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The 21 greatest Best Of albums

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Greatest Hits albums are a great introduction to an artist, but they’re easy to get wrong, too. Here are the essential ones for any music lover’s collection

Alan Partridge’s favourite album of all time is ‘Best of the Beatles’, which suggests you can’t really go wrong with a greatest hits collection. But don’t let Partridge fool you. Best of’s can somehow manage to ignore a band’s actual appeal, throwing in big-selling hits and ignoring the rest. Either that, or they have the distinct whiff of a record company cash-in. But without exception, you can trust in the below – best of releases which have every right to carry the classics:

 

Blur, Best Of, Greatest Hits
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Released: 2000

What makes it so great?
The artwork designed by Julian Opie, for starters, is the perfect representation of the Britpop heroes’ world. The sequencing isn’t half bad either, opening with ‘Beetlebum’ before waltzing through the four-piece’s big chart hitters (if you ignore the bonus tracks).

Best track: ‘The Universal’

Big omission: ‘Swamp Song’ or ‘Battle’, from 1998 album ‘13’.

Michael Jackson, Number Ones, Greatest Hits
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Released: 2003

What makes it so great?
Chart success isn’t always a measure of greatness, but with Michael Jackson just about every one of his best songs topped the US charts. ‘Number Ones’ cheats a little bit, as ‘Thriller’ didn’t actually make it to the top (unless its criteria includes the Dance/Club chart). But forget that, and consider this the essential rundown of MJ’s best moments.

Best track: ‘Billie Jean’

Big omission: ‘One Day In Your Life’ topped the UK charts, and deserves inclusion.

Madonna, Immaculate Collection, Greatest Hits
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Released: 1990

What makes it so great?
In her pomp, Madonna was the best popstar of her time. ‘The Immaculate Collection’, her first greatest hits, came out in 1990, capturing the controversy-stirring brilliance of ‘Like a Virgin’, ‘Justify My Love’ and ‘Material Girl’. A modern day greatest hits would contain smash hits like ‘Hung Up’ and ‘Music’ (no disrespect to anything from ‘MDNA’), but in terms of capturing a moment, this is as immaculate as it gets.

Best track: ‘Material Girl’

Big omission: ‘Oh Father’

New Order, Substance, Greatest Hits
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Released: 1987

What makes it so great?
Anyone after a quick-stop trip of New Order’s magnetic appeal should start with ‘Substance’. Anthemic post-punk (‘Ceremony’), dancefloor-ready 12” singles (‘Confusion’) and playful pop (‘Shellshock’) all share the same spotlight. They’re a band who mastered many worlds, and ‘Substance’ captures it all.

Best track: ‘Blue Monday’

Big omission: Newbies to New Order should listen to ‘Age of Consent’

Beatles, Blue Album, Greatest Hits
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Released: 1973

What makes it so great?
The classic Beatles best-ofs are split into two, ‘The Red Album’, dealing with the moptop years, and ‘The Blue Album’, dedicated to the psychedelic second half of their career. A must for fans thanks to its non-album singles and impeccable run of hits.

Best track: the fuzzed-up version of ‘Revolution’

Big omission: Fan-favourite ‘Hey Bulldog’

The Who, Greatest Hits, Best Of
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Released: 2009

What makes it so great?
Yer Da loves The Who, and this explains why. A non-stop blitz through their clattering, mod-meets-heavy rock career, this two disc collection pairs chart-toppers with some of their best live performances.

Best track: ‘Baba O’Riley’

Big omission: ‘The Seeker’ would make this perfect

Bowie, The Singles, Greatest Hits
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Released: 2002

What makes it so great?
Anyone new to Bowie’s back catalogue can pick their poison – chances are they won’t go wrong. But many found themselves referring back to ‘Best of Bowie’ when he suddenly passed in January 2016. Bowie’s career is unrivalled in shape-shifting, genre-skipping brilliance, and this collection traces his steps. There is literally something for everyone here.

Best track: ‘Life on Mars?’

Big omission: ‘Heroes’

Oasis, Stop The Clocks, Greatest Hits, Best Of
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Released: 2006

What makes it so great?
The group were reluctant to release it at the time (it came about after their deal with Sony BMG ended), but ‘Stop the Clocks’ is still special. After a whirlwind decade in the spotlight, it hits pause and reflects on the Manchester group’s superhuman achievements.

Best track: ‘Wonderwall’

Big omission: ‘Columbia’

Bruce Springsteen, The Essential, Best Of, Greatest Hits
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Released: 2003

What makes it so great?
Judging by his mammoth setlists, even The Boss himself seems incapable of compressing his best moments into a couple of hours. ‘The Essential’ attempts it through two storming discs; the first a hit-by-hit rundown, the second a rarities collection summing up Springsteen’s staying power.

Best track: ‘Born To Run’

Big omission: ‘I’m On Fire’

Kate Bush, The Whole Story, Greatest Hits, Best Of
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Released: 1986

What makes it so great?
Kate Bush’s quality control is famously watertight: if it’s not good enough, or if it’s not worth doing, it won’t make the cut. ‘The Whole Story’ is a best of capable of appeasing the toughest critics, containing the best of her otherworldly work – ‘Cloudbusting’, ‘Hounds of Love’, ‘Running Up That Hill’ and ‘Wuthering Heights’.

Best track: ‘Hounds of Love’

Big omission: ‘And Dream of Sheep’

Tom Petty, Greatest Hits, Best Of
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Released: 1993

What makes it so great?
The week after the late Petty’s recent death, ‘Greatest Hits’ went back to #2 in the US Billboard 200. Even before this year, it was widely considered as one of the essential best ofs: a picture perfect glimpse into the hook-tastic brilliance of Petty’s magic touch.

