The best artist compilations of all time

20 November 2023, 15:09

The classic Beatles "Red" and "Blue" albums, released on 2nd April 1973.
The classic Beatles "Red" and "Blue" albums, released on 2nd April 1973. Picture: Alamy Stock Photo

If you had to define a band or artist by their compilation, which one would you pick? It’s not as easy as you think, as Radio X compiles everything from Oasis to The Killers.

Radio X

By Radio X

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  1. Blur - The Best Of (2000)

    A chronologically-scrambled dip into the career of the Britpop stalwarts, from She’s So High to Tender, just before Coxon jumped ship. There’s an extended version of For Tomorrow and a new song, Music Is My Radar, plus a memorable bit of cover art.

    The Best Of Blur
    The Best Of Blur. Picture: Press
  2. The Killers - Direct Hits (2013)

    Taking in the highlights from the Las Vegans’ first four album, this collection doesn’t mess about, kicking off with their finest moment, Mr Brightside. All These Things I Have Done, Somebody Told Me, Human, Spaceman, Smile Like You Mean It and more are all present and correct, and there’s even time for a couple of new tracks: Shot At The Night and Just Another Girl. Ten years on and the band are set to issue an updated version - Rebel Diamonds, But will it top this clssic?

    The Killers - Direct Hits
    The Killers - Direct Hits. Picture: Press
  3. New Order - Substance 1987

    Substance was a collection of all the Manchester band’s 12” singles, two of which - Temptation and Confusion - were re-recorded for this LP. There’s Blue Monday, the beautiful Thieves Like Us and the then-new True Faith. For the post-Substance years, you’ll need 1994’s Best Of, which includes Regret, World In Motion and some superfluous remixes or Total, which adds some tracks by Joy Division for the lazy person at large. An expanded version of Substance was issued in 2023.

    New Order - Substance 1987
    New Order - Substance 1987. Picture: Press
  4. Manic Street Preachers - Forever Delayed (2002)

    No-nonsense collection of agitprop hits from the Welsh band, from 1991’s Motown Junk to a couple of new songs, There By The Grace Of God and Door To The River. It’s a bit light on the Holy Bible material and loses a few points for not including the original, Heavenly Records version of You Love Us (with the Lust For Life ending), but it’s an effective summary of the group’s career to that point.

    Manic Street Preachers - Forever Delayed
    Manic Street Preachers - Forever Delayed. Picture: Press
  5. David Bowie - Changesonebowie (1976)

    Released in 1976, so he’s not even booked his flight to Berlin yet, but what a cover, cloned directly from the uber-cool Station To Station sleeve. 11 tracks may seem to be only grazing the surface of his career, and while that’s true, you can’t argue with that track-listing: Oddity, John, Changes, Ziggy, Suffragette, Jean, Dogs, Rebel, Americans, Fame, Years. No flab.

    David Bowie - ChangesOneBowie
    David Bowie - ChangesOneBowie. Picture: Press
  6. The Smiths - Hatful Of Hollow (1984)

    This is a tricky one. Yes, Singles is a pure rundown of Morrissey and Marr’s finest 45s. Yes, Best I and II include most of the classic moments. But there's something rather special about Hatful Of Hollow. For many fans at the time, it was a budget-priced gateway into The Smiths' world, taking in some of the band's classic early singles (William It Was Really Nothing, Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Know), some impeccable b-sides (Girl Afraid and the mighty How Soon Is Now?) and a number of BBC sessions that quite often beat the studio versions hands down. A few points docked for the John Peel session version of This Charming Man, but this is more than made up for by the devastatingly beautiful acoustic take on Back To The Old House.

    The Smiths - Hatful Of Hollow
    The Smiths - Hatful Of Hollow. Picture: Press
  7. Oasis - Stop The Clocks (2006)

    You’ve probably got the albums, but JUST IN CASE you haven’t here’s a distillation of the Gallaghers’ art in their heyday, up til just before their final album to date, Dig Out Your Soul. Two discs - the first starts with Rock ’N’ Roll Star and ends with The Masterplan. Disc 2 starts with Live Forever and ends with Don’t Look Back In Anger. You can’t go wrong with that.

