Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
As I stated in my previous post, I’ve decided to try something slightly different in my Compilation Or Catalog? series. Instead of asking my readers if a particular compilation is the only album I need from that artist or if I need to delve more deeply into their catalog, here I’m discussing the collections that already inspired me to become a devoted fan of each artist, aka MY GATEWAY COMPILATIONS. In these posts 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.
Artist: DEEP PURPLE
Compilation Title/Original Year Of Release: DEEPEST PURPLE – THE VERY BEST OF DEEP PURPLE (1980)
Number Of Albums I Now Own By This Artist: 22, including every studio album (many of them Expanded or Deluxe Editions), several key live albums and the 4-CD Shades 1968-1998 box set
They didn’t play a wide variety of Deep Purple songs on the radio when I was a teenager. It was pretty much “Smoke On The Water,” “Hush,” “Space Truckin’” and “Woman From Tokyo.” Instead of buying one or more of their studio albums, my first purchase was this excellent 12-track LP, which I probably picked up in ’81 or ’82, since it included all of those songs and the rest were equally as good. For some reason I didn’t pick up any of their classic albums for many years, the only exception being the newly-released Perfect Strangers in 1984. Over the years I picked up a handful of their albums but never became a completest, even after getting the excellent Shades 1968-1998 box set in ’99, but in the last couple of years that changed and I now own all of them (although I haven’t gotten in so “deep” that I need to own the dozens of live albums that have flooded the market). Although Deep Purple are very well known, I get the sense that they’re not as highly regarded as many of their contemporaries, and that’s a shame. Instrumentally & vocally, they’re up there among the all-time greats.
Artists: ROXY MUSIC and BRYAN FERRY
Compilation Title/Original Year Of Release: STREET LIFE – 20 GREAT HITS (1986)
Number Of Albums I Now Own By This Artist: 11 by Roxy Music (including every studio album, which I upgraded via The Complete Studio Recordings box set, 2 live albums and a 2-CD set of rarities included in that box set) and 7 by Bryan Ferry (all of his albums through Bête Noire)
“Love Is The Drug” and “More Than This” were the only Roxy Music songs I was familiar with as a teenager, and by the time this compilation was released I only knew one Bryan Ferry solo song, “Slave To Love.” Originally this collection was only available as an import CD, but I gladly paid a little extra to own those 3 songs and another 17, helping me expand my knowledge of their music. Then the CD was stolen from my dorm room with a number of other CDs and it was a couple of years before I found another copy, when it was reissued domestically. By the late-‘80s I started collecting the individual albums and became an even bigger fan, culminating in my 4-part series on Roxy Music’s catalog in July 2011. Soon after I wrapped up that series, I upgraded those ‘80s-pressed CDs with the newly remastered The Complete Studio Recordings box set, which included just about every non-album track they ever released on 2 bonus CDs. Needless to say, that 20-track compilation I purchased in ’86 led to a much deeper appreciation of Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry.
Artist: BUDDY HOLLY
Compilation Title/Original Year Of Release: FROM THE ORIGINAL MASTER TAPES (1985)
Number Of Albums I Now Own By This Artist: 3, but with each release I greatly expanded my collection, first with aptly titled The Buddy Holly Collection 2-CD set, then with The Complete Buddy Holly 6-cassette box set and, most recently, the Not Fade Away – The Complete Studio Recordings And More 6-CD box set
By the time I was getting heavily into music and listening to rock radio stations every day, Buddy Holly was considered “oldies” so I would rarely hear his music. I was familiar with a few songs via American Graffiti and its related soundtrack LP, as well as covers by Linda Ronstadt (“It’s So Easy” & “That’ll Be The Day”) and The Knack (“Heartbeat”), but didn’t consider myself a fan. One of my earliest CD purchases was this excellent 20-track compilation that packed hit after hit, and exposed me to sides of his music I hadn’t been aware of, notably ballads like “Reminiscing” and “True Love Ways,” the latter of which still sends shivers down my spine every time I hear it. Since Holly recorded prior to the “album era,” there wasn’t one particular must-have album, which is why I kept seeking out more comprehensive anthologies. As noted above, first came the 2-CD set, then the cassette-only box set (possibly the earliest single-artist box set ever released) and, more recently, the jaw-dropping 6-CD box set that should be the definitive statement on his studio recordings. The 2-CD set is probably the best introduction for anyone who’s curious about Buddy Holly, but it wasn’t enough for me. Of all the first generation rock & rollers from the ‘50s, Buddy is my favorite.
