‘Spill Challenge [SUB TO FILL IN NUMBER]: Best of… bands

- “What’s your favourite Beatles album?”
– “Hmm, tough one. I think I’d have to say… the Best of the Beatles.”

I’d hazard a guess that most of us look down on Greatest Hits and Best Ofs. We’re the types who own the original albums, the 12″ singles, the rare bootlegs – not the rushed cash-in aimed at casual fans who buy 3 CDs a year, from Tesco’s.

But Best Ofs can be bloody brilliant. They do exactly what they say on the package: all the best, no filler.

Sometimes they’re a gateway into a band’s other records, or complement an album or two. But sometimes, that one compilation is enough.

So this week’s challenge is to pick a song from a Best Of or Greatest Hits collection that you love, but which is the only thing you own by that artist, and the only thing you need to own.

General views on Best Ofs are welcomed, as are tips for great tracks missing from nominated compilations.

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57 thoughts on “‘Spill Challenge [SUB TO FILL IN NUMBER]: Best of… bands

  1. What got me thinking of this was listening to a collection from a few years ago from Ash: one of THE great singles bands of the 90s/early ’00s. They released about a dozen songs of power-pop perfection that I love to pieces and which bring back good memories of my late teens. But do I need their albums, or whatever they’ve released since? Nah. I’ll stick with gems like this:

    • I did buy Ash’s first album when it came out as I fell for their bright poppy singles, it’s fine, but the singles do shine rather. The second one is much of the same, I reckon I need that compilation too.

      • Their third album had some cracking singles too (“Burn Baby Burn”, “Shining Light”…), and you also get their irresistible debut single “Jack Names The Planets”. Highly recommended.

  2. Hmmmmmm, Got 2 favourite “Best Of” sets downloaded on the computer and it’s hard to decide which track to choose.
    Both bands were prolific producers of singles, something that I hardly ever purchased. Many of the bands that I enjoy listening to are not known for releasing singles.
    So, “Atomic : The Very Best of Blondie”. from 1999, or “Devine Madness, The Singles” from 1997.
    Hard to pick one track from either but I’ll stick out my neck and go for “Sunday Girl”.

      • Divine Madness is the only thing I have by them. The only Blondie record I own is Parallel Lines – but I might swap it for a Very Best Of…

      • Those are two good compilations, I have a Blondie and Deborah Harry compilation which is very good too.

        I’ve never felt the need to have more than one album by Billy Idol, but I do really like most of the tracks on “11 of the best”. Am I missing out? For some reason I particularly like this one

        Billy Idol- Eyes Without A Face

        At the risk of risking the wrath of Echo and the Bunnymen fans, I only like the second half of the compilation Ballyhoo, is there an album by them that sounds like Lips Like Sugar?

      • I jest of course. It’s off the imaginitively titled Echo & The Bunnymen album (the so-called “grey album”)which also featured The Game. I suppose that might be worth investigating for you, the general view is it’s a bit dull though. I remember Bombers Bay as being the best track.
        It’s the first three full albums ad about half of Ocean Rain for me.

      • thanks, Wyngate, I seem to own Ocean Rain by them as well, but don’t really love it, I bought it because the photo on the front was taken at Carnglaze Caverns in Cornwall, which my brother spent a summer doing tours of for tourists, it’s a good picture.

        I think it’s unusual for me not to like the first album by a band, but I’ve really tried with Echo and The Bunnymen and have to conclude that it doesn’t appeal. I will get hold of the eponymous one when funds allow :-)

      • I’m with wyngate on this one, Beth. I wouldn’t bother buying “the grey album” (unless you can find it online for a quid or two). You already have the best songs on it on the Ballyhoo compilation – bar “Bombers Bay”, which as wyngate says is the pick of the rest. (I also like “All My Life”, as I tend to love the Bunnymen’s album-closing-track ballads, although it is a bit plodding.) I would just buy Bombers Bay and All My Life from iTunes.