Best track: ‘Free Fallin’’

Big omission: It was released just before 1994 album ‘Wildflowers’, and it’s missing the title-track, ‘Time To Move On’ and ‘Crawling Back To You’

Blondie, Atomic, Greatest Hits, Best Of
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Released: 1998

What makes it so great?
Released in the late ’90s, ‘Atomic’ summed up the New York icons’ unparalleled cool. Shortly after, the band experienced a resurgence, partly on the back of the modernised sheen of ‘Maria’, but also due to ‘Atomic’’s timely reminder of their ’70s feats.

Best track: ‘Heart of Glass’

Big omission: ‘Pretty Baby’

Radiohead, Best Of, Greatest Hits
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Released: 2008

What makes it so great?
It’s fair to say Thom Yorke wasn’t the biggest fan of this EMI-released best of, released shortly after they left the label. “There’s nothing we can do about it. The work is really public property now anyway… It’s a wasted opportunity in that if we’d been behind it, and we wanted to do it, then it might have been good,” he said. It’s since been removed from streaming services, so not only is ‘The Best Of’ not 100% band approved, it’s also difficult to track down. But if you ignore all that, it’s actually a foolproof collection of their best ‘The Bends’ and ‘OK Computer’-era material. Just don’t tell Thom you like it…

Best track: ‘Karma Police’

Big omission: There are several, but ‘Let Down’ comes top

Leonard Cohen, Greatest Hits, Best Of
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Released: 1975

What makes it so great?
Radiohead will be the first to tell you: best of releases don’t always have the blessing of the band themselves. But Leonard Cohen held the ropes in 1972, when he was given full artistic control of the collection. It includes lyrics, a sleeve designed by the late songwriting great (featuring a selfie before selfies were cool, no less), and a seamless showcase of his first steps. You won’t find ‘Hallelujah’, but you will find ‘Suzanne’ and ‘So Long, Marianne’. It’s the ideal introduction to Cohen.

Best track: ‘Suzanne’

Big omission: Not to knock his choices, but Leonard should have included ‘Story of Isaac’

Bjork, Greatest Hits, Best Of
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Released: 2002

What makes it so great?
Most Björk albums inhabit their own world, and remain best uninterrupted. Clattering together her finest pre-2000 moments might seem foolish, but ‘Greatest Hits’ is a fan-approved triumph. Her label, One Little Indian, surveyed fans to find out their favourite singles and deep cuts, the winners of which made it into the final 15-track release.

Best track: ‘Pagan Poetry’

Big omission: There’s a big lack of material from 2001’s ‘Vespertine’. ‘It’s Not Up To You’ would be a smart addition

Bob Marley, Legend, Best Of, Greatest Hits
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Released: 1984

What makes it so great?
Any record collection without ‘Legend’ needs to be remedied, fast. And given this spent 465 consecutive weeks in the Billboard Hot 200, not many collections go without it. Reggae’s biggest seller, it showcases Marley’s masterful hold on music that could be uplifting and politically defiant all at once.

Best track: ‘Could You Be Loved’

Big omission: ‘Waiting In Vain’

REM, In Time, Greatest Hits, Best Of
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Released: 2003

What makes it so great?
R.E.M. diehards might take issue with ‘In Time’. It skips the Athens, Georgia group’s early college rock success – there’s nothing from 1983’s ‘Murmur’ or 1986’s ‘Life’s Rich Pageant’. It also throws in contemporary but divisive hits like ‘Bad Day’. ‘In Time’ misses some great times, and isn’t the perfect career span, but it does contain all the classics, so ignore it at your peril.

Best track: ‘Losing My Religion’

Big omission: ‘Drive’ opens ‘Automatic For The People’, and ought to open ‘In Time’ too

Pink Floyd, Echoes, Best Of, Greatest Hits
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Released: 2001

What makes it so great?
To the best that it can, ‘Echoes’ replicates the key aspects of Pink Floyd’s best records. Tracks seamlessly link together. The great Storm Thorgersen designed the artwork, just as he did for ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ and ‘Wish You Were Here’. As a career-spanning reflection of how the ever-experimental group operated, ‘Echoes’ always tries to stay one step ahead.

Best track: ‘Comfortably Numb’

Big omission: ‘Time’

Queen, Greatest Hits, Best Of
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Released: 1991

What makes it so great?
Killing two birds with one stone, it’s worth getting both ‘Greatest Hits I’ and ‘Greatest Hits II’. Both serve as perfect guides to Queen’s stadium-conquering distinction. ‘II’ just about pips it, on the basis that it contains ‘Radio Ga Ga’ and ‘Under Pressure’. A sequel that doesn’t flop.

Best track: ‘Under Pressure’

Big omission: ‘Rain Must Fall’

Green Day, Best Of, International Superhits, Greatest Hits
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Released: 2001

What makes it so great?
A greatest hits collection that lives up to its title. ‘International Superhits!’ predates ‘American Idiot’, which means it’s missing some of the trio’s best moments, but it serves as a whistlestop blitz through their pop-punk ‘90s heyday.

Best track: ‘Basket Case’

Big omission: ‘Dookie’ opener ‘Burnout’

U2, Best Of, Greatest Hits
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Released: 1998

What makes it so great?
Capturing their first decade together, ‘1980-1990’ could still triumph as a perfect U2 setlist. It brings together standouts from ‘The Joshua Tree’, ‘War’ and ‘October’, as well as throwing in a polished new recording of former b-side ‘Sweetest Thing’. Stumped as to why U2 are one of the world’s biggest bands? Listen to this.

Best track: ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’

Big omission: ‘Red Hill Mining Town’

found for you by the Independence News Desk at
http://www.nme.com/photos/greatest-best-of-albums-ever-2149067


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