Greatest "Greatest Hits" Albums - The 1978 Edition

We've been listing our Greatest "Greatest Hits" Albums here on The Hideaway since 2014. We started out with individual compilations but have since started listing them as a group by the year of release and so far we've covered 1975, 1976, 1977, 1979, and 1985. Today, we add the Greatest "Greatest Hits" Albums of 1978 to the list. Normally in the series, I get a little factsy with dates, chart numbers, etc but I'm just gonna be me today if that's okay. Trying to get over some heavy duty writer's block. It should be noted that two of those aforementioned individually listed compilations would have been included in today's list had they not already been singled out:
40 Greatest Hits is the 318th compilation (probably) of music from the legendary and influential Hank Williams, one of less than a dozen folks enshrined in both the Country and Rock Halls Of Fame. Hank stands alone as the King of Country Music (his name at birth, Hiram King Williams), even though he slipped away from this world at the age of 29, leaving behind a surprisingly large recorded legacy that continues to awe and inspire. Are all 40 tracks great? No, but in my book, this is at least a great 30 song collection I was fortunate enough to pick up from Columbia House in 1984 after repeatedly checking it out from the public library over the previous three years.
There have been at least another 500-600 Hank Williams compilations released, remastered, and rejiggered since 40 Greatest Hits was first released in 1978 but it remains my go to when I need to get my Hank on. My Nan Nan (Mom's mom) once told me that one of her second or third cousins was one of Hank Williams two wives but I forget which one. So I got that going for me and as Kris Kristofferson so eloquently wrote in a song of the same title, "If you don't like Hank Williams, you can kiss my ass."
The Best Of Vol. I album is easily the Greatest "Greatest Hits" Album we'll showcase today though it is given a run for its money when the Wings and Steve Miller comps are figured in. Featuring seven previously charting hits and three tracks never before on an EWF album, The Best Of is all most people will ever need of Earth, Wind & Fire.
There have been other compilations, including a somewhat decent The Best Of Vol. II in 1988 and a remastered with two (worthless) bonus megamixes reissue of Vol. I in 1999, but my vinyl copy is all I've ever needed. If you don't have this one, you've got to get it into your life.
Greatest Hits and Midnight Magic, two Commodores albums, came to our home in the usual way of the day, in a cardboard box from RCA Music Service in late 1979 or early 1980. I was delighted to hear the longer, album-length versions of the group's most recent hits ("Still" and "Sail On") but it was the tracks, most of which I had never heard before, on Greatest Hits that had the biggest impact on me including the nearly twice as long album version of "Three Times A Lady". My appreciation for the group now expanded, they hit me with another pair of hits in 1981 ("Lady (You Bring Me Up)" and "Oh No") and then followed up with another ten-song hits comp All The Great Hits in 1982 that featured six songs that were not on Greatest Hits.
When All The Great Love Songs came out as a CD exclusive, it became the standard Commodores compilation I used for mixtapes and personal listening. But then I picked up The Best Of The Commodores, part of the reissue campaign 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection in the early 2000s. It has, for me at least, the perfect balance of tracks as well as single edits and album cuts.
The genius of Hendrix had always been around me - Dad had two of his 8-tracks - but it didn't hit me full on until my sophomore or junior year of high school when I bought The Essential Jimi Hendrix double album home. My obsession with it lasted a solid two weeks, almost all of it spent with headphones on, either at home, on the bus to and from school or in class. You know those movie scenes where a bolt of energy strikes a person and they go through a painful looking transformation? This was like that except it lasted two weeks and wasn't at all painful. It was like beautiful secrets of the universe were being revealed. Near the end of that second week, I discovered there was a Volume 2  (released in 1979) with a bonus 45 and soon they, too, were mine. Like Hank Williams, Jimi Hendrix was taken from us way too soon.
And like Williams, Hendrix left a recorded legacy that will forever be exploited repackaged by his family icahoots with evil music corporations. Sadly, Essential is no longer my must hear Hendrix comp. Now I find myself reaching for either 1969's Smash Hits (one of Dad's 8-tracks so there is comfort and familiarity in the tracklisting) or if I need a bigger fix, 1997's Experience Hendrix: The Best Of Jimi Hendrix.