Artist: THE MOODY BLUES
Compilation Title/Original Year Of Release: THIS IS THE MOODY BLUES (1974)
Number Of Albums I Now Own By This Artist: 19, including every studio album, a few live albums and the Time Traveller 5-CD box set
I heard plenty of The Moody Blues’ music on the radio in the early ‘80s, probably because they were experiencing a career resurgence with the 1981 release of Long Distance Voyager. New songs like “Gemini Dream” and “The Voice” got the same exposure as classics like “Nights In White Satin,” “Question,” “Ride My See-Saw,” “Tuesday Afternoon” and “I’m Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band).” I responded to both eras with equal enthusiasm, and I’m very happy that my first album was this wonderful 2-LP set. Featuring all their great ‘60s & ‘70s singles as well as album tracks like “The Actor,” “New Horizons” and “Legend Of A Mind,” it gave me an excellent overview of the adventurous nature of their music, and by the mid-‘80s I owned all of the original albums on CD. Those early pressings looked & sounded terrible, however, but I finally replaced them a few years ago with the expanded & remastered versions of the “classic seven” (from Days Of Future Passed through Seventh Sojourn). Thanks to one well-compiled 2-record set I’ve now been a big Moodies fan for more than 30 years.
Artist: THE BEACH BOYS
Compilation Title/Original Year Of Release: ENDLESS SUMMER (1974)
Compilation Title/Original Year Of Release: MADE IN U.S.A. (1986)
Number Of Albums I Now Own By This Artist: 39, including every official studio & live album, various collections of rarities and the Good Vibrations 5-CD box set
For many years I didn’t own Endless Summer but I constantly borrowed my brother’s 8-track tape and got to know those 20 songs by heart. In fact, I got so used to the sequencing that I often get thrown off when I hear one of them in the context of the original album. From the time I first heard this compilation (at 8 years old) until the release of their first CD-era collection (Made In U.S.A.), I assumed there wasn’t much more worth hearing in The Beach Boys discography. Oh how wrong I was. Just the back-to-back impact of “God Only Knows” and “Caroline No” was enough to open my eyes. A few years later, when their back catalogue finally received the CD reissue treatment, I jumped on all of them and found plenty more incredible songs on nearly every one. In 2012 I dedicated 2 months to revisiting & writing about them in an immensely enjoyable 9-part blog series, which reinvigorated my love for The Beach Boys. I probably would have gotten there eventually, but the journey began at an early age thanks to Endless Summer.
Artist: RICHARD THOMPSON
Compilation Title/Original Year Of Release: WATCHING THE DARK – THE HISTORY OF RICHARD THOMPSON (1993)
Number Of Albums I Now Own By This Artist: 35, including all of his studio albums (solo and with ex-wife Linda Thompson), a couple of soundtracks, a collaboration with bassist Danny Thompson (no relation), several live albums, a box set of BBC recordings and RT – The Life And Music Of Richard Thompson 6-CD box set
I’m slightly cheating on this one because I did own one Richard Thompson album (1991’s Rumour & Sigh) before buying this randomly sequenced 3-CD anthology of album tracks, rarities & live recordings from his work with Fairport Convention (of whom I was already a fan), his then-wife Linda and subsequent solo career. However, I didn’t pay Rumour & Sigh much attention at the time, in spite of several friends insisting how brilliant it was, until I gave Watching The Dark a few spins and then it just hit me: Richard Thompson IS brilliant. I have since seen him in concert a number of times and I await each new release with excitement and high expectations that are uniformly met. I’m not sure this is the best compilation for the uninitiated even though it had such a big impact on me, simply because it jumps back and forth between eras, from studio to live, from acoustic to electric. Of course, like his contemporary Neil Young, he’s so diverse & you never know what’s coming next, so a seemingly scattershot collection like this might be the perfect way to dive into his musical world after all. It worked for me.
