Where to start with the music of that sly titan of 20th century music Muddy Waters? Some will advise an inquisitive newbie to invest in an exhaustive multi-disc box set that retails in the neighborhood of a Franklin, while a closet Johnny Winter-aficionado might recommend one of his late-‘70s LPs for the Blue Sky label (and that’s definitely not the place to begin.) However, the most sensible way to commence a journey into the everlasting goodness of McKinley Morganfield is to simply follow the path many thousands have already made, and it leads directly to the doorstep of 1958’s extraordinarily enlightening The Best of Muddy Waters.
While a certifiable embarrassment of great LPs have been made since the format was first introduced in 1948, they don’t all command the same level of historical respect, even from individuals that happen to hold a deep relationship to the sounds those less revered records contain. For instance, after giving the realms of heavy-duty music connoisseurship a good inspection, there is no doubt that the Best of/Greatest Hits LP continues to shoulder something of a bad reputation, with its appeal often denigrated as being directed mostly to dabblers.
These records, awarded to artists who had managed to secure a handful of creative and/or commercial highpoints either in one fast spurt or in some period of sustained longevity, are reliably frowned upon by more intense listeners as essentially being easy primers designed by cash hungry record labels with the intention of giving more casual ears a quick fix and some level of conversance (a sort of career Cliff Notes, if you will) to discographies of considerable distinction.
That’s not necessarily an incorrect assessment. But there are other elements in the scenario, as anyone who ever got turned on to Donovan through their parent’s well-worn copy of his wildly popular Greatest Hits LP can surely understand. And when handed down by older siblings as they slouched off to spend four years in a cramped college dorm, the Best of/Greatest Hits album has surely functioned as a gateway into substantial musical discoveries of all types.