September 24, 2020

1976-04-25 – Quad City Times

1976 04 25 Quad_City_Times_Sun__Apr_25__1976_

Rock’s Greatest
Hits And Misses

By David Marsh
(1.) Rolling Stone

Rock is supposedly too vi-
latile and unpredieatble to be
subject to rules and formulas.
But the record business rec-
ognizes one immutable ax-
iom. Since it found its most
succinct and brilliant expres-
sion in Barrett Strong’s 1960
hit, “Money,” let‘s call it
Strong's Law and put it this
way:

The best things In me are
tree

But you can keep them tor
the birds and bees

Just give me money,
that’s what I want

The most brilliant current
expression of Strong’s Law is
found in the recent expolosion
oI Greatest Hits albums on
the trade charts: Cash Box
listed 22 on last week's Top
200; Record World and Bill-
board, 18 each. The artists
represented were as diverse
as Helen Reddy and Black
Sabbath. as novel as America
and as established as John
Lennon. as vital as Creedence
Clearwater and as inert as
Jim Croce. Most spectacular-
ly. the Eagles are in their
third week at Number One
across the charts with Their
Greatest Hits: 1971-1975. In
Record World. two other
Greatest Hits Albums, Chica-
go's and America’s. also
ranked in the Top Ten.

GREATEST HITS albums
are pure cash-in for record
company and artist alike;
there is little risk involved.
Recording and promotion
costs are minimal compared
to those for new. untested
material. The covers often
look as if they had been done
by the same chimps who star
in the Red Rose tea commer-
vials.

Artists receive the same
advance they get Ior actually
looking themselves in those
expensive recording closets

for a few weeks. A Greatest
Hits collection can be used to
fill the gap if a recording pro-
ject drags on longer than ex-
pected. Or. as with last sum-
mer's Rolling Stones set.
Made in the Shade, a Great-
est Hits collection can be
reeased to captialize on a
tour. Some of the great abom-
inations in record history
have resulted from the form-
er practice, the most noxious
being the Who‘s “Magic
Bus." A certain opera being
overdue. Decca (now MCA)
threw together a couple of
hits, a few album tracks and
Besides, along with some
stuff that should never have
been released at all. without
bothering to consult - or ap-
parently even notify -— the
Who. As Peter Townshend
put it a couple of years later,
”They‘ve lived to regret it.
but not delete it." The casual
consumer, of course, uses
Greatest Hits sets to find out
what's allegedly best about a
performer's work without
having to spend the time or
money to weed out the filler.
In the days when rock albums
were a couple of smashes
separated by heaxy breathing
or worse. this was probably
the sanest approach. But even
acts who enjoy consistent
platinum-level success find
that they have casual admir-
ers who don‘t buy their origi-
nal releases.

BUT, IN FACT, the most
successful Greatest Hits re-
cords have been made by the
blggest-selling artists of all.
“John Denver‘s Greatest
Hits." released when Gerald
Ford was still a congressional
gum chewer. has been on the
charts for 121 weeks. The lat-
est estimate of its (LS. only)
sales is 4 million. but that
hasn‘t cut into the commer-
cial success of Denver's latest
original album. “Windsong.”
”Elton John‘s Greatest Hits"
has sold well for 71 consecu-
tive weeks, despite a pair of
consecutive weeks. despite a

pair of original albums re
leased during that time. More
recently, the Eagle‘s “One of
These Nights" (3 million do-
mestic sales) has remained
in the Top 20 despite the
Greatest Hits album. And
“Chicago’s Greatest Hits."
with sales of 2,250,000 and
counting, has surpassed all
eight of its platinum prede-
cessors.

More discerning record
buyers can’t be blamed for
being a bit wary of the Great-
est Hits process, though. In
the past, eannlbalization Dr
hits packages has rendered
some classic rock and soul
LPs unavailable: I ’m thinking
especially of the momentous
early recordings by Motown
artists like the Miracles, Stax
giants like Sam & Dave (and
even Otis Redding) and
Cream‘s first two albums,
“Fresh Cream" and "Disrae-
li Gears." Cream’s ”Tales of
Brave Ulysses." Sam &
Dave's “Broke Down Piece of
Man,” and uncountable jazz
classics are now simply una-
vailable except in imported
versions. As the conceptual
integrity of albums has be-
come mroe important. rock
history has become confusing
or worse. It sales of the Ea-
gles' Western romance con-
cept LP. ”Desperado.“ fall
off because of Greatest Hits
album. will the original dis-
appear? Do the tracks taken
from it which appear on
“Greatest Hits" make as
much sense separately as to-
gether'.’

THE MOST pernicious
side effect of the Greatest
Hits boom doesn‘t have to do
with the anthologized artists
themselves. however. The
Greatest Hits season now ex-
tends from (Thristinastime.
the peak buying season. into
early spring. The result is
that few new performers
break into the LP Top Ten.
Since January, Peter Framp.

ton alone has managed to do
this.