Artist: DARYL HALL & JOHN OATES
Compilation Title/Original Year Of Release: ROCK ‘N SOUL PART 1 – GREATEST HITS (1983)
Number Of Albums I Now Own By This Artist: 24, including every officially released studio & live album…even their Christmas album…as well as 4 Daryl Hall solo albums
Other than hearing “She’s Gone” and “Rich Girl” on AM radio in the ‘70s, I didn’t think much about Hall & Oates and never considered owning any of their records. Then they began their chart-topping run in the ‘80s with peppy, catchy pop hits which was the complete opposite of the rock & roll I was interested in during my teens. For a few years I stupidly thought Hall & Oates were lame, until I heard the rockin’ “Family Man” from their 1982 album H2O (which I later discovered was a cover of a Mike Oldfield song) and I started thinking, “maybe I was wrong about these guys.” The timing couldn’t have been more perfect when this 12-track best-of appeared the following year. It included all of their recent hits, those two ‘70s classics (plus another one I should have known, “Sara Smile”) and two wonderful new songs. Sadly, “Family Man” was nowhere to be found, but that started me on my quest to hear all of their albums, and their career has been much more diverse than many fans are probably aware of. I think Daryl, especially in his prime, possessed one of the most soulful & expressive voices I’ve ever heard, and the two of them have amassed an impressive catalog of perfect songs. I’m not sure I would be the fan I am today without Rock ‘N Soul Part 1.
Artist: THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND
Compilation Title/Original Year Of Release: THE ROAD GOES ON FOREVER (1975)
Compilation Title/Original Year Of Release: DREAMS [4-CD BOX SET] (1989)
Number Of Albums I Now Own By This Artist: 26, including every studio album & at least a dozen officially released live albums spanning their career
For some reason, The Allman Brothers Band didn’t appeal to me when I was younger. It’s not that I disliked them, but the songs I heard on the radio (“Whipping Post,” “Ramblin’ Man” & “Midnight Rider”) didn’t appeal to me like so many other bands I was hearing for the first time during those musically formative years. During high school, a friend made a cassette copy of The Road Goes On Forever 2-LP set, and the more I played it the more I came around to them, but it wasn’t until I was in my early 20s that I owned anything else by them. That’s when I got a copy of the Dreams box set, which spanned their entire career and featured album tracks, rare songs and some incredible previously-unreleased live versions. It’s those live recordings that hooked me and made me realize that they’re not just a jam band or “southern rock” or “blues”; they’re simply one of the greatest & most diverse American bands of all time. Not every studio album they’ve released is essential, although many of them are, but their concert recordings are where you truly uncover their essence. That’s probably why their live albums amount to nearly half of my Allman Brothers collection. Thanks to those two very different but equally impressive compilations for pointing the way toward the rest of their discography.
There are other compilations that had a similar impact on me, and I will discuss those in a future post. Now it’s time for me to get back to revisiting the complete catalogs of particular artists & writing about the experience over multiple posts, since that’s the main reason I started this blog. For anyone who’s curious about my next series, here’s a hint: it’s one of the artists I covered in these two “gateway compilations” posts.
Thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts on the compilations/artists I discussed in the previous post and told me about some of the best-of and greatest hits albums that had a similar effect on them. Please keep them coming.
Nice one Rich. A couple of ‘Snap!’ moments here: two gateway comps for me were “This is the Moody Blues” (though I already had “Days of Future Passed”) and “Endless Summer”. Though not a completist for most commercial artists, I do have generous servings of both bands (on both CD and vinyl).
Another gateway comp for me, and one with far-reaching consequences, was “Black Forest Gateau”. This single LP provided a focussed and absolutely mesmerising introduction to Neu! (who I’ve written about in a two-part Vinyl Connection ‘feature’). This in turn sparked my exploration of more so-called ‘krautrock’, adding variety and adventure to my music listening over subsequent decades.