I came to Steely Dan late as 1) they were not a favorite of Dad's and 2) I mistook their early radio hits "Do It Again" and "Reelin' In The Years" as Doobie Brothers tracks and "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" as a Chicago song. (Come back when you are finished laughing. I'll be here.) Later rather than sooner, I became aware of who Steely Dan was and, more importantly, what their music sounded like. Sometime in 1980 or 1981, their Greatest Hits double album came up on sale in RCA for like $5 and I ordered it pronto. Soon after it arrived, I got into it slowly, side by side with Sides 1 and 4 becoming all-time favorites and most likely the reason I have a compelling need to hear "Reeling In The Years" immediately after "Do It Again" plays.
Other Steely Dan compilations followed and the compact disc only A Decade Of Steely Dan was one of my first CD purchases, even before I had a CD player. Though, if I am in a mood for a little Steely Dan, I am more than likely to listen to them album by album rather than song by song on a compilation.
One of Dad's most played 8-track tapes was Kenny Rogers & The First Edition ‎- Greatest Hits. Released in 1971, it featured thirteen songs and the lead vocals of Sweet Kenny Rogers. Rogers went solo five years later, then released Ten Years Of Gold as the fourth album of his solo career in 1977 or 1978. Dad happily bought the album on 8-track as well but I was in the car that day as he opened the tape and put it in the player only to pull it out about a minute later as he realized that some of the songs were re-recordings. And that is how the Ten Years Of Gold 8-track tape came to be mine. It is true that Kenny re-recorded five of the six First Edition songs but it made no difference to my ears less-discerning ears though I would come to hear what Dad had heard and prefer those original recordings.
Two of those re-recordings appeared on 1980's Greatest Hits, another Greatest "Greatest Hits" Album. The original versions of the First Edition tracks began appearing on Rogers compilation albums in the early Eighties even as he continued to hit after hit after hit. I've got six Sweet Kenny Rogers compilation albums sitting on the shelf and while Ten Years Of Gold is a sentimental favorite, my go-to is 42 Ultimate Hits even though the final eleven tracks on disc 2, everything after "Islands In The Stream", never get played.
While he was a little into Hendrix, hard rock was never really Dad's thing so I had to find out all about the heavy sounds of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple on my own which wasn't that difficult because all three groups were ubiquitous on rock radio, which I migrated to in the Fall of 1981 after a lifetime of listening to Top 40. Because Deep Purple is probably the most underrated (or overrated) of those three, it took me a little longer to come around to their charms than those of Zeppelin or Sabbath but once onboard, I was hooked. Fortunately for me, all of my favorite Deep Purple songs and then some can be found on the fantastic rockin' When We Rock, We Rock And When We Roll, We Roll album.
When I say all of my favorite Deep Purple songs, I mean all but "Perfect Strangers" and "Knocking At Your Back Door", my favorite songs on the band's 1984 comeback album, Perfect Strangers. There have been dozens of Deep Purple compilations over the past five decades though none of them holds a candle to When We Rock, We Rock And When We Roll, We Roll.
A special sincere and heartfelt thanks to all The Hideaway viewers who took the time to message me one way or another, checking on my welfare. It truly means a lot. Among other issues, I've been dealing with severe writer's block and it took me six whole days just to write this post from start to finish, forcing myself to write up an album a day until tonight when I knocked out both Sweet Kenny Rogers and Deep Purple. Maybe I'm back in the groove...

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for not calling Steely Dan "The Dan" - an affectation that drives me crazier than it should.

    Never heard the Deep Purple, but dig the other comps listed here. Even though it contains "September," I strongly disagree that "The Best Of is all most people will ever need of Earth, Wind & Fire." The more EWF, the better. I need a daily dose as if it were vitamin C. (Vitamin EWF? Too easy? Lame-O? Moving on.)

    This Fanilow would have included Barry Manilow's double-LP collection, a set that helped me transition to a new home in late 1978.