Whenever anyone asks for your favorite albums of all time, it usually goes without saying that they are not asking for greatest hits compilations. Greatest hits albums can get a bad rap, as they are not intentional "albums," and some gatekeepers of culture frown upon that.
I'll admit to this kind of snobbery. If someone tells me that their favorite Stones album is Hot Rocks, I'm going to assume that they are not that familiar with the Stones, which may or may not be true, but that doesn't mean that Hot Rocks isn't entirely enjoyable. When you examine the facts, greatest hits compilations are, well, great. They are literally collections of a band's most popular work, which makes them extremely listenable, which is kind of the whole point of music.
A lot of compilations are responsible for cultivating my interest in an artist or band, which is frankly invaluable. Though I'd love to be able to say that my first Tom Petty album was Damn the Torpedoes, it wasn't; it was his greatest hits album, which my dad gave to me.
Below you will find 13 compilations that shaped my taste in music in some way, and I would love for you to leave yours in the comments.
Fleetwood Mac — Greatest Hits
Though it isn't as expertly crafted as Tusk or Rumours, nor does it flow as seamlessly, there isn't a bad song on this compilation, and it has some great Christine McVie stuff, which sometimes gets overlooked.
The Rolling Stones — Hot Rocks
This is an album of crowd-pleasers and is a distillation of the most accessible stuff the group put out in the late '60s/early '70s.
The Smashing Pumpkins — Rotten Apples
This is embarrassing to admit, but — besides Siamese Dream — this is the only Smashing Pumpkins album I ever owned.
Aretha Franklin — 30 Greatest Hits
I played the shit out of this as a young teen and felt very empowered by it.
Grateful Dead — Skeletons from the Closet
I've mentioned this before, but this is one of the rare cases in which I feel that the greatest hits compilation is actually a band's best album because I just cannot with "regular" Dead albums.
David Bowie — Best of Bowie
A cool older girl let me borrow her copy of this, and it changed my life.
John Prine — Souvenirs
My dad gave me this album, and I remember thinking it was kind of weird at first. I (obviously) eventually warmed to it, and Prine has become one of my favorite recording artists of all time. (As evidenced by the fact that I write about him on here any chance I get.)
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers — Greatest Hits
As I mentioned above, this was my first Petty album, and my entire summer of 1995 was spent alternating between this and Wildflowers.
The Temptations — The Ultimate Collection
It is impossible to not enjoy this collection of fine songs.
The Police — Every Breath You Take: The Classics
This is the only Police album I own, and I'm comfortable with that.
The Cars — Complete Greatest Hits
I feel like The Cars are kind of underrated. The're extremely prolific and are also super fun to dance to and, with the notable exception of "Drive," this album is pretty dance-y. (Fun fact: The first song my parents ever danced to was a Cars song, so that's something.)
Leonard Cohen — The Best Of
It is impossible to criticize any collection of songs that contains "So Long, Marianne," "Chelsea Hotel #2," and "Famous Blue Raincoat." In fact, if this compilation consisted of only these three songs, it would still be worth your time.
Bob Marley & The Wailers — Legend
My dad hates Christmas music and will only play Bob Marley during Christmas, so this is a Christmas album to me. (Though I have been known to listen to Bob Marley the rest of the year.)
What are your favorite greatest hits compilations? Are any of them your favorite albums? Do you think the distinction matters, or is that some snobby nonsense?