  3. I didn’t think I’d have very many…but in fact I’ve got quite a few, as well as even more that don’t fit the rubric (because I’ve also got one or two extra tracks from other albums – stand up, The Very Best Of Fleetwood Mac. But once I’d got down to S in my iTunes an obvious winner popped up; and so, ladies and gents, from The Ultimate Collection – Smokey Robinson and the Miracles I give you one of my favourite songs of all time –

    Tracks Of My Tears

  4. I could cheat of course and suggest a singles compilation by any one of several bands that only ever recorded a few singles, or perhaps The Best Of Infa Riot which handily includes nearly all of their debut album. But no, I’ll do this properly – sort of. A couple of years ago while reducing my collection I sold the first three Cockney Rejects albums (ironically called Greatest Hits 1 / 2 / 3) and replaced them with Best Of The Cockney Rejects when I decided there was nothing I was bothered about that wasn’t on the Best Of. This is a slight cheat, I do have a rarities album that I like but it’s very untypical, and generally overlooked, and a metal LP they did that I bought cheap, listened to once and would flog on ebay if it wasn’t in such shit condition. So I think Best Of The Cockney Rejects sort of fits the bill. The irony here is that they are the only band I have ever got A Listed more than once!
    Here’s my favourite Rejects song – Bad Man

    A great clip by the way that I’ve often adapted in coversations about music, although you have to be at least a bit of a music snob to find it funny.
    “The Beatles could have been”

  5. Asian Kung fu Generation – Blue Train

    Asian Kung fu Generation are one of the most successful rock bands in Asia. They formed in 1996 and have released huge selling albums ans made sold out tours year after year.

    Their definitive “Best Hits” album is Best Hit AKG and is is the only album of them that I own but actually it is a really great album and really shows their musical achievements over the years.

    This is one of my favoutites from the album:

    Asian Kung fu Generation – Blue Train

  6. first two LP’s I ever got were Best of Blondie and Complete Madness – in 1981/2 ish .. bloody brilliant singles bands – the Debbie Harry poster wearing the Andy Warhol’s BAD t-shirt stayed on my various walls for 15 odd years.
    But with the internet and second hand stores I’ve ended up with many more albums by both bands – I think the Monkees I have 74 different tracks but they are all from one best of greatest hits, compilation or another.

    who do I have only one of ?: The Message: The Best Of Grandmaster Flash & The Sugarhill Gang.

    But what a brilliant slice of pioneering rap. pure joy.

    so, Don’t push me – cos I’m close to the edge

    (I’ve just watched a 1981 Soul Train mime – of Rapper’s Delight but it’s a terrible cut off in it’s prime Edit – oh well I’ll link anyway)

    and this –

    Grandmaster Flash The Message HQ

  7. I bought a Kevin Ayres compilation just for his single “After The Show” and after a couple of spins decided that this was the only track I would bother returning to.

    Apologies to those who like his other stuff – it just didn’t send me. I still love that single though.

  8. I used to have the Best of … wait for it … Donovan, and B.O.Gordon Lightfoot. Both excellent.

    I no longer have albums but tend to buy dirt cheap CDs if I see them , the older one gets the more embarrassing CDs from one’s youth one can buy for £2.00 in Sainsbury’s – this is how I’ve acquired American Troubadour (Tom Paxton) with 23 tracks, at least 4 of which are classics, and the best of Jim Croce (“20 of his finest recordings”). I hardly ever listen to either of them but there are some great tracks and I feel comforted by having them there (without feeling compelled to add to the collection).

    There are some full stops in there somewhere.

    After the quizzical Earworms last week I realise I need to change my image from soft old folkie to something more exciting. So next week, it may be Best of Death Metal Thrash or White Noise – greatest hits. Until then …

  9. I’ve got a great Glen Campbell compilation (put together by the boys from Saint Etienne) called “The Capitol Years: 65-77″. Of course it has all the fabulous, famous Jimmy Webb songs on it (as well as “Rhinestone Cowboy”, etc), but it also includes some rather lovely lesser-known songs of his like this one:

    You Might As Well Smile

    Never been tempted to delve any deeper into Glen’s back catalogue, though.

  10. I have no choice but to cheat on this topic. I had Hendrix “Best of” albums, that covered the basics, but it was by no means all i ever needed.

    I first had Sabbath’s Paranoid, Yes’ America, and others on a K-Tel type compiliation album, again, nowhere close to all i needed.