Hey Bruce. Nice to know that we had two comps in common here. I hadn’t heard of that Neu! compilation. My collection consists of digital copies of the first three albums from a friend’s CDs. One of these days I need to get physical copies, either CD or vinyl, but due to budget & storage limitations, those digital copies will have to suffice. Around the same time I got into Neu! (~2003) I also started listening to Kraftwerk and Can. The Kraftwerk 8-CD set is a prized piece of my collection.
Thanks again for the feedback. I will check out your Neu! features soon.
PS. With you all the way on Richard Thompson. Isn’t there a subsequent CD comp featuring songs from the solo albums? That might well be a good starting place for this UK treasure.
I think there are several Richard Thompson comps out there now, including one that focuses on his work with Linda and another just from his Capitol years. I never needed to get any of those since I already have all the albums, but for an artist like him a well-compiled anthology is essential for the uninitiated.
Rock N Soul was also my first Hall & Oates – but I’ve got some catching up to do on the rest of the catalogue and beyond!
I was very proud of our student council co-presidents who picked the ‘get to class’ music before morning announcements at my school. Friday’s selection: You’re Making My Dreams Come True. Today’s: Only the good die young!
Hi Geoff. Glad you also enjoyed Rock ‘N Soul Part 1. There’s not a wasted note on that collection. Even the two new songs are great. I’m not sure there’s a truly essential album in their catalog but there’s a lot of amazing music that didn’t make it onto that compilation.
Kudos to your student council co-presidents. Nice to know that classic music has seeped into their lives.
Great post as always.
I also found Roxy Music through the Street Life compilation, and have gone on to pick up all of their studio albums. I discovered the Moody Blues through a later compilation, “The Story of the Moody Blues – Legend of a Band”, which was released when I was a senior in high school. I haven’t really gone much into their catalog yet, only “Days of Future Passed”, but I have definite plans to get into the catalog more in the future.
As for compilations not mentioned previously, most of mine were listed in this or the last post. One that comes to mind is “The Best of the Band”, which is a very short 11 songs but manages to cover the majority of their career and converted me to a fan. I now have the first 7 studio albums, and the “Rock of Ages” and “The Last Waltz” live sets, both of which I would argue are as or more essential than their studio counterparts.
I really appreciate you stopping by & giving your feedback. Happy to hear that Street Life had a similar impact on you. I remember that Moody Blues comp you mentioned, but by the time it came out it wasn’t something I needed to own. The 2-LP comp that got me into them wasn’t perfect but I’m glad I got that over a less exhaustive single-LP collection. They’ve covered too much musical ground to be relegated to just a 10 or 12 song best-of. Once you’re ready to dive further into their catalog, you can’t go wrong with any of their first 7 albums.
That’s a great call regarding The Best Of The Band. I remember that album although I never owned it. My first Band purchase was the To Kingdom Come 2-CD set. It took me a while to really absorb all of that music, and even longer to realize that I needed to hear the original albums, but eventually I came around big time. All of their studio albums prior to their post-Last Waltz split are either great or phenomenal, as I confirmed when I revisited the catalog & wrote a 5-part series The Band back in 2011. I can’t believe it took me so long to finally spend that much time with them. I think the self-titled 2nd album is their masterpiece, just slightly better than Music From Big Pink. Thanks for reminding me about The Band. I haven’t listened to them since I wrapped up that series so I need to give them another spin soon.
I had the same gateway to the Beach Boys’ albums, and I’m with you on Richard Thompson’s genius, but 24 Hall and Oates albums?? That’s sheer madness! Aside from the great “Sara Smile” — one of the best ’70s ballads — and “Rich Girl” and “She’s Gone,” there’s nothing in their catalog that I would miss if it suddenly disappeared from existence. I don’t dispute Daryl Hall’s got a great voice — it’s just that the material does little for me. When it comes to blue-eyed Philly soul, early ’70s Todd Rundgren’s my man.
