Released to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Notorious B.I.G.'s death, Greatest Hits places the two "collaborate with a dead legend" albums -- 1999's Born Again and 2005's Duets: The Final Chapter -- on equal ground with Ready to Die and Life After Death, the two landmark albums Biggie released while he was on the planet. Anthologizing one of the most compelling figures in hip-hop history seems like a right thing to do. Basing such a release around four albums that are greatly divided between essential and inessential, however, amounts to something of a mess. Two obscurities are used where it would've made much more sense to select "Mo Money, Mo Problems" and "Going Back to Cali," two of the biggest hits not included on this disc, and it's really off-balance to include three tracks from Born Again when only one more is pulled directly from Ready to Die. Longtime fans need not go near this; the same goes for beginners, who should reach for Ready to Die.
This impressive, moody release from the nearly 20-year-old group Legendary Pink Dots starts assertively.
"Dissonance" earns its title from an over-modulated crunch of a rhythm married to a reverberated Western acoustic guitar rhythm. Over this, vocalist Edward Ka-Spel (now the Prophet Qa'Sepel) intones a surreal tale of incarceration for the criminal that does not harmonize with society. The harsh crunch continues on into an instrumental track, "Jasz," and its glimpses of shards broken from the sounds of piano and saxophone. Before pivoting into mostly more ambient and reflective pieces Legendary Pink Dots is known for, you are treated to the strongest track of this collection.
"As Long As It's Purple and Green" is a telling and lucid exploration of a psychotic's inner workings more recited (with a snarl) than sung over a breakbeat and loops similar to those in "Jasz." Again, the self-defined individual finds himself instantly cast out and confined from society at large. The ending is, of course, dissonant. Thus passing the storm, nine selections of Legendary meditation mixed with some upbeat numbers like more breakbeat and horn in "Zoo" and the heavy metal guitar in "Is It Something I Said?" follow. Of these, "Ghost" begins in the tranquility of an electric piano melody to breed the sanguine looped chant "blood on the door/blood on the stairs..." "A Sunset for a Swan" is perhaps the most quirky, sounding as it does like a New Orleans street band singing Syd Barrett poetry with electronica/carnival production.
Ronnie Hawkins is known for many things but ballads are not one of them. Bear Family’s 2011 set proves this to be a misconception, illustrating that Hawkins is as adept with a slow burn as he is with a hopping rockabilly beat. Strictly speaking, these aren’t all ballads, at least not in the folk sense: there are plenty of those, but there are bluesy grinds, swaying slow dance crossovers, rolling progressive country, and any number of slow tunes, all of which are handled with ease by Hawkins.
Bear Family’s generous 30-track disc skips through the eras with grace, with simple early-‘60s sides sitting next to slicker ‘70s productions, but the disc never plays schizophrenically; rather, the shifting sounds reveal how Ronnie Hawkins could always deliver a song with unassuming skill.