Monday, 21 March 2011

100 LPs Shortlist #6: "The Best Of..." - Blondie

There's always some debate about whether a comprehensive list of the "greatest" albums of all time should include Compilation albums. After all, we are looking at a studio album as a creative endeavour; one that is created in a time and space relative to it's environment. Compilation albums really only summarise the supposed high points of recent works, right?

But what about those artists who were brilliant on 7-inch vinyl, but struggled to create a consistently satisfying LP catalogue? This is usually the justification for including compilation albums by Johnny O'Keefe and The Easybeats in lists of the greatest Australian albums (I'd argue against this for the Easybeats, but that's for another posting). True, Johnny O'Keefe, Elvis Presley and even James Brown were always wildly inconsistent on LPs, churning out albums seemingly only to have a new product in the marketplace to maintain career momentum.

To this writer's ears, Blondie never really achieved the "great" album ("Parallel Lines" comes close). Albums like "Eat To The Beat" and "Autoamerican" were so wildly inconsistent that they just don't hang well together as a listening experience.

On the other hand, their catalogue of 7-inch singles is totally brilliant. Most of which were collected together on "The Best Of Blondie" in 1981.

I discovered Blondie, on a 7-inch single at my next door neighbours house, around age 6. I was over there one day with my mum and while she was chatting to them I noticed a small collection of singles. I was allowed to borrow them to listen to and to make a mix tape of, if I wanted to. One of the singles was "Union City Blue", and I fell in love. It's still a great song now, and it's b-side "Living In The Real World" eclipses the a-side in it's intensity and firepower.

Discovering "The Best Of Blondie" a few years later was an amazing experience. It's a great listen from top to tail, and the songs that that the radio always play are probably the least inspiring from the album. I mean, "Heart of Glass" and "The Tide Is High" are great songs, but they are nothing compared to "Atomic", "Hanging On The Telephone", "Picture This", "Dreaming" and of course "Union City Blue". All the songs are great, but the album as listening experience really adds up to more than the sum of its parts.

As this was such an important listen to me growing up (despite the fact I first heard this album in full long after they had split up), I think I might include it on the grounds of historical importance. But the 100 LPs surely can't contain all compilations, as that would be cheating, right?

Anyway, here's a Grooveshark link to the original 14 track LP, plus "Living In The Real World" as a bonus. CRANK IT UP!!!

Blondie - The Best of by David Kowalski on Grooveshark


  1. I would choose Parallel Lines over this, mainly because I'm a snob about whether compilations belong on these lists. I think PL has the same better/ratio of good songs to bad as this collection. But this is better than most "Greatest Hits".

  2. Agreed - I think they gave their best in singles. I should give "Parallel Lines" another spin...