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.