My 6 Favorite Compilations, Soundtracks & Greatest Hits Records Of 2012

As it turns out, most of the music I bought this year came from Amazon and their awesome $5 album (and under) deals. I’m a sucker for a deal and an even bigger sucker for paying a little for what I consider to be a lot. That’s the case for most of the five records on this particular list which features a soundtrack, the complete recording of a particular artist from one record label and three greatest hits packages. This is a good way to mainline lots of music from a particular artist on the cheap. muppet soundtrackI wrote about how much I enjoyed The Muppets earlier this year. That love translated into the purchase of the soundtrack as well, something that hasn’t happened in years. This one is a great mix of soundbites from the movie, original songs and a few known songs like Starship’s “We Built This City” and Paul Simon’s “Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyeard.” I would have probably bought this record just for the amazing “Life’s A Happy Song,” the fact that the rest is so awesome is gravy. ZZ Top Rancho TexicanI only really know ZZ Top from their singles, a greatest hits collection my dad had and seeing them live also with my dad. I do have one of their early records, but have to admit, it gets a little slow and I tend to lose interest. So, when I saw Rancho Texicano: The Very Best of ZZ Top — which features 38 tracks! — on Amazon for a fin? That was an easy purchase. The great thing about this collection is that it’s not just all the songs you know like “Tush,” “Cheap Sunglasses” and “Gimme All Your Lovin'” but also some deeper cuts that flesh this record out. A great example of what a greatest hits collection can be when not limited to a physical disc. Also, proof that this is one of the greatest damn bands around. aretha franklin 30 greatest hitsSometimes you just need some soul in your life. That’s why I snatched up Aretha Franklin’s 30 Greatest Hits. Also, Lu likes listening to music with some swing and jazz to it, so this was an easy buy. Listening through these tracks was an interesting experience because I didn’t realize that some of these songs were hers. That’s probably a reflection on my ignorance of Franklin’s career, but I enjoy getting educated. willie nelson complete atlantic sessionsOne of the reasons I shied away from greatest hits records in the past is because I like discovering some of the deep cuts on records, the ones you don’t hear on the radio. Now that I’m getting older though, I find myself becoming more “Get to the hits!” It’s not a feeling I like and one I’m trying to work beyond. Anyway, Willie Nelson’s Complete Atlantic Sessions is like the antithesis of those hits records I avoided as it contains all 61 tracks Willie recorded for them. I haven’t gotten all the way through this one yet, but I like what I’ve head enough to warrant the purchase and its spot in this list. beach boys 50 big onesFor years and years I heard how great the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds was. When I finally picked it up, I have to admit, I was a little disappointed. It’s a great record, don’t get me wrong, but it lacks the fun, surf rock songs I love (for the most part). It just wasn’t what I was expecting. So, when I saw The Beach Boys’ 50 Big Ones: Greatest Hits, it was another no-brainer. The beauty of this collection is that it literally has every Beach Boys song I know of. I’m sure it’s missing the deep cuts I talked about above, but I’m okay with that. The one downside to having so many tracks, though, is that I realized I’m not built to listen to 25 Beach Boys tracks in a short period of time, let alone 50. Those amazing harmonies they do can get a little annoying when listened to in a short period of time. However, I’m still glad I have this record because I can listen to what I want, in small chunks, whenever I want.

pitch perfect soundtrackThe Pitch Perfect soundtrack is exactly why I don’t post these list before the end of the year. I actually wrote the first draft of this post a week or so back, but saved it as a draft. I’m glad I did because my wife and I watched Pitch Perfect for the first (and then second) time recently and I kind of fell in love. As I mentioned in my post about the film, I was something of an a cappella fan in college, so this brought back some memories. It also reminded me of how good that B.O.B/Rivers Cuomo song “Magic” is, which I really appreciate. I’ve had that and a few of the other songs from the film in my head since watching the movie and I actually don’t mind it, so that’s a pretty good sign.

Rocking Out: The T.A.M.I. Show (1964)

My rental of The T.A.M.I. (Teenage Awards Music International) Show is a testament to whatever cybermagic controls Netflix’s suggestions. After rating hundreds, possibly thousands of movies, it’s gotten really good at recommended things I want to see and this concert footage from 1964 with performances by The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Chuck Berry, James Brown and the Flames, Marvin Gaye, the Rolling Stones and plenty of others was a lot of fun. For a better explanation of the whole thing, please jump over to TrailersFromHell and listen to John Landis’ explanation of the show, which he actually attended.

Surf rockers Jan and Dean act as hosts, introducing most of the acts. The bands and groups play on a set with frenetic go-go dancers and a live, screaming audience cheering the bands on. It kicks off with Chuck Berry and Garry And The Pacemakers trading off songs. I’m not sure why they decided to do this as it’s not something that goes on throughout the rest of the performances. There are some cool moments with the talent coming together, like a bunch of them getting behind Lesley Gore (I didn’t recognize her name, but she sings “You Don’t Own Me” and “It’s My Party”) and clapping and then at the very end coming out to dance during the Stones’ last song. The Stones had it pretty rough playing after a crazy-good James Brown set, but I think they did pretty good, and I’m not really a Stones fan.

Here’s one of James Brown’s performances, pretty great, right? He and the Flames gave , by far, the best performance of the film. Like I said, the Stones did well and I really liked Gore’s performance (her material seemed really progressive for the time). I also dug the performances by the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean as I’m a big fan of surf music. For some reason I always have a picture of Jan & Dean being older, but they’re just two dudes having a good time, riding skateboards while singing. Good stuff. Bands that I had never heard of like The Barbarians and Billy J. Kramer And The Dakotas were all right as were the pre-Diana Ross Supremes. The major let down of the show had to be Smokey Robinson And The Miracles. Smokey’s voice was super-sharp and sounded pretty painful at times.

I highly recommend checking out The T.A.M.I. Show if you’re a fan of the early days of rock and roll and R&B. For the most part the performances are really solid, with more good than bad. Plus, it’s fun to see the good old days when it didn’t take flouncy vampires and werewolves to get people screaming their faces off (I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited about anything as every single person in that auditorium was about seeing those groups). Oh, also, I recommend the flick if you’re a fan of ladies wearing early 60s style and dancing their asses off. The dancers in this thing–which apparently include Teri Garr and Toni Basil–might not look the coolest to modern audiences, but you’ve got to appreciate their enthusiasm and there’s no doubt that there’s some cute ladies shaking their thangs. Well worth the watch all the way around!