are among their best, so you had the right exposure to their music as a youngster.
There’s no doubt that A Decade Of Steely Dan is a phenomenal primer for the uninitiated. I was already a huge fan of their music by the time that was released, but it was my first Steely Dan CD purchase (since I believe none of their individual albums had been issued on CD yet). I’m also a major fan of solo Fagen & Becker, with The Nightfly being a particualr favorite since 1982.
Thanks for your feedback. I really appreciate it. Hope you’re having a great weekend.
Interesting, you have a very different outlook to me. Even with artists I love there are bits of their back catalogue I’m not interested in and I can be quite ruthless about selling on LPs I don’t like – well, a little bit ruthless, sometimes. Maybe.
Ah yes, the curse of the completist. I’ve been afflicted for way too long. I’m not as bad now with new purchases but I can’t get rid of albums that are already part if a complete collection.
I’m sure it must be treatable!
The cure is more record shopping…right? (and more cowbell, of course)
Another great compilation I just remembered that led me on to other albums was Stevie Wonder’s double-album Original Musiquarium — excellent song selection focusing on his peak creative years. I was already a big fan, but I believe it was the first of his albums that I purchased, and it definitely made me want to get the complete albums. (I followed that up with Anthology, a 3-record set covering his earliest years up through ~1970. Great as well, but not quite up to his stunning level of genius in the ’70s.)
That’s a great one, Dagersh. Had I not become a Stevie fan at the age of 10 with the release of Songs In The Key Of Life (a truly mind-blowing experience for me that still resonates all these years later), I’m sure that Original Musiquarium would have led me to his discography and I would be just as big a fan as I am now. I remember that Anthology LP you mentioned (I have a similar one for Diana Ross & The Supremes). That was a great series from Motown.
Timely for me, since I’ve just been listening to Marley’s Legend, a favorite. I own every Bob Marley LP I’ve been able to find. One compilation that comes to mind is The Kink Kronikles. It’s not a “best of,” but more of an “odds & ends” that includes several hits. So it doesn’t fit this category, but could definitely send Kinks newbies after all of their albums.
That Kinks “kollection” is a great one that’s worth mentioning even though it doesn’t quite fit this category, so thanks for bringing it up. It did introduce American audiences to all those great songs from their late-60s to early-70s period when they couldn’t tour here. For that reason alone it’s a great one since it probably sent many fans scurrying to check out those amazing albums…and the rest of their discography. All of which I covered in my 9-part Kinks series earlier this year.
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I think the only gateway compilations I have (or, had, since they were on 8-track) were the two Beatles ones, red and blue. I have the usual compilations for bands for which that is enough, and in a few cases (Jethro Tull, Iron Maiden), the compilation wasn’t the first thing I bought, but rather a means to getting an impression of a larger portion of the catalogue after getting interested via 1 or 2 albums.
Phillip, we’ll refer to those as your middle-man compilations. Haha. Seems like those Beatles comps were many fans’ introduction to their music.
Actually, my first introduction to their music (although I had heard a few songs on the radio) were The Fabulous Mahoney Brothers, a Beatles tribute act (complete with wigs and costumes representing four phases of the Fab Four’s career) playing at Six Flags Over Texas in 1979. I had known about the Beatles before, but never heard much of their music. The following year, John Lennon was killed, and that increased my interest even more (not his death per se, but the fact that as a result they were much more present in the media etc).
You had a very interesting journey to The Beatles’ music, Phillip. Thanks for sharing that info.
In the mid-90’s I bought my first Herbie Hancock CD, a compilation called Cantaloupe Island, except I didn’t realize it was a compilation at first. It didn’t have a typical compilation title, and the cover could have easily been from the 60’s, so I just assumed it was a reissue of one of his early records. Anyway, that CD led me to seek out all of his Blue Note albums plus some of his key releases on other labels.
Regarding Earth, Wind & Fire, about a year ago I purchased their Playlist title (which does include “After The Love” and “In The Stone” ) and I’m loving it so much that I definitely want to explore their music further. In fact, consider this a vote for a KamerTunes series on all their albums.
Hi Glenn. I never saw the Cantaloupe Island compilation. Sounds like it was purposely misleading regarding the title, which is surprising when you think that the record company would want people to know it was a compilation (since those usually sell better than individual albums). I’m glad it sent you to more of his music. More than a decade ago I took the plunge on Hancock’s The Complete Blue Note Sixties Sessions 6-CD box set, and it was eye-opening. I already knew how great he was from the Miles Davis quintet of the mid- to late-60s but never knew how good his own material was during that decade. I haven’t played it in a while, so this conversation has reminded me that I need to give it a listen soon. Thanks for that.
Also, thanks for the suggestion of an EW&F series. It’s something I’ve considered and they’re on the long list of artists to be revisited at some point, but I have several other artists lined up that I’m excited to play again & write about. By the way, how good is “In The Stone”? That groove and those horns blow me away every time I hear it.