    First albums i had were Let It Be and A Jackson 5 “Best of” for a pre-teen birthday. Ditto.

    Next 2 albums i had, i bought myself. First was Hot Rocks. Nowhere close to all i needed (quite obviously), but there were 2 of their most gorgeous songs i still love on More Hot Rocks that i may not have heard otherwise.

    Rolling Stones – Child of the Moon

    Rolling Stones – Sitting on a Fence

  11. I’ve probably told this story before. Was working once with a guy who was maybe a decade or so younger than i was. He started singing Changes and i joined in. Then he said, ok, let’s sing the whole album now. So i started off with Life on Mars, and he started singing something else.

    We looked at each other and said, wtf album are you singing from? me: Hunky Dory! Him: Greatest Hits! Now maybe he thought that was all he needed to now but i’d beg to differ.

    Bowie – Changes

      • Sometimes these youngsters know a lot more than i do. A few weeks ago when the running topic first went up i was on the phone with a friend who is around 22. I said, ok, the topic is songs about running. She started firing off a bunch of old soul tunes, Box Scaggs, and Steely Dan tunes that i only knew singles by but she had the albums.

  12. Best of the Happy Mondays

    Heard it in HMV, asked the assistant what it was and bought it on the spot. Until the Graun gave away a free copy of Pills, Thrills and Bellyaches the other week, I owned nothing else by them.

    WFL

  13. Brilliant call Barbryn. Checked for a new challenge when I got home & thought this could be tough. I was making tea when the answer came only 5 minutes later. I’ve done a bit of research for the particulars but this meets both the rubric and the test of time. Back when it was a major decision to spring $3 for an album that you only recognized 2-4 songs on, 45s were quite often my main choices. By 1967 when The Turtles Golden Hits was released I had, I think, 4 45s and so I already had about half the songs so no purchase. In 1970 they came out with More Golden Hits but I was still buying their 45s & ended up in the same position on that. I made my own greatest hits album out of the 45s twice ( Cassete & 8-track versions) & those sufficed until finally Rhino released The Turtles Greatest Hits in 1982. Finally I could justify some replacement vinyl. It was great to hear clean versions again. Only thing was they left off Outside Chance. A major omission I felt. This was rectified when Rhino released the CD going from 14 songs to 20. It took me quite a few years more to justify another purchase but finally I broke down. 45 years of working around the same set of tunes pretty much & I’m still in thrall to the brilliance of these singles. If your looking for extremely well crafted pop songs with great hooks & a subtle but powerful pull it’s hard to beat these guys. How to pick just one though? Just to show what they could do with other folks’ tunes ( you probably know all these anyway) I’ll go with their version of a tune from the Byrds Jim Mcguinn & Gene Clark.

    You Showed Me – The Turtles

  14. Hi all.

    Historically I’ve tried not to spend money on Best Ofs, because my voracious appetite for music once I’ve discovered a band tends to mean I’ll buy most of the albums the Best Of “classics” all came from..

    But a couple of albums did spring to mind:
    Dr. Feelgood – The U.A. Years was my first thought, and I could make a case for it being all the Dr.F you need, but it breaks this week’s rules because it’s not the only album I have by them.

    So then I homed in on The China Crisis Collection, which has the added twist of my deliberately buying the limited edition with a second CD of rarities / B-sides. But that’s not my final choice for a couple of reasons –
    (i) I may have another reason to talk about that soon (sorry to be cryptic); and
    (ii) as I turned away from my CD wall, a particular album’s spine caught my eye, and I thought “YES! That’s the one …”

    So, at the risk of incurring the wrath / disbelief / pity [delete as applicable] of several ‘Spillers – Amy, I’m looking at you – I’ll nominate:

    The Rolling Stones – Rewind

    Yes this really is the only Strolling Bones LP I own. I don’t feel the need to listen to their sixties stuff any more than I naturally come across it on the radio, and I’ve never felt the need to dig deeply to find out more.
    But with Rewind’s subtitle being Classic tracks From The Years 1971 – 1984, and a tracklisting of
    Miss You
    Brown Sugar
    Undercover Of The Night
    Start Me Up
    Tumbling Dice
    Hang Fire
    It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll
    Emotional Rescue
    Beast Of Burden
    Fool To Cry
    Waiting On A Friend
    Angie
    Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)
    it kinda covers all the sort of Stones B-listers that I might want, from within the era that I was most likely to be taken with them.
    Does that make me a bad person / musical failure?

