Sound: In the world according to Hip-O Records via their new Number 1's compilation albums, Live's Lightning Crashes is the greatest rock song of all time. The song is featured on all four of these albums, which include single-disc collections of '90s Rock, Classic Rock, Modern Rock and Hard Rock. I agree that Lightning Crashes is a good song; it inspired me to buy the album it originally came from, Throwing Copper. But is it good enough that it should be included on all four compilations? Definitely not.
And that's the main problem with Hip-O's attempt at putting together Number 1's. There is absolutely no rhyme or reason for song choices. I don't know how the record company determined what songs were actual chart toppers; somebody please tell me Hole's Celebrity Skin didn't actual reach number one on some chart, because according to Hip-O it has. Some songs like Rod Stewart's Maggie May on Classic Rock or Whitesnake's Here I Go Again on Hard Rock seem to be perfectly suited for their compilations, while others appear to be completely random. The Cranberries' Salvation on Modern Rock and Tears for Fears' Break It Down Again on '90s Rock jump out as two of many similar examples. I love Tears for Fears, but I certainly woundn't define them as a '90s band.
The main problem with compilation albums like this, besides random song selection, is every one of us can do it better at home with a CD burner and itunes or similar program. If I want an ultimate '90s rock compilation album, I'll bring out my Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Oasis and Smashing Pumpkins CDs and burn my favorite songs to make a much better CD than Hip-O's version. Did I mention that none of these definitive band '90s bands are featured on Number 1's: '90s Rock. I can even take some of the songs on Hip-O's CDs and put together my own compilation to better place some of their songs. Poison's Every Rose Has a Thorn is a great song, especially for those of us who grew up rockin' mullets, but I'd rather have it on a power ballads compilation, not a hard rock one. The song rocks, but it doesn't rock hard.
If you don't have this technology to do it yourself, or you're just too lazy, these CDs aren't that bad. In fact, if they were simply retitled Good Songs from Bands Whose Albums You Probably Don't Own Anymore or Who You Never Purchased in the First Place, they'd probably become best sellers. Deep Blue Something's Breakfast at Tiffany's on '90s Rock was always a song I liked, but it was never inspiring enough to convince me to buy the album it originally came from, and the band's one-hit wonder staus with this song means millions of people probably feel the same way as I do. The songs are crisp and clear, so they must come from the original masters. The lack of a booklet, which is always nice when actually purchasing a CD, leaves listeners wondering about the songs' original sources. // 5
Lyrics: A great song usually has great lyrics. Of the 57 songs on these four albums, 61 if you count Lightning Crashes four times, 16 are great, in my opinion, 30 are good, and the rest are mediocre or poor. These mediocre and poor songs are often diminished by poor lyrics, like Extreme's Rest in Peace on Hard Rock. That's right, Extreme has a song on one of these albums and it's not More Than Words. // 6
Overall Impression: The Impression That I Get, which can be found on '90s Rock by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, is that Hip-O Records is hoping the general public wants ready-to-play albums like Number 1's that people can just pop in and enjoy. I wish them luck. The Now series has done extremely well repackaging current hits every six months, so maybe packages of older, but better, songs can do as well. Unfortunately in today's fickle market, I doubt that's possible. Too many of these songs really aren't that memorable and if they are you probably already own them. // 4