the lesser best of

Through no (or little) fault of my own, two new CD’s have recently entered my collection:

  • The Very Best of the Eagles (this got into my house due to circumstances beyond my control. Alas I cannot get rid of it
  • The Very Best of Talk Talk (this I asked for so it was my fault)

Anyway, the funny thing about both of these CD’s is that they are called “The Very Best of…(such and such).” This seems like a goofy naming scheme. I mean, “The Best of” is clear. It lets you know that this is the artist’s best material. But, “The Very Best of”???. Is that, like, opposed to “The Not-So-Best Of” or just “The Best Of”. Should the two former titles be cheaper?

My guess is that record labels think “The Best of” just sounds stodgy, like a Paul Anka or Peggy Lee album, and therefore not befitting of hipsters like Talk Talk or (shudder) Don Henley.

To me, “The Very Best of” sounds like a bread commercial: “We use the freshest butter, eggs, flour, and lard, the very best of the farm to make the very best bread…” yada yada yada. It sounds like food marketing. It sounds corny.

As Peggy Lee said on her 4-disc “Best of” collection, Is That All There Is? No, probably not. Because now that people can pick and choose the ….er….best songs from ITunes or their friends, why in the world should anyone buy a regular back-catalog album again? Why should anyone have anything but a collection? In short, kids today have no time but “The Best” from rock stars of the past.

This in itself is a shame, as it takes a lot of music out of context. The music fan depends on the record company to put together a collection of “hits” for him, instead of hearing the music in the order the artist intended, the order of the original album. Also, as with much entertainment consumption today, it’s too targeted. The rest of the text (or record) disappears and all that is experienced is “the best” song or the desired information. Well, the other lesser songs may have been good too. The listener will never know.

But still, we must accept “The best” just as we must accept searching for information instead of reading a whole book to find it. It’s all we have time for! But at least record collections could have better names. How about –

  • Ten Songs By
  • or just

  • Enough Songs to Not Look Like a Total Ignoramus