    Either way, I’m not going to fight computer settings or tiredness to force a link to any of those. I’m off to bed to hide under the covers from the sound of some older ‘Spillers’ splutterings of disbelief.

    DsD

    • Eh, it’s not so bad. Still think Hot Rocks and More Hot Rocks are way better though. I’d dump Hang Fire off that one though. Maybe sub Happy instead?

      (ok, honestly? i’d probably dump them all except for Beast of Burden and It’s Only Rock and Roll. Maybe keep Miss You and Angie in a pinch.)

      (i would have thought that you’d take to Exile though, with it’s country / bluesy / American feel. Ever delved into that one?)

      • * caffeine slowly cranks DsD brain into gear *

        Exile …? Borrowed that once … now, did I, um, copy it? Let’s go have a root around …

        Aw SHIT!

        * gets up from desk, knocking coffee cup over, contents spill over dismantled PC bits and big secret sheet of all tech passwords *

    • I do own quite a lot of Stones, but Forty Licks is the compilation that goes down best on long car journeys. I think ‘best ofs’ are quite good when inflicting music on non-fans, the Cure’s ‘Standing on the Beach’ is another useful one.

      • Just had a look at the 40 Licks tracklist. It’s not bad, especially the first disc. I think for their run of best albums – Satanic Majesties thru Exile – compiliations are pretty useless though. The deep tracks are the good ones on those. Not a lot of filler or clunkers on any of them.

    • All my early memories of the Stones are of endless parties and dancing the night away. Early compilation “High Tides and Green Grass” would be my choice if forced to pick one.

      Side one

      “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?” – 2:34
      “Paint It Black” – 3:45
      “It’s All Over Now” (Bobby Womack/Shirley Jean Womack) – 3:27
      “The Last Time” – 3:40
      “Heart of Stone” – 2:46
      “Not Fade Away” (Norman Petty/Charles Hardin) – 1:48
      “Come On” (Chuck Berry) – 1:49

      Side two

      “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” – 3:43
      “Get Off of My Cloud” – 2:55
      “As Tears Go By” (Jagger/Richard/Andrew Loog Oldham) – 2:45
      “19th Nervous Breakdown” – 3:57
      “Lady Jane” – 3:08
      “Time Is on My Side” (Norman Meade) – 2:53
      “Little Red Rooster” (Willie Dixon) – 3:05

  15. When I emigrated, left my vinyl collection in the dubious care of a friend & mice ate the covers. Many couldn’t be replaced. All I have left of the Blue Orchids,for example, is their Greatest Hit comp.

  16. I could go for tracks from The Wonderstuff: “If the Beatles Had read Hunter… The Singles” or Elvis Costello: “Girls! Girls! Girls!”. However, I’ll be obscure and go for Balls: “Crazy Rhythm” from “Fastlane Through The History Of Balls”.

  17. If there was one group that seemed ubiquitous when I were a kid it was The Seekers. They were everywhere with their cheery , smiling Antipodean faces. Who could not be swayed by their down under charm ?
    I only owned one single of theirs back then, that evergreen classic “Morningtown Ride” but this is a song I loved then and love now.
    Manages to be both cheery and “downbeat” at the same time

      • I’m not sure I should tell you this but I own a five CD boxed set of music by The Seekers. It includes everything they’d recorded up to that point including their farewell concert (the first one) stuff only released in Australia, a few radio adverts and the film credits from Georgy Girl.

        Oh and I’ve got a Bruce Woodley vinyl solo album if anyone’s still reading. I think he was trying to sell himself as an Australian Tim Buckley.

