A fascinating collection, Best of the Early Years essentially takes the first two 10cc albums in their entirety, replaces four Sheet Music cuts with as many period B-sides, and then jumbles everything up into a running order that works almost as well as the original LPs. It is unlikely whether any true fan would ever consider the instrumental "Hot Sun Rock," or the workaday "4% of Something" and "Bee in My Bonnet" as fitting replacements for the likes of "Hotel," "Baron Samedi," "The Sacro-Iliac" or "Oh! Effendi" (the absent songs). But the presence of "Waterfall" reminds us that not all of the band's best ideas made it onto LP and, while it's difficult to understand why anybody would prefer a collection like this to, say, the Complete UK Recordings package, which takes a fully comprehensive look at the same period, still the budget price is difficult to argue with.
Adam Faith was a contemporary of early British rock & rollers like Cliff Richard and Billy Fury, but Faith's sound was less Elvis Presley-derived and more aligned with teen idol pop such as that of Bobby Vee (who covered Faith's number one U.K. hit "What Do You Want?"). John Barry had a hand in Faith's early efforts, and the instrumental arrangements are truly remarkable, from the surprising hoedown-style fiddling on "Don't That Beat All" to the musical saw on "What Now." In fact, it is the arrangements that elevate this music above standard teen idol fare. Faith rocked occasionally, as on "Made You," had moderate success adapting to the changes wrought by the Beatles, and later worked with folk-pop material. The Very Best of Adam Faith tracks his evolution by collecting 26 U.K. chart hits from 1959-1966, four of which were recorded with the Roulettes. Faith had two minor hits in the U.S. in 1965 that aren't included, but The Very Best of Adam Faith is otherwise an exemplary and essential anthology of an early British pop star.
The Best of Chi Coltrane draws only on material from her first two albums, and since these are vastly superior to the rest of her catalog, its title is more than justified. "Thunder and Lightning," "You Were My Friend," "Flyaway Bluebird," and "The Wheel of Life" are undoubtedly fine songs, and every track here is worth having. But anyone looking for an anthology, or career summation, will be disappointed. For an introduction to Coltrane's music, listeners would be better off tracking down her first two albums in their entirety, rather than buying this puzzling amalgamation of them.
L7 had the sound, style, and tough-grrrl attitude to hit it big in the aftermath of grunge's mainstream breakthrough, but unfortunately, the band was too often hampered by uneven songwriting. The Best of L7: The Slash Years collects four songs apiece from Bricks Are Heavy, Hungry for Stink, and The Beauty Process: Triple Platinum (although, as the title suggests, there's nothing from the fine Sub Pop album Smell the Magic). It's a pretty good distillation of the cream of those records, even if there are still a few tunes on Bricks Are Heavy that could have made the cut on a less mathematically selected best-of. In fact, as L7's most pop-oriented record, Bricks Are Heavy is still a slightly more accessible introduction, since following that album, the band tended to rely more on sheer power than melody. Nevertheless, The Best of L7: The Slash Years does encapsulate what the group was all about, and it's a great way to dig deeper into their catalog without having to buy all the individual albums.
In the early '70s, Paul Kossoff was a much-heralded young guitarist from a much-heralded young rock band called Free. In a short period of time, Kossoff and his cohorts punched out some classic rock. A brief solo career followed for the inspired axeman, but his untimely death in 1976 from a drug-related heart attack put an end to the potential that his peers and fans were looking forward to seeing fully realized. All one can do is celebrate and enjoy what this stylistically unique and utterly precocious musician left behind, and this 17-track disc, which culls Kossoff's best work from both his days with Free and as a solo performer, is an excellent way to do just that. A player who made his name with unusual phrasings, brazen fills, and an intuitive use of sustained notes – and rarely going for fretboard-smoking speed – Kossoff had a prototypical signature sound. His ability to do the work of two guitarists – Free, for the most part, was a barebones guitar/bass/drums/singer outfit – was one of his greatest strengths and, despite a good deal of studio dubbing, you can hear it in places on this album. The best cuts are definitely the eight Free tracks, which include the raunchy "The Hunter," the good-time rock-blues of "Ride on a Pony," the dramatic "Fire and Water" and "Mr. Big," and the band's all-time classic, "All Right Now".