It’s Christmas, and nothing screams the festive season quite like a bevy of best-of albums. The perfect tool for introducing new artists to the unversed, we’ve got it all this month, from Bob Marley to P!nk.
Words | Paul Jones, Amy Flower and Zoë Radas
A musical and political icon, the allure of Bob Marley’s hypnotic and illuminating music has never diminished, due in part to this beautiful compilation, the best-selling reggae album of all time. While enthusiasts will plumb deeper into Marley’s back catalogue, Legend presents a comprehensive gateway into the singer-songwriter’s voluminous body of work. The compilation kicks off with the rolling bassline on Is This Love and bounces across 14 instantly recognisable songs, including Could You Be Loved, Stir it Up, I Shot the Sheriff, and Exodus. For the novice, this is the key to reggae’s front door. For everyone else, the perfect record for a summer’s afternoon.
TOP TRACK: No Woman No Cry
FAST FACT: The tracks on Legend and the cover photo were chosen by Irishman Dave Robinson after becoming the President of Island Records.
2xLP LIMITED EDITION RED VINYL REISSUE
Even some of our favourite bands can have the odd track on a singles compilation that doesn’t necessarily float your boat. Play the random needle drop lottery on this cracker from national treasures the Hoodoo Gurus though, and you’re always guaranteed to land on a winner. Kicking off (heh) with the song that rugby nabbed in What’s My Scene?, we’re treated to a trip from the early days of killer debut long-player Stoneage Romeos through more smashes than any one band usually drops, such as Bittersweet, the Bangles collaboration Good Times and Like Wow – Wipeout!, with crazy earworm Miss Freelove ’69 closing out the fourth side. Solid gold, the lot.
TOP TRACK: I Want You Back
FAST FACT: Hoodoos guitarist Brad Shepherd has claimed that “Electric Soup” is a nickname for Jack Daniels bourbon.
2xLP VINYL REISSUE
It took over 20 years for a Springsteen compilation to be released, and when it finally did, it was stuffed to the gills with smashes. Kicking off the only way it could, with the “Wall of Sound”-inspired production of Born to Run, we’re taken on a three-side chronological trip through singles and the odd classic album track. Name a biggie, and it’s here – Badlands, The River, Dancing in the Dark, Born in the USA – but there’s also the fourth side, featuring what were four new tracks upon release in 1995, the result of The Boss getting the E Street Band back together for the first time in several years.
TOP TRACK: Born to Run
FAST FACT: The Fender guitar that Bruce is holding on the front cover also appeared on the covers of albums Born to Run, Live 1975-85, Human Touch, and Wrecking Ball. It cost him US$185 back in 1973.
When The White Stripes stopped doing their thing in 2011, there was one piece of unfinished business – despite a six-studio album history, they’d not released a “hits” compilation. All great bands deserve a greatest hits record, so eventually, it happened – and what a collection it is! Four sides, 26 top tunes in no particular order, with the bangers you’d expect like Fell in Love with a Girl, Hotel Yorba, Blue Orchid, a couple of desirable non-album releases (including their standout cover of Dolly’s Jolene), and all winding up in the biggest way that it possibly could, with bona fide anthemic classic Seven Nation Army.
TOP TRACK: Seven Nation Army
FAST FACT: The title of Seven Nation Army stemmed from Jack White’s pronunciation of “Salvation Army” as a kid. It was meant to be a placeholder name for the instrumental but ended up sticking.
Britney, Jessica, and Christina – this was the holy trinity of pop during the late ‘90s, and they shared a very specific aesthetic. Enter Alecia Moore stage-left, who at age 21 burst onto airwaves as P!nk, sounding less like Britney’s “born to make you happy” brand of boy-worship and more like the sass-soaked tunes of Destiny’s Child and TLC. She quickly revealed that live performance was in her blood, imbuing her shows with vibrancy and athleticism. Her natural stage presence is well displayed across this greatest hits live album, including several covers, emotive bangers, and even her famed MTV Video Vanguard speech, which left eyes swimming and hearts bursting at the 2017 award ceremony.
TOP TRACK: Who Knew
FAST FACT: Door number 18 of Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena was painted pink in reference to the artist’s record-breaking 18 shows performed there during her 2013 The Truth About Love tour.
“Bittersweet memories/ That is all I’m taking with me,” Whitney Houston sang in 1992, delivering what would become her signature song – and a poignant foresight into a career marred by myriad abuses (physical and psychological), touched by triumph (Houston’s artistic genius was undeniable), and eventually cut off by her untimely death in 2012. This compilation puts that track – I Will Always Love You, recorded for the 1992 film The Bodyguard – at the centre of an evocative collection, with 19 songs spanning Houston’s every achievement. It’s a treat to be astonished anew by her gospel prowess and the way she carves an emotional arc throughout a track, and on vinyl, these songs shine particularly bright.
TOP TRACK: I’m Every Woman
FAST FACT: Houston was introduced to I Will Always Love You by her The Bodyguard co-star Kevin Costner, who suggested Houston cover it as the film soundtrack’s lead single.