    Oasis - Stop The Clocks
    Oasis - Stop The Clocks. Picture: Press
  8. The Beatles - 1962-1966 and The Beatles 1967-1970 (1973)

    The Fab Four’s compilation 1 scrapes up the band’s chart-toppers effectively, but the rules of the game mean that we miss off Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane - which is a RED CARD, frankly. Better to grab these two double LPs issued on 2nd April 1973 and initially intended to combat bootlegs. The collections pick choice album tracks alongside the hits. Volume 1 is a bit heavy on the Rubber Soul and light on the Revolver, and Vol II inexplicably includes Ringo’s Octopus’s Garden, but the new 2023 expanded editions go some way to rectifying that.

    The Beatles - 1962-1966 and 1967-1970
    The Beatles - 1962-1966 and 1967-1970. Picture: Press
  9. Supergrass - Supergrass is 10 (2004)

    An amazing collection from a band that transcended their Britpop roots. From the youthful exuberance of Caught By The Fuzz and Pumping On Your Stereo to the more wistful sounds of Late In The Day and Moving, it’s a textbook example of how to make memorable singles.

    Supergrass - Supergrass is 10
    Supergrass - Supergrass is 10. Picture: Press
  10. Stereophonics - Decade In The Sun (2008)

    It starts with Dakota and ends with Handbags And Gladrags. In between, you get The Bartender And The Thief, Local Boy In The Photograph, Mr Writer, Have A Nice Day, A Thousand Trees, Traffic and more. Tidy.

    Stereophonics - Decade In The Sun
    Stereophonics - Decade In The Sun. Picture: Press
  11. The Cure - Standing On A Beach: The Singles (1986)

    After they morphed from long-raincoated gloom merchants to wacky pop figures in wardrobes, Fiction issued this retrospective that starts with the ponderous post-punk of Killing An Arab, travels through the bleak years of A Forest and winds up with The Love Cats, In Between Days and Close To Me.

    The Cure - Standing On A Beach
    The Cure - Standing On A Beach. Picture: Press
  12. The Rolling Stones - Singles Collection: The London Years (1989)

    Outrageously comprehensive three-disc set that takes in every Stones A-and-B-side from their debut Come On in 1963 to Wild Horses in 1971. And a few nice additions, too, including Sympathy For The Devil, Memo From Turner (from the Performance soundtrack) and even Bill Wyman’s rubbish In Another Land. What it loses by cutting off as the 1970s get underway, it gains with some gems: Child Of The Moon (the flip to Jumpin’ Jack Flash) the trippy 2,000 Light Years From Home and the underrated psychedelic combination of We Love You and Dandelion.

    The Rolling Stones - Singles Collection: The London Years
    The Rolling Stones - Singles Collection: The London Years. Picture: Press
  13. Joy Division - Substance 1977-1980 (1988)

    There was a “Best Of Joy Division” released in 2008 after the success of the Control movie, but that mixes singles with album cuts. We say: get the two original albums, the mopping-up compilation Still and this volume that takes in various EPs, singles and rare tracks, including the immortal Love Will Tear Us Apart, the thrilling Transmission and the unstoppable double-whammy of Dead Souls and Atmosphere. The 2015 reissue adds a plonky electronic instrumental and an alternate take of LWTUA, for the super-fans.

    Joy Division - Substance 1977-1980
    Joy Division - Substance 1977-1980. Picture: Press
  14. Depeche Mode - Singles 81→85 (1985)

    Being the adventures of Basildon’s answer to Kraftwerk from their debut Dreaming Of Me to the new track Shake The Disease, via a cavalcade of hits: New Life, Just Can’t Get Enough, Everything Counts, the list goes on. Yes, it cuts off before the days of Personal Jesus and Enjoy The Silence, but the second volume (Singles 86>98) is twice the length and tails off a bit towards the end.

    Depeche Mode - Singles 81→85
    Depeche Mode - Singles 81→85. Picture: Press

Now you're ready to take this quiz!

Can you match all these bands to the title of their Greatest Hits?