Glad we’re mostly on the same page, other than with Hall & Oates. I don’t claim that all 24 albums are essential…in fact, I don’t think they have a single must-have album…but they’re much better & more diverse than you might imagine. Blue-eyed soul is only one aspect of their sound, and I’m sure you would agree that the same applies to early-70s Todd Rundgren (of whom I’m a big fan and expect to revisit his catalog for a multi-part series in the future). Did you know that Mr. Rundgren produced one of Hall & Oates’ albums, 1974’s War Babies?
I really appreciate the feedback, Dagersh, and it’s nice to know that we don’t always agree…although it’s hard to disagree on the greatness of Richard Thompson.
So much good stuff here!
My first exposure to Richard Thompson was Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man – Thompson laid down the soundtrack. So dreamy! I need to get to listening to more from him.
I really like Hall and Oates – you hear Oates’ duet with the Parachute Club’s Lorraine Segato “Love is Fire?” A forgotten jem on Canadian 80s radio.
I always enjoyed Bryan Ferry’s music. Wasn’t exposed much to Roxy Music growing up, that’s not to say I don’t enjoy their music.
Great write-up, as always!
Sarca, it’s interesting that you came to Richard Thompson via that soundtrack, which isn’t at all indicative of the remainder of his catalog. I’m sure you’ll find plenty to love once you check out more of his albums.
I never heard that Lorraine Segato song but will seek it out online based on your recommendation. I don’t think John Oates gets the respect he deserves. There’s a reason why Hall’s solo albums (with the exception of his debut, co-created with Robert Fripp) aren’t in the same league as his work with Oates. He obviously contributes more than the casual observer would expect.
I find it interesting that you’re more familiar with Bryan Ferry than Roxy music. I guess it all depends on your initial exposure, and if you were a certain age when Ferry was getting heavy airplay it makes complete sense. It’s amazing how different the early Roxy Music material is from anything else Ferry has ever done. It must be shocking for fans of his later work to hear those albums for the first time.
Thanks for your comments and for the kind words.
LOL, my dad always called them Oates and Hall. You could’t escape them on the radio in the early 80’s. Voices thru Big Bam Boom is their best period. I really do think Oates contributed a lot even though he isn’t really a writer.
“Oates And Hall.” Haha. Not sure why that doesn’t roll off the tongue as well as their official name. I wonder if they ever argued in the early days about who got top billing. I’m not sure how they handle their songwriting but many of their best-known songs are credited to both of them…sometimes with additional writers…so Oates definitely does some of the writing. Also, I agree about the Voices through Big Bam Boom period, although I like a lot of their material from the ’70s, and their 1990 album Change Of Season is one of my favorites.
I listened to Deepest Purple but I concluded that it was just a slight rehash of their 1978 compilation When We Rock We Rock When We Roll We Roll.
I remember seeing that earlier Purple compilation in the record store bins but I never picked it up. Looking at the track listing now, I’m glad I bought the later compilation since it’s more comprehensive. Thanks for reminding me about When We Rock… I had completely forgotten about it.
Impressive research Rich. Enjoying the reading. I think the very first comp I ever bought was Kiss Double Platinum and well of course it had a remake of Strutter that they called Strutter 78! Hahaha….what a bunch of salesman….
Thanks, Deke. Double Platinum is an amazing comp that must have been a great introduction for many fans. I got into Kiss with Alive!, followed closely by Destroyer and Rock And Roll Over in ’76. I think Double Platinum was the first compilation I ever owned, which I had forgotten about so thanks for the reminder. I overpaid for it considering I only got one “new” song, but I HAD TO have it.
I think we all have overpaid for Kiss at some point in our lives Rich. Hahaha….mine was the Kisstory Book back in 1994!
Wow, that Kisstory book was quite an investment. You must have it prominently displayed, right? I read that it wasn’t put together very well and the spine comes apart easily. Was that the case with yours? I hope not.
I have never overpaid for KISS. I have never paid for KISS period. I kid you not. I respect them but they are just not in my wheelhouse I’m afraid. I have considered it from time to time, but never pulled the trigger. Is that bad?
