I’m a sucker for a good compilation album. I say I’m a sucker, because record labels love fans like me - I’m the guy that will buy a greatest hits album even if I’ve already got all the songs on other albums in my collection. Which is also why I say a "good" compilation - because there are some half-ass compilations out there! Here are a few hits packages that aren’t half-ass. In fact, each one of them is in my vinyl collection, each one of them is from an artist I love, and each one tells a story.
AEROSMITH Greatest Hits
I credit this album with getting me into rock music. I was at my friend Mike’s house, and his brother Tony was just old enough to drive, which probably put me somewhere around 13 years old. I can’t remember where we were going, but we were crammed into the backseat of the car and he played “Sweet Emotion.” Someone was smoking - which when you’re 13 only makes “Sweet Emotion” more dangerous. More jarring. More exciting. More rebellious. This was Aerosmith before MTV and Alicia Silverstone. Before they got cute with albums like Pump and Get a Grip. Steven Tyler was the voice of everything an awkward kid from the Connecticut suburbs hoped he could someday experience, and the music shot through me like a transfusion. “Walk This Way” was next. This was years before Run D.M.C. would stake their claim to the song, and the Aero-mojo was undeniable. Then they flipped the cassette over, rewound to the beginning of side two and “Back in the Saddle” tore through the car like a revelation. I knew nothing about Aerosmith, but I memorized every curve of the letters and every feather of the wing on the red and white cover in that short car ride. I bought the tape shortly after and discovered the meaning of epic when I heard “Dream On,” and was introduced to the Beatles on the Aero-cover of “Come Together.” I’m not being melodramatic when I say that this 1980 greatest hits collection changed my life. So it was only fitting that the album was one of the first I bought when I started to build out my vinyl collection.
KID ROCK Greatest Hits: You Never Saw Coming
I remember seeing Kid Rock for the first time in a small club in New York City in the late ‘90s. The record label hosted an open bar, which is one of the only ways to get industry folks out to see an act they otherwise wouldn’t blink an eye at. And let’s be honest, nobody outside the Kid Rock camp was blinking an eye at this long-haired rapper from Detroit who was trying to appeal to rock fans. But by the end of that night, the few of us there were sold. I haven’t looked back, which makes this aptly titled Greatest Hits: You Never Saw Coming such a fitting celebration. Kid Rock combines a knack for the sometimes lyrically sublime, sometimes unflinchingly brilliant and many times intentionally offensive, with an ear for a hook and an unrivaled bravado. People ask where the rock stars have gone, but Rock’s one of our greatest. If you weren’t a fan of his early Devil Without a Cause (1998) and Cocky (2001) releases, his more recent sojourn through Sweet Southern Sugar (2017) and Last Kiss (2015) might be more your style. From Devil to Sugar and everything in between, this 2018 collection covers all the bases - the bombast of “Bawitdaba” and a tender “Picture” duet with Sheryl Crow, his “So Hott” celebration of sex and the pining nostalgia of “First Kiss.” This 2-LP compilation is 15 reasons why, no matter how big Kid Rock is, he’ll always deserve to be bigger. If his politics offend you, well… It’s all good, and it’s all in fun, now get in the pit and try to love someone!
FOO FIGHTERS Greatest Hits
If you think you’ve put your foot in your mouth before, try this one on for size… I was at a party and there were some harsh words being said about one of my favorite musicians. So, fueled by whatever I was drinking on that given night, I excused myself for interjecting and launched into all of the reasons why I believed the best thing to come from Nirvana was Dave Grohl. Those reasons included a few colorful statements about Kurt Cobain that, in hindsight, I wish I could take back. I still stand behind them, I just wish I had I known I was talking to Kurt Cobain’s mother so I could have expressed my opinion a little less, uhm, colorfully. What are the chances, right? Apparently better than my chances of winning the lottery... Kurt’s mom actually proved to be delightful. We had several drinks together as she asked me about my history with Nirvana and proceeded to give me a firsthand glimpse into her son’s fragile psyche. It’ll suffice to say, I haven’t heard Nirvana the same way since. That said, she couldn’t dampen my love for Dave Grohl and his Foo Fighters. This 2-LP Greatest Hits collection from 2009 barely scratches the surface of Grohl’s genius, but it’s a damn fine place to start. I remember hearing “This is a Call” for the first time 27 years ago and instantly being drawn to its fusion of punk rock and polished melody, and seemingly eons later, “Everlong,” “Learn to Fly” and “Times Like These” remain a holy trinity of hits. Throw in the previously unreleased acoustic “Everlong” and Butch Vig-produced new tracks “Wheels” and “Word Forward,” and you’ve got a worthy addition to any vinyl collection.
THE BABYS Anthology
My introduction to the Babys came in 1989, when frontman John Waite, Journey keyboardist Jonathan Caine and current Styx bassist Ricky Phillips formed the supergroup Bad English with Caine’s Journey bandmate and guitarist Neal Schon and then-relatively unknown drummer Deen Castronovo, who would later play for Hardline and Ozzy Osbourne before also joining Journey. It didn’t take me long after to learn that Waite, Caine and Phillips were in a band called the Babys. What did take me long? Getting used to how they wrote their name. The editor in me still wants to write it Baby’s or Babies and, as the story goes, the fact that it drives my OCD crazy would probably do founding Babys keyboardist Michael Corby proud. But I digress… The original 1981 vinyl issue of Anthology was a single LP featuring material from the band’s first five albums released between 1976-80, but this remastered, 2-LP, clear vinyl collection is more comprehensive. Highlights include the band’s last Top 40 hit, “Back On My Feet Again” from their 1980 release Union Jacks, the infectious “Isn’t It Time” and “Head First,” a cover of the Motown hit “Money (That’s What I Want),” and the soaring ballads “Head Above the Waves”’ and “Everytime I Think of You.” If you, like me, love melodic hard rock, then you, like me, need the Babys in your vinyl collection.