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Rock - Released January 1, 2005 | Chrysalis\EMI Records (USA)

The liner notes to Capitol's 20-track retrospective of rock goddess Pat Benatar's golden years are filled with testimonials from some of the genre's queens, both reigning (Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos) and retired (Jane Wiedlin, Martha Davis). It's a fitting tribute to the artist, as her four-and-a-half-octave vocal range spewing arena-sized anthems has yet to be matched by anyone with as much rock & roll panache. "We Belong," "Shadows of the Night," "Promises in the Dark," and "Love Is a Battlefield" are all certifiable '80s classics -- not just guilty pleasures -- and even later semi-hits like "Sex as a Weapon" and "All Fired Up" don't sound as overwrought as one would imagine, having not heard them in some time. Greatest Hits is just five songs longer than 1989's Best Shots -- reissued in 2003 with an accompanying DVD -- but the inclusion of fan favorites such as "Little Too Late" and "Le Bel Age" make this collection the most effective to date. Fair is fair. © James Christopher Monger /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2005 | Chrysalis\EMI Records (USA)

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Rock - Released January 1, 2005 | Chrysalis\EMI Records (USA)

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Rock - Released January 1, 2005 | Chrysalis\EMI Records (USA)

Rock - Released January 1, 2005 | Chrysalis\EMI Records (USA)

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Hardly the definitive compilation the title claims it to be, The Essential Collection is a bungled mess, containing only a handful of big hits ("Hanging on the Telephone," "Denis") among its 14 tracks, and overlooking classics like "Heart of Glass" in favor of latter-day album tracks. Which, of course, means that it is practically of no use to any listener, since it satisfies the needs of neither casual fans nor diehards. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2005 | Chrysalis\EMI Records (USA)

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Rock - Released January 1, 2005 | Chrysalis\EMI Records (USA)

CD$2.49

Rock - Released January 1, 2005 | Chrysalis\EMI Records (USA)

CD$3.99

Rock - Released January 1, 2005 | Chrysalis\EMI Records (USA)

Rock - Released January 1, 2005 | Chrysalis\EMI Records (USA)

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Rock - Released January 1, 2005 | Chrysalis\EMI Records (USA)

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Rock - Released January 1, 2005 | Chrysalis\EMI Records (USA)

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Rock - Released January 1, 2005 | Chrysalis\EMI Records (USA)

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Rock - Released January 1, 2004 | Chrysalis\EMI Records (USA)

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Rock - Released January 1, 2003 | Chrysalis\EMI Records (USA)

If new wave was about reconfiguring and recontextualizing simple pop/rock forms of the '50s and '60s in new, ironic, and aggressive ways, then Blondie, which took the girl group style of the early and mid-'60s and added a '70s archness, fit right in. True punksters may have deplored the group early on (they never had the hip cachet of Talking Heads or even the Ramones), but Blondie's secret weapon, which was deployed increasingly over their career, was a canny pop straddle -- they sent the music up and celebrated it at the same time. So, for instance, songs like "X Offender" (their first single) and "In the Flesh" (their first hit, in Australia) had the tough-girl-with-a-tender-heart tone of the Shangri-Las (the disc was produced by Richard Gottehrer, who had handled the Angels ["My Boyfriend's Back"] among others, and Brill Building songwriter Ellie Greenwich even sang backup on "In the Flesh"), while going one step too far into hard-edged decadence -- that is, if you chose to see that. (The tag line of "Look Good in Blue," for example, went, "I could give you some head and shoulders to lie on.") The whole point was that you could take Blondie either way, and lead singer Deborah Harry's vocals, which combined rock fervor with a kiss-off quality, reinforced that, as did the band's energetic, trashy sound. This album, released on independent label Private Sound, was not a major hit, but it provided a template for the future. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2003 | Chrysalis\EMI Records (USA)

Commercial hard rock bands were still immensely popular at the end of the 1980s, when Slaughter (named after lead singer Mark Slaughter) recorded its debut album Stick It to Ya. Mining the same territory as "corporate" bands like Bon Jovi, Winger and Warrant, Slaughter soared to the top of the charts and sold millions of albums. Slick and not terribly original, much of this material comes across as very contrived and calculated. Nonetheless, hook-laden tracks like "Up All Night," "She Wants More" and "Burnin' Bridges" are fairly catchy. But as hot as Slaughter was at the dawn of the '90s, its success would prove to be short-lived when alternative rock became the rage a few years later. © Alex Henderson /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2003 | Chrysalis\EMI Records (USA)

