Review Summary: A solid sampling of music by one of the iconic bands of the eighties.
For an obsessive-compulsive nutjob like myself, The Smiths are a frustrating band. I say this because with most artists whose music you really like, if you collect all of their studio LPs, you basically have all (or at least most) of their best songs. Not so with these guys. They only ever recorded four proper studio albums (which I guess isn't that
terrible, considering the band only actually existed for a little over five years.) And because they concentrated a lot on singles, many of which weren't later tacked onto a studio LP, maybe as much as 40% or so of their best stuff never found its way to one of those big four albums.
This forces those of us Smiths lovers who still enjoy the album format to pick up one or more of the band's compilation albums to fill in the gaps. But what to choose?
Hatful of Hollow
(1984) and Louder Than Bombs
(1987) have always been popular choices. The former is the best-selling Smiths comp in the UK, going platinum there, while the latter went gold in both the U.S. and the UK. For myself, though, I've always liked the two 1992 companion albums, Best... I
and ...Best II
. These were both released by Warner (on the WEA label in Britain and the Sire label in the United States) shortly after that company had purchased the rights to The Smiths' back catalog. For the purposes of this review, we'll be focusing on the first of these, Best...I
There are 14 tracks on Best... I
, which includes seven songs not previously released on one of The Smiths' four studio LPs, plus single versions of "This Charming Man", "Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before", and "Girlfriend in a Coma". It also includes the album versions of "What Difference Does It Make?", "How Soon Is Now?", "Hand in Glove" and "Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others".
Some of the material never included on a studio LP are classic Smiths songs. My personal favorite is "Panic". (You
know -- the "Hang the DJ" song!) But many of the others are also iconic eighties tracks, including "Shoplifters of the World Unite", "Sheila Take a Bow", and "William, It Was Really Nothing". And B-Sides like "Half a Person" (the six-years-on-your-trail song) and "Rubber Ring" have received their share of airplay over the years, as well.
The Smiths were one of the great bands of the eighties. They were absolutely huge in the UK, and had a strong following (especially along the East and West Coasts) in the U.S. as well. While there are certainly other Smiths compilations to choose from, Best... I
will give someone not previously familiar with their music a taste of some of their strongest material, and will give people who are already fans a chance to collect some of the finest tracks not released on any of their studio LPs.