Great series, Rich! I see what you mean, with this. You’ve mentioned a lot of great compilations, here, and it’s great that they lead you to grab up all of the albums!
I have all three Elton John Hits comps, and felt for the longest time that that was enough for me, but I started finding his LPs for $0.50 or $1.00 each and have discovered so many more great tracks. I don’t think I have anywhere all of his stuff,, but enough to realized what a brilliant musician and song-writing combo that was (is).
My intro to the Beatles was my Mom. She had a Rock-Ola juke box full of her old 45s from back in the day, and we heard a lot of Beatles and Elvis. I have the blue and red sets on LP now (I got them for free! as you’ll recall http://keepsmealive.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/total-score/) and they’re very good. I went back and bought some of the albums, but for different reasons, not because of the comps. I avoided them for the longest time. It’s a whole story. 🙂
But many of these comps I have and I’m cool with that being enough for me, for now. Bowie. Costello. Chicago. Santana. All of these I have a comp and then maybe an album or two, but it feels like enough. The Marley I did sell to Mike – I needed the money, but I swear by Legend. Not the newer version with the different tracks, I mean the old one that everyone had.
Thanks for checking out this post. Elton compilations are a good entry point but he has a number of albums that are brilliant from start to finish. A lot of people are probably scared away from his catalog due to the sheer volume, but you can’t go wrong with most of his ’70s albums and a handful of others after that.
I would be curious to hear your story about why you avoided the Beatles catalog for so long. A future blog post, perhaps?
Everyone has their compilation artists, myself included, but as you saw in this post, a lot of compilations led me to become a devoted fan. I have my limits, of course, like Santana watering down his sound to appeal to the masses. That was a huge disappointment. I don’t begrudge my favorite artists selling lots of records & seeking out more fans, but you shouldn’t have to compromise your music in the process.
Totally agreed on the Elton. I’m doing a major overhaul on the collection here, purging some, updating the list of what I have. I’d say I have 15-20 Elton records, at a guess. I even have Madman Over The Water as a SACD!
Yeah, the Beatles thing might be a future post, but it isn’t much of a story and would probably only bring out divisive comments betwee the two camps You see, I basically burnt out on them after years of play, and joined the Dark Side with the Stones for a good long while (ongoing). 🙂
But… but Santana dueted with Nickelback guy! Doesn’t that mean he’s made it BIG? Hahaha I’m kidding, of course.
15-20 Elton records is a very healthy collection…as long as it doesn’t start with his mid’80s records. I’ve considered writing a series on his discography numerous times but I know I’ll have to sift through a lot of mediocre-to-awful music and I really need to prepare myself for that undertaking. Does the Madman… SACD have a surround sound mix? I don’t have any SACD’s but now that I own a Blu-ray player I should acquire some if they include 5.1 mixes that aren’t otherwise available on DVD or Blu-ray.
I never really understood The Beatles vs. The Stones argument. Maybe if you lived in England in 1964 it was relevant, but I loved them equally throughout my adolescence & beyond. I realize that peer pressure could force you to choose sides, so I’ll assume that was the case.
My Elton, on LP, goes back somewhere into the 70s. A lot of the CDs I have of his are later, even into the 90s. I’m in the process of going back through and making sure everything in my collection is accounted for in my list. Right now, I know for sure it isn’t anywhere near up to date. I can send my list when I have it done. I could be off on my guess, too. I just know there’s a bunch there!
The Madman SACD doesn’t say 5.1, but it does say, and I quote right from the packaging, “SACD Surround Sound, SACD Stereo, CD Audio… and then Super Audio CD…” and then “SACD Surround requires multi-channel SACD player & compatible surround sound system. SACD Stereo requires SACD player. CD audio can be played on CD player.” So, what I gather from that is there’s basically three full album tracks here. And depending on the system you have dictates which version you hear. Or something like that. Me, I’d be putting it in my Sony 5-CD changer CD player and getting the CD audio, I guess.
It’s not really a Beatles vs Stones thing for me, in that Betty or Veronica kind of way. I just heard so much Beatles, as a kid, I fairly burnt out on it. So I went on of the next logical steps from the same period and took up with the Stones. No peer pressure, from here. My Mom would have been thrilled if I kept right on loving the Beatles, but I just needed a break. I still don’t love them equally, but i am slowly coming back around to the Beatles.
Thanks for the info about that SACD. My understanding is that all Blu-ray players have the capability of accessing the surround sound & high-res portions of those discs (unlike DVD players, which can only do that with DVD’s and DVD-Audio discs).
I can understand your over-saturation with The Beatles, even though I’ve never gotten tired of them, since that’s happened to me with other artists. With enough time apart, I usually come back around to them.
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