Music Library

Mackens’ Music Library: The Greatest Hits

While building up my CD collection throughout middle school and high school, many classic artists entered the library by way of a compilation albums of their most popular songs, colloquially known as ‘Greatest Hits’ albums. This was often less expensive than buying individual songs on iTunes at $0.99 – $1.29 a pop, and it was a great way to introduce myself to the music libraries of some of the biggest artists of past decades.

Similarly, understanding which Greatest Hits albums I own and which artists I delved into further over the years is a great introduction into how my music tastes originated and have grown over the past decade. Enjoy my personal liner notes on each below!

Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits – I can’t remember if I bought this before or after riding the Rockin’ Roller Coaster at Disney World, but being an impressionable teenager at the time definitely makes me lean towards after. The thrill of that ride at that age is captured in part by the Boston band’s music, which toes the line between Classic and Hard Rock as we know it today. Given this greatest hits album was released in 1980, one could argue the release was premature. However, the 10-song compilation does little to disappoint if you’re looking for a hot mix of their early work.

Obvious Highlight: “Walk This Way” (Original recording w/o Run DMC)
Non-obvious Highlight: “Draw The Line”
Do I own another album by this artist: Yes.

The Very Best of Aerosmith: Devil’s Got a New Disguise – What’s nuts about Aerosmith is they have 13 different compilation albums they’ve released over their career. 13! This makes it look a little less crazy that I have two of them. While at a glance The Essential Aerosmith does the best job of covering their entire career, Devil’s Got a New Disguise does nearly as well combining the best of vintage and reborn Aerosmith into one project. Plus, how could I NOT have an Aerosmith album with “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” on it?

Obvious Highlight: “Love in an Elevator”
Non-obvious Highlight: “Sweet Emotion” (Full-length recording including the talk box guitar intro, unlike the previously-mentioned album which only included the radio edit)
Do I own a non-Greatest Hits-album by this artist: Yes.

Beastie Boys: Solid Gold Hits – Mike D, Ad-Rock, and MCA brought together punk roots, triple vocal harmonies, and sampling in a stew that no one else could. Solid Gold Hits is a solid-gold introduction to the trio’s library in non-chronological order.

Obvious Highlight: “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”
Non-obvious Highlight: “Shake Your Rump”
Do I own another album by this artist: Yes.

DMX: Icon – Here’s a classic case of buying a hits album for the hits just as much as you would for any traditional album. I embarrassingly can’t say I’ve gotten through this compilation front to back more than once (if that), but hey, when you see something in that $5 bin at Best Buy, you might as well give it a shot. Also, how the hell is “X Gon’ Give it to Ya” NOT on here?

Obvious Highlight: “Party Up”
Non-obvious Highlight: “What These Bitches Want”
Do I own another album by this artist: No.

Eminem: Curtain Call: The Hits – This is admittedly a burned copy of the master lyricist’s classic compilation, but its best songs slap all the same. Armed with Dr. Dre’s beats in the late 90s and early to mid 00s, nothing could stop one of the biggest and most controversial rappers of all time.

Obvious Highlight: “Without Me”
Non-obvious Highlight: “Guilty Conscience”
Do I own another album by this artist: Yes.

Guns N’ Roses: Greatest Hits – I still remember being in awe of Axl Rose’s vocal range, thinking there were two different people singing on “Civil War” and “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” I thought Axl could only do his signature squeal from hearing “Welcome to the Jungle” so many times! Such is the mind of a teenager. While Axl steals the stage here, it’s both obvious to rock fans and still worth noting how important Slash and bassist Duff McKagan were to the band’s heavy, blues-influenced sound.

Obvious Highlight: “Paradise City”
Non-obvious Highlight: “You Could Be Mine”
Do I own another album by this artist: Yes.

The Essential Iron Maiden – Given the albums’ release in 2005 and the apparent need to promote songs from 90s and 00s Maiden, I could honestly do without Disc 1 of The Essential Iron Maiden. Iron Maiden are no doubt the closest thing we have to bards of medieval times, singing songs of the tragic/heroic war stories of civilization past and complementing those stories with screaming guitar solos. Having said that, the stone-cold-classics heavy metal enthusiasts need to hear from Iron Maiden are back-loaded on the second half of this compilation, with Bruce Dickinson-led Maiden being the essential essential Iron Maiden we need in our lives.

Obvious Highlight: “The Number of the Beast”
Non-obvious Highlight: “Fear of the Dark [Live]”
Do I own another album by this artist: Yes.

Jay Z: The Hits Collection, Volume One – It’s hard to take a collection of music from one of the most prolific MCs of all time and distill their life’s work into a single compilation, but I guess that’s why it’s called Greatest Hits Vol. 1, and why we should have some Beyoncé-tie-in Vol. 2 coming down the line in the next decade. From Hard Knock Life to The Blueprint 3, there’s not a single missing from this greatest hits I can think of, and I challenge hip hop heads to let me know what I am missing out on here.

Obvious Highlight: “99 Problems”
Non-obvious Highlight: “Public Service Announcement”
Do I own another album by this artist: Yes.

