· By David Millar

Are 'Greatest Hits' albums redundant?

The ‘Greatest Hits’ (let’s call the ‘GH’ from here) for many decades has been the best way to get a slice of your favourite artist. It gave us a great snapshot of our favourite artist/band. You had a one or double LP (or CD) jammed with the joys of ‘Hits’. Back in the day, until the rise of digital, this was the only way (apart from buying 7” or 12” Eps, radio) to explore the music without buying a stack of albums. (CD’s included) ‘GH’ were created by the record companies as a way of stretching out their sales, when they were close to the end of an artists contract. And they generally were very successful in the market for all of the reasons discussed. Think of ‘Queen’, Madonna: Immaculate collection’, ‘The Beatles’, ‘The Eagles, ‘David Bowie: Changes One’, etc…..


The rise of streaming has changed the musical landscape, no doubt. Tidal, Spotify, Deezer and Apple Music, etc.. have changed what platform we listen on and our music consumption patterns. The Streaming companies have simply adapted this idea and added more complexity to the selection we are offered, in much the same way as record companies dictated what they included on a ‘GH’


There were of course limitations to the sound on a Vinyl and CD  ‘Greatest Hits’ or ‘Best of’ releases. Often tracks were edited to trim down to a friendlier length, and compression of music was a common occurrence, somewhat degrading the sound quality. There are some great ones released including ‘War’, ‘David Bowie: Changes One’ (pre digital) and ‘Grace Jones’, etc..


If you are a lover of classic vinyl, then the ‘GH’ still represents a great way to explore an artists/band in their natural habitat, in an old-school way. Streaming still has it’s place. 

Once you have listened to the ‘GH’, and you like the music, please make a small investment in buying the individual albums for them.. And more importantly take time to sit down and listen to them. It will no doubt show the musical development of the artist, changing line-up and shifts in musical fashions. Many surprises to be heard. Not all ‘Greatest Hits’ albums are perfect but in the vinyl format there is something intrinsically comforting about playing and holding them. Grab some classic releases and find out for yourself.


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