      • ‘s OK. My dad bought me “The Four and Only Seekers” years ago; it had “The Water is Wide” on it, I still like their version … (Gets coat)

  18. I’m having another go…I’ve replaced a lot of the LPs I bought over the years with CDs, but when I say ‘replaced’ I don’t mean I got rid of the vinyl, because I’ve been lugging those heavy old things around with me for more house moves than I’ve had cars. The compilation albums that I had, however, sometimes didn’t have their equivalent in CD compilations and inevitably I’d be sorry when I couldn’t get the exact same thing, probably because they weren’t quite the same songs, or they weren’t quite in the same order, as I’d got used to hearing over all those years.

    Now that I’ve got a turntable again, I’m looking forward to hearing the right songs in the right order once more. I’ve already found my Byrds double compilation album with the gatefold sleeve and the Pete Frame family tree – haven’t found the Lovin’ Spoonful one yet but I’ll soon be enjoying

    Nashville Cats

    (To be fair, that one is on both compilations. Of course it is.)

  19. One that I have is Eurhytmics Greatest Hits – admit am a bit puzzled at what seems to be a slightly sniffy attitude towards that group on RR, because imo all 18 songs – starting with the wonderful Love is a Stranger – are just brilliant. ‘Love is stranger in an open car, to tempt you in and drive you far away…’ – what a lovely image

    However I did also buy the Jaques Brel compilation Infiniment, via the Guardian, and do absolutely appreciate his work, although my French isn’t as good as I’d wish,. I was mad that Je Suis Un Soir D’Ete wasn’t featured on the list for Summer songs, for me it was just so sensationally good – poetic,atmospheric, cynical, evocative….and what a voice

  20. Adding to this, my It’s Madness compilation – this was from time when I wasn’t buying many records so have nothing else of theirs even though they;re one of my fave groups. Fave track? Like them all but I think it has to be My Girl – it never fails to raise a smile

  21. I bought the CD “OO-EE Baby” which was sub-titled “The Best of Frankie Ford”. I’ve always loved “Sea Cruise” and the B-side, “Roberta”. Sadly, the rest of the album is mediocre at best, with Frankie trying to sound like Bobby Darin in his “Mack The Knife” mode.
    Here, backed by Huey ‘Piano’ Smith & His Clowns, is

    “Roberta”

  22. Realise I have two Monkees compilations on my ipod, The Definitive Monkees’ and The Monkees 25th Anniversary Collection, both of these courtesy of my daughter. There are some songs which they have iin common, and there are other songs which appear only on one or the other, however, neither of them contains the brilliant ‘Circle Sky’ nommed for this week’s theme. Which is a pity. My favourite? Well, I’m not going to try and be original….of course it’s Daydream Believer.

  23. I was pretty sure I had the Blondie Atomic collection but can’t find it. I do have the Microdisney Big Sleeping House set, however. Bought after being blown away by Fatima Mansions’ Viva Dead Ponies, it revealed more Cathal Coughlan’s softer side (not my favourite bit of him). I rarely play anything from it these days but here’s one of the best of the ‘best of': Singer’s Hampstead Home

    One day I may get round to playing the Oasis ‘best of’ someone once bought me, Stop The Clocks. Or not.

  24. Some interesting answers – thanks everyone. Two recurring themes seem to be bands whose singles we loved in our formative years (whether The Turtles, The Seekers, Madness or The Wonderstuff) and artists from a bygone era or unfamiliar genre (bish’s Glen Campbell, albahooky’s Andrews Sisters). Perhaps also artists we feel obliged to own something by.

    In the interests of full disclosure, others I have that fit the rubric:

    The Pretenders
    Talking Heads
    Supergrass
    Carter USM (though my brother had their first 3 albums on cassette back in the day, so I know them fairly well)
    The Primitives (“Crash” is track one… I’ve rarely listened to the other 20)
    The Mamas and the Papas
    Tim Buckley (though this is an “Anthology” with 33 tracks… more a Waitrose collection than a Tesco’s one…?)

    And a couple of embarrassing ones, which I ought to rectify:

    The Best of the Pixies
    The Story of the Clash

    There’s a few more where I have a compilation plus one album (The Byrds, The Kinks, The Charlatans, Kirsty MacColl). Compilations were a way into The Smiths, Nick Drake, Uncle Tupelo, and probably others too.

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