The Best of Judas Priest: Living After Midnight – Another one of the earliest pioneers of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Judas Priest was one of my earliest points of exposure to the genre, which makes sense given their wider appeal. Their hits range from hard rock classics such as “Breaking the Law” to blistering tracks like “Metal Meltdown,” giving everyone something to revisit and something to explore. The outfits/theatrics of their live performances are something to marvel at as well (see a taste above)!

Obvious Highlight: “The Hellion” + “Electric Eye”
Non-obvious Highlight: “Ram it Down”
Do I own another album by this artist: Does a burned copy given to me by a guitar instructor count?

Nelly: 6 Derrty Hits – Another collection from the $5 bin, this looks like everything you need from a Nelly mix, but upon further review 6 Derrty Hits completely ignores the success of his 2005 album Sweatsuit in favor of promoting his 2008 single “Party People” with Fergie. The record label machine is always at work people.

Obvious Highlight: “Ride Wit Me”
Non-obvious Highlight: “Air Force One”
Do I own another album by this artist: No.

Nirvana: Greatest Hits – The perfect compilation for people who love to revisit the legends of grunge but don’t want to spend time determining whether they actually like In Utero more than Nevermind.

Obvious Highlight: “Heart-Shaped Box”
Non-obvious Highlight: “Sliver”
Do I own another album by this artist: No, digital download of Nevermind doesn’t count.

Primus: They Can’t All Be Zingers – Les Claypool is one of my favorite bassists of all time. His unique bass riffs compete regularly for the spotlight typically held by lead guitar, subverting our expectations of traditional rock, but rocking all the same. Sure it’s quirky, and sure it’s a bit weird to hear, but it’s different, and worth at least exploring the first half/most popular tracks to hear just how left-of-center their music truly was.

Obvious Highlight: “Jerry Was A Race Car Driver
Non-obvious Highlight: “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver”
Do I own another album by this artist: No, burning Suck On This from the library doesn’t count.

The Best of Public Enemy: 20th Century Masters: Millennium Collection – After ‘discovering’ Public Enemy via Madden 10, I had to delve into more of their music than just “Shut ‘Em Down”. Their breadth of sampling, Chuck D’s commanding voice, and every ‘Yeaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh boyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy’ and ad lib from Flavor Flav combine for a trifecta of reasons to familiarize yourself with this groundbreaking hip hop group’s best compositions.

Obvious Highlight: “Fight The Power”
Non-obvious Highlight: “Welcome To The Terrordome”
Do I own another album by this artist: No.

Queen: Greatest Hits – One of the biggest rock bands of the moment due to the extreme success of their biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, it’s worth noting that at least one music critic (Brian Viner) has called the 1981 iteration of Queen’s greatest hits “the greatest album of all time.” Viner hit the nail on the head with the quality of this compilation, as you’ll be hard-pressed to find a song in the collection you don’t already know or enjoy.

Obvious Highlight: “Don’t Stop Me Now”
Non-obvious Highlight: “Seven Seas Of Rhye”
Do I own another album by this artist: No.

The Best of Rob Zombie: 20th Century Masters: Millennium Collection – Likely $9.99 at Best Buy and carrying just enough recognition juice from Guitar Hero and local rock radio to come into my possession, it’s actually difficult to listen to this for more than 25 minutes straight outside of the month of October. It’s great for Halloween playlists though.

Obvious Highlight: “Superbeast” or “Dragula,” they’re basically the same
Non-obvious Highlight: “Feel So Numb”
Do I own another album by this artist: Noooooooooooooo…

Rush: The Spirit of Radio – I had already owned Rush’s 1981 album Moving Pictures by the time I bought this compilation, so I remember at the time getting this specifically for the grouping of singles from albums leading up to then. I can’t remember ever listening past “Subdivisions,” which makes me think I’ve missed a gem or two.

Obvious Highlight: “Closer To The Heart”
Non-obvious Highlight: “Red Barchetta”
Do I own another album by this artist: Yes!

Soundgarden: Telephantasm – As famously noted on The Throwback Podcast, Soundgarden is on the Mount Rushmore of grunge bands from the early-mid 90s along with Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains. Telephantasm serves as an anthology/greatest-hits combo, with the track listing going in chronological order of their album releases. That’s why the best block of songs come from the middle thanks to 1994’s Superunknown. I procured this album through purchase of Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, but that doesn’t make the album any less legitimate of a compilation.

Obvious Highlight: “Black Hole Sun”
Non-obvious Highlight: “Black Rain” (not released until 2010!)
Do I own another album by this artist: No.

3 Doors Down: A Six Pack of Hits – Another selection from the $5 bin released in 2008, A Six Pack of Hits is all you need to get your dose of 3 Doors Down every 3.29 years. Just solid (average) radio rock hits.

Obvious Highlight: “Kryptonite”
Non-obvious Highlight: “Let Me Go”
Do I own another album by this artist: No

This turned out to be way longer than I expected, so if you made it this far, congratu-fuckin-lations! I’ll be sure to make my next few posts a lot more digestible for y’all. Hope you enjoyed, and let me know what Greatest Hits albums I DON’T own that I should be listening to!



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