Why a greatest hits album can be the band’s greatest

Abba 1976

First published November 2013

"What's your favourite Beatles album, then?" asks a very young James Lance.

"Ooh … tough one," says Alan Partridge. "I'd have to say … The Best of the Beatles". It's very funny. Except isn't Alan Partridge right? Aren't the Red and Blue collections genuinely the best Beatles albums?

As the music world drives towards Christmas with the enthusiasm of a Chris Rea song, the industry does what it always does, and breaks out the "Best of" big guns. This year, such varied names as Dido, Wet Wet Wet, the Killers, Dannii Minogue, Keane, Nickelback and Hard-Fi have put out collections of their big hitters, joining rack after rack of Best ofs, Very Best ofs, Essentials and Greatest Hits. Snobs and musos consider them either shameless cash-ins, aimed at asking long-suffering fans to pay yet again for music they already own (thanks to the presence of a bonus track or two), or as musical cheat sheets, easy shelf-fillers for people whose idea of a record store is a branch of Tesco.

I disagree. I bloody love a good best of album. What would you rather listen to? Voulez-Vous, or Abba Gold? Erotica, or The Immaculate Collection? In the 90s, Take That released three really ......

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