Though Debbie Harry has generally worked in a pop/rock vein, she's had her share of exposure in dance clubs thanks to hits like "Heart of Glass," "Rapture," and the Chic-produced "Backfired." In 1988 -- a few years after she had left Chrysalis -- the label set out to exploit her club/dance appeal with Once More Into the Bleach, a generally decent, though not exceptional, collection of remixes. Those singles were obvious choices for this CD, which ranges from Blondie classics (including "Call Me," "Sunday Girl," and "The Tide Is High") to such solo material as "Feel the Spin" and the humorous "French Kissin' in the USA." The most interesting remixes here include a house-influenced version of "Backfired," and a Europop recasting of "Denis." But despite its strong points, Bleach is a collection that only the more devoted Blondie/Harry fanatics and club/dance DJs should look into. Those checking her out for the first time would be much better off with 1976's Blondie or 1978's Parallel Lines. © Alex Henderson /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2002 | Chrysalis\EMI Records (USA)

If you consulted a Blondie discography in the fall of 2002, you would see a slew of compilations listed, and you might wonder why a new Greatest Hits was needed. But a closer examination would reveal that there really is a niche into which such a collection would fall: that of a full-priced, single-disc, CD-era hits compilation covering the band's entire career. Although still in print, The Best of Blondie is a 12-track release from the LP era, first issued back in 1981 in between Blondie's fifth and sixth regular albums. 1988's Once More Into the Bleach combines Blondie and Debbie Harry solo tracks. 1993's Blonde & Beyond is a rarities set. 1994's The Platinum Collection fills two CDs and is thus pricey. 1995's The Remix Project contains remixes. There have also been short, discount-priced collections and overseas compilations, but the niche remains -- and Greatest Hits fills it. It contains among its 19 tracks all ten of the band's U.S. chart singles as well as their major U.K. hits that did not chart in America. "X Offender," Blondie's 1976 debut single, is included, and so is "Maria," their 1999 comeback hit. By sequencing the album out of chronological order, the compilers emphasize the band's eclecticism. You don't get to hear Blondie's evolution from their early bubblegum punk style into the efficient power pop of the Mike Chapman productions and on into ersatz disco, rap, and Caribbean music; everything is all mixed up. The tropical 1980-1981 hit "The Tide Is High," for example, is followed by the belligerent "X Offender" from four years earlier, and the tough-talking "Rip Her to Shreds" gives way to the early hip-hop of "Rapture." Chronological order would have been better, but the hits are all here. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2002 | Chrysalis\EMI Records (USA)

Vital Idol is a sort of remixed greatest-hits collection, gathering some of Billy Idol's best tracks and extending them all past the five-minute mark. It doesn't really work as a hits collection, since it's missing key songs like "Rebel Yell" and "Eyes Without a Face," and most of the dance remixes are repetitious and uninteresting compared to the originals. It's most worthwhile for "Dancing with Myself" and an extended version of "Mony Mony," both of which appeared in their original Idol versions on the Don't Stop EP. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2001 | Chrysalis\EMI Records (USA)

Billy Idol's recording career did such a fast fade in the early '90s that his beleaguered record label Chrysalis (since absorbed by Capitol) didn't even put out a best-of in the U.S. (Idol Songs: 11 of the Best was an interim report issued in Great Britain in 1988.) But the rise of the '80s rock radio format and Idol's own interest in a comeback make this belated hits collection timely. With one caveat, it is a well-chosen collection of the singer's most successful recordings. The exception, oddly enough, is his biggest hit, "Mony Mony," which is presented in a 1983 studio version rather than the 1987 live take that topped the charts. (The annotations claim "This version was never released as a single." Actually, it was -- as Chrysalis 2543 -- but it flopped.) Otherwise, all of Idol's big hits are here, among them "Cradle of Love," "Eyes Without a Face," "To Be a Lover," "Rebel Yell," and "White Wedding," each of which reached the Top Ten on one side of the Atlantic or the other. Also included are an "unplugged" live version of "Rebel Yell" and a newly recorded cover of the 1985 Simple Minds hit "Don't You (Forget About Me)," which was co-written by Idol's producer, Keith Forsey. The only omitted chart singles are "Prodigal Blues," a track from Idol's 1990 album Charmed Life, and "Speed," the title song from the 1994 film; both missed the American pop charts. In his day, Idol seemed to some a commercial sellout of the punk ideal, having abandoned Generation X for a slicker image and sound. In retrospect, he seems more like a logical successor to the kind of portentous baritones who preceded him, particularly Jim Morrison and David Bowie, while Forsey's new wave/disco sound, anchored by guitarist Steve Stevens, holds up well. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo