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Country - Released January 1, 1978 | Mercury Nashville

Hank Williams' body of work is so large and has been repackaged so many times in so many forms that the notion of creating a definitive compilation almost seems like an impossible goal. However, as a one-stop shopping place for Hank's basic repertoire, 40 Greatest Hits is as good as it gets. While it doesn't include everything, practically every memorable hit is here, and thankfully every cut appears in its original form (that means in mono, with no string overdubs or artificial duets with his family members). The track sequence subtly reflects the arc of Williams' short but vitally important career, and there's enough good music and great songs here to make a fan of anyone with even a passing interest in American music. If you care about country music, you need some Hank Williams in your collection, and there isn't a better introduction to his rich body of work on the market than 40 Greatest Hits; begin here, then start exploring. ~ Mark Deming

Country - Released January 10, 1985 | Mercury Nashville


Country - Released January 1, 1992 | Mercury Nashville


Country - Released October 11, 2005 | Mercury Nashville

There have been countless Hank Williams compilations issued over the years, ranging from cheap budget-line discs to box sets of his complete recordings, but the idea for the triple-disc 2005 set Turn Back the Years: The Essential Hank Williams Collection is a fresh one: instead of following the traditional chronological approach, or mixing up his greatest hits in random order, this borrows a cue from Columbia/Legacy's 2000 set Love, God, Murder and arranges Hank's work thematically. Each of the three discs is titled after one of his songs, each bearing a clear thematic imprint: the first is "Honky Tonkin'," and contains his barroom anthems; the second is "Cold, Cold Heart" and has his high, lonesome heartbreak songs; the third is "I Saw the Light" and is devoted to gospel and religious tunes. This is an effective way to present his catalog, since each of the discs plays as a cohesive album and, taken together, they give a good indication of the range and depth of Williams' music. That said, this shouldn't be seen as a definitive collection, containing all of his great songs -- indeed, such classics as "You're Gonna Change (Or I'm Gonna Leave)," "Mind Your Own Business," "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It," "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love with You)," "Half as Much," "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)," "I'll Never Get out of This World Alive," and "Why Don't You Love Me (Like You Used to Do)" are all absent. But that's the curse of a catalog as rich as Hank Williams' -- there's no way that one collection can contain all of his great songs. Turn Back the Years doesn't, but it does offer a different way of looking at his catalog that functions both as a thoroughly enjoyable listen for longtime fans and as an excellent introduction for neophytes who want thematic, cohesive albums instead of the usual greatest hits. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Country - Released March 20, 2018 | Ideal Music

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International Pop - Released June 1, 2018 | IMI LTD

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Country - Released December 5, 2016 | Doxy Records


Pop - Released October 17, 1997 | Mercury Records

This set, coming along as it did fairly early in the CD era, provides a very solid look at the genius of Hank Williams and is a fine place to start for anyone looking for an introduction. The price is right, sound is OK, and it has pretty much all of the most important material, and some curiosities as well. Arguably there are omissions, but that would be true in any singe CD overview. In this case, Williams' first single, "Six More Miles to the Graveyard," would have been a far better choice than, say, "My Heart Would Know." This one has the poetry, the easy Southern swing, proto-rockabilly, and hillbilly boogie ("Move It One Over" is one such example), and the magic of the voice itself for a fine price. This is a great purchase. ~ Thom Jurek

Country - Released July 23, 2002 | Mercury Nashville


Country - Released June 14, 2002 | Mercury Nashville

Tall, charismatic, and eschewing rustic hillbilly stage outfits in favor of sleek, tailored Nudie suits, Hank Williams was country music's first true superstar, and he was more than aware that a little motion on-stage drove the ladies crazy. But it is Williams' songwriting that has ensured his legacy more than anything, and his songs -- which mixed hillbilly elements with blues and gospel, all with a firm grasp of how to shade in some Tin Pan Alley techniques -- crossed over regularly to the pop charts, and have continued to hold up well even into the 21st century. Songs like "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," which has a spare, poetic structure so efficient it could be a haiku, and "I'll Never Get out of This World Alive," which manages to be funny, ironic, and prophetically frightening all at once, don't happen by accident, and show an awareness of craft that has a good deal more in common with Irving Berlin than it does Uncle Dave Macon. This two-disc overview of Williams' career includes his classic MGM and Polydor singles from 1947 to 1952, a handful of haunting acoustic demos (which show him to be a quite capable acoustic guitarist), a couple of his Luke the Drifter cuts, and a half-dozen or so live spots from the Grand Ole Opry (in 1950) and Health & Happiness (in 1949) radio shows. Thankfully it includes none of the string-sweetened overdubbed versions that proliferated after Williams' death, and given the number of dubious and rather thrown-together Hank Williams collections on the market, Gold earns trust points for being both thorough and tasteful. ~ Steve Leggett

