Unique greatest hits albums

My first forays into buying music as a kid were through greatest hits collections: The Guess Who, Three Dog Night, The Grass Roots. Record label contracts commonly require releasing a greatest hits album after a certain threshold of records, and they come out like clockwork if the artist or band is fortunate enough to have songs that chart from multiple albums and/or a large, devoted fan base. Such albums end up being obvious and predictable, released without much thought, sometimes sweetened with the bonus of a new song. But a few artists put their own unique twist on the “best of” concept, and those examples stand out from the crowd.

220px-The_Hits_The_B-SidesThe Hits/The B Sides – Prince—Released in 1993, this three-CD set is the best of any of the various Prince collections. Two of the CDs include the obvious hits, but the third includes B-side treasures like “Erotic City.”

220px-TorilibrarianTales of a Librarian – Tori Amos—For this collection, Amos subtly changed the mix on the recordings, bringing something into the foreground that wasn’t clear before, or including material originally edited out, so each song is a fresh discovery.

220px-Janet_Jackson_-_Number_Ones_album_coverNumber Ones – Janet Jackson—The clever concept behind this collection is that each song reached number one on some chart or another. The two-CD set included a new single that (surprise!) became a number one single on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs chart after the album was released.

R-771856-1311416692.jpegYou Wanna Dance With Me? – Jody Watley—Although technically a remix album rather than a greatest hits album, this collection comprises dance remixes of tracks from Watley’s first two solo albums that are even better than the originals.

Hits_(Joni_Mitchell) 220px-Misses_albumHits and Misses – Joni Mitchell—These two CDs were sold separately, but clearly meant as counterparts when they were released together, down to the tongue-in-cheek paired titles and the packaging design. Hits is what you would expect, but the more interesting Misses includes lesser known songs that were hand-picked by Mitchell herself. The songs on Misses are brilliant, making you question the whole notion of what constitutes a hit or a success.

I wish more artists were adventurous with greatest hits collections as these artists were, but in truth, most may not be involved in the process at all, which is often dictated by the record label for purely commercial purposes.

For additional posts that provide interesting music lists, see About Music and This Site.

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