Consider yourself one of the lucky ones. Kiss was my first musical obsessions (like just about everyone else in my age group) so I was understandably willing to overpay for things I shouldn’t have, but I got over that a loooong time ago.
Yep the spine came loose. I can’t believe I flipped that kind of cash for it. I plead a momentarily lap of reason your honor!
I’ll allow it (spoken in my most stern “judge-y voice).
I’ve made a few large music-related purchases that I’ve since regretted but it’s been a while. Hopefully we’ve learned from our mistakes
I also have the Roxy disc and its essential. But it didn’t lead me to more of their LPs save for the most recent solo effort by Ferry. But oh that Endless Summer… I ended up with all of those early CD issues on Capitol when they had two albums on one CD… and then did the same with the Warners stuff…. and then all the Brian stuff. You are correct, there is at least one gem on each one that makes it worth it. When Brian and the guys hit, its out of the park. But often its just that one home-run per record. As for the Purple, I also had that CD and the staples (Machine Head, Burn, Japan) and after a respite, I am beginning to acquire them all.. within reason… as no band prompted more spin-offs. As for those efforts, I will stick to those of Jon Lord only.
Thanks, Charley. I have a feeling that Endless Summer was a gateway into the world of The Beach Boys for thousands if not millions of fans. Like you, I bought all the 2-fers and I still listen to them regularly (although I haven’t done so since I wrapped up my Beach Boys series, which is usually the case after spending a couple of months focusing on one artist).
As for Deep Purple, other than the plethora of live albums that have saturated the market I’m very happy to own just about all of their studio albums. The Coverdale/Hughes era was a particular eye-opener for me in recent years. I always liked the songs I heard but those albums are phenomenal from start to finish. Burn is a particular favorite.
Like another reader here I found live albums a better gatewaygateway that best of or greatest hits compilations, especially when I was younger. Rock bands often didn’t have hits, so a greatest hits wasn’t an option whereas the heavier bands’ best records always got played live. The Beatles’ red and blue albums are an exception. I don’t have many compilations – I have always better enjoyed bands album by album. Having said that, the exceptions are Elvis Costello, Chuck Berry – maybe they were better as singles artists?
I find it really interesting that some people like you have used live albums as gateways into artist catalogs. It never really occurred to me but it makes sense, since many times I’ve seen a performer in concert & I immediately checked out their albums. It seems like those Red & Blue Beatles compilations are the ones that have been cited most often since I wrote these posts. I have an older Chuck Berry compilation (The Great Twenty-Eight) which has been sufficient for me, although I know there are a number of box sets so there’s plenty more of his music to explore if I ever feel the need to do so.
Thanks for checking in. I really appreciate it.
Oh man, I really want that 6CD Buddy Holly set. Nice one!
More bands in this post that I know, of course, but not as much about. Thanks for the educating!
Not sure if that Buddy Holly box set is still in print. As soon as it was announced I preordered it. There was no way I would miss out on that package. It’s a beautiful set that I happily played straight through three times.
As for the other artists, I’m glad I could help. If anything here inspires you to check out more of an artist’s catalog, I will be very pleased.
Oh yeah, and another good (cheaper) way to go for the Beach Boys would be the Sounds Of Summer / Warmth Of The Sun sets. You get a lot of music that way, and for many that might be enough for a long while.
I know there have been plenty of comprehensive Beach Boys compilations released since Endless Summer and Made In U.S.A., but I’ve already got the entire discography (as you’ll find in my 9-part series from 2012) so the comps aren’t aimed at crazy fans like me.
Oh absolutely! I’m not sure I read that series, going that far back, but now I’m gonna! I was mentionng those because they’re another great entry point. It’s close to 60 tracks between the two discs, most of them huge hits. It’s crazy, actually. Those guys did SO much!
I’m thrilled that people exploring The Beach Boys for the first time now have some really comprehensive compilations to choose from that showcase all aspects of their sound through all their eras. Once I got all the individual albums in the early-’90s, I realized how limited my exposure was via the two compilations I owned. This is why a good remastering campaign with a well-selected comp should be commended.
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