Country - Released May 3, 2019 | BMG Rights Management (US) LLC


Country - Released May 13, 2014 | Omnivore Recordings

Playing country music was not a glamorous way to make a living in the '40s and '50s, when even the biggest and most celebrated artists in the field were barnstorming at honky tonks and often taking whatever gigs they could get. In 1950, Hank Williams had already scored a handful of country hits and was riding the wave of another with "Lovesick Blues," which would become the success that launched him into major stardom. But when he was offered a fast-money job hosting a radio show sponsored by Garden Spot, a mail-order plant and garden supply company, he wasn't above taking the work. The short-lived Garden Spot series found Williams sitting in with a pickup band at a studio in Nashville, playing hits and C&W favorites in between pitches for Garden Spot and their products, and the 15-minute shows were shipped to radio stations around the country in the form of transcription discs. For years, it was believed that the Garden Spot transcriptions had been lost for good, but four discs were discovered in the library of a radio station in Creston, Iowa, and for the first time they've been given commercial release by Omnivore Recordings on The Garden Spot Programs, 1950. These recordings are not as revelatory as the Mother's Best Flour shows, another series of radio broadcasts that finally saw commercial release in 2008; Williams is not performing with his group the Drifting Cowboys, and while the sidemen here are more than competent, they don't mesh with him as well as his road band, and each episode includes a fiddle instrumental that doesn't make much room for Williams or his songs, not to mention the Garden Spot jingle. But despite the off the cuff nature of the recordings and the slightly padded pacing, Williams sounds strong and inspired here; along with several of his own classics, Williams covers a few country and gospel favorites, and his vocals are never less than committed whether he's singing "Bachelor 'Til I Die," "Farther Along," or "Oh! Susanna," and the cheers from the small studio audience never sound forced. (The audio is also surprisingly good for music rescued from discs over 60 years old.) When the Mother's Best shows finally surfaced, the effect was as if a whole new Hank Williams repertoire had been discovered; in comparison, The Garden Spot Programs, 1950 are like a snapshot, catching a great artist in an unexpected time and place. But this music also testifies to Williams' casual brilliance as a performer and as a songwriter, and for fans this is a small but very welcome addition to the man's recorded legacy. ~ Mark Deming

Country - Released October 13, 1999 | Mercury Nashville

The Hank Williams volume of 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection is a good, basic compilation of Williams' highlights, featuring such timeless tunes as "Hey, Good Lookin'," "Jambalaya," "Move It on Over," "Honky Tonk Blues," "Why Don't You Love Me," "Honky Tonkin'," "I Saw the Light," and "Lovesick Blues." Yes, there are some major songs missing -- "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," "You Win Again," "A Mansion on the Hill," "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It," "Half as Much," and "My Son Calls Another Man Daddy," among others -- but this is fine as a budget-line sampler for casual fans. It's not the best compilation in his catalog, but it doesn't have a bum track on it, and it's a mighty fine listen. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Country - Released March 23, 1993 | Mercury Nashville


Country - Released January 1, 1956 | Mercury Nashville


Country - Released January 1, 1996 | Island Mercury

Low Down Blues is a mid-priced compilation of Hank Williams' bluesiest material. The 16-track collection features classics like "Honky Tonk Blues," "Lovesick Blues," "Moanin' the Blues," and "Long Gone Lonesome Blues," as well as five demo recordings. As a sampler, Low Down Blues is fine -- it offers a different perspective on Hank than most other collections and it was thoughtfully compiled -- but serious collectors will want to stick with the more complete compilations and casual fans will be better-served by either 40 Greatest Hits or 24 Greatest Hits. And that means Low Down Blues essentially doesn't have an audience. It's a nice collection, but it essentially purposeless. Only collectors who enjoying hearing the subtle differences in different sequencing will find Low Down Blues essential. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Country - Released June 7, 1965 | Iswjdigital


Country - Released May 23, 2011 | Mercury Nashville


Country - Released December 4, 1966 | Rebound

Following the death of Hank Williams in 1953, MGM tried different ploys to keep his recordings selling, including overdubbing band backing on a series of song demos Williams had recorded for his song publisher and, in the '60s, adding incredibly cheesy string section arrangements to several of his singles, a dozen of which are included here. Needless to say, the string bits were ill-conceived at best and idiotic at worst, as a quick listen to classic honky tonk sides like "Lovesick Blues" or "You Win Again" makes apparent. Why anyone at MGM thought this orchestral overdubbing thing was a good idea remains baffling all these years later. ~ Steve Leggett