50 (Or Is It 54) Greatest Hits Albums You Gotta Own

Greatest Hits albums have been around since the beginning of the whole recorded album era. These compilations of an artist’s most popular music is an efficient way. If properly arranged, these albums will have every hit by the artist up to that point in which the album was made. Plus, the record company may also throw in some prime deep cuts.

Aerosmith during their “hazy” 70s phase.

Yet, for whatever reason, record companies, or the artist themselves, may choose to throw in a remix or live version of a popular song or two in the place of the version that was the hit. Or, some hits may be completely left off the package in favor of some lame deep cut or a newly recorded song or two. When this happens, the fans become very frustrated, making them cynical about all greatest hits albums.

John Mellencamp on ‘American Bandstand’ in 1982 when he was still John Cougar.

Now, back in the Nineties, when CDs were the ruling medium, these packages became a popular way for Boomers to replace their love of an artist without breaking the bank. Additionally, Gen X-ers and Millennials both found this compilations enticing. So, as vinyl made a comeback, those “best of” collections became the “go-to” album for many artists for Generation Z.

Donna Summer

Perhaps, these types of albums should be the way most people go when beginning a music collection. You could truly have a nice collection based mainly on these compilations, then interspersing albums of your choosing.


Of all the greatest hits packages that have been running around over the years, I have chosen compilations by 50 artists, though there are four artists who have two essential collections worth owning. What follows is my unranked list of greatest hits albums that would make a pretty solid collection basis.

  1. ABBA – Gold: Greatest Hits (1992)
  2. Aerosmith – Greatest Hits (1980)
  3. Al Green – Greatest Hits (1975)
  4. Bee Gees – The Ultimate Bee Gees (2009)
  5. Billy Joel – Greatest Hits Vol. 1 & 2 (1985)
  6. Bob Marley & the Wailers – Legend (1984)
  7. Chic – The Very Best of Chic (2000)
  8. Chicago – The Very Best of Chicago: Only the Beginning (2002)
  9. Chuck Berry – The Great Twenty-Eight (1982)
  10. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Chronicle: The 20 Greatest Hits
  11. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – So Far… (1974)
  12. Daryl Hall & John Oates – The Very Best of Daryl Hall & John Oates (2001)
  13. David Bowie – Best of Bowie (2002) 
  14. Def Leppard – Vault: Def Leppard Greatest Hits 1980-1995 (1995)
  15. Donna Summer – Endless Summer: Donna Summer’s Greatest Hits (1995)
  16. Duran Duran – Greatest (1998)
  17. Eagles – Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 (1976)
  18. Elton John – Greatest Hits 1970-2002 (2002)
  19. Elvis Presley – ELV1S: 30 #1 Hits (2002)
  20. Green Day – International Superhits (2001)
  21. James Brown – 20 All-Time Greatest Hits (1991)
  22. Jimi Hendrix Experience – Smash Hits (1969)
  23. John Mellencamp – Words & Music: John Mellencamp’s Greatest Hits (2004)
  24. Johnny Cash – The Legend of Johnny Cash (2005)
  25. Journey – Greatest Hits (1988)
  26. Kate Bush – The Whole Story (1986)
  27. Leonard Cohen – Greatest Hits (1975)
  28. Lynyrd Skynyrd – Gold & Platinum (1979)
  29. Madonna – The Immaculate Collection (1990)
  30. Neil Young – Decade (1977)
  31. New Order – Substance 1987 (1987)
  32. Nirvana – Nirvana (2002)
  33. Ozzy Osbourne – The Ozzman Cometh: Greatest Hits (2002)
  34. Queen – Greatest Hits (1994)/Greatest Hits II (1991)
  35. R.E.M. – Eponymous (1988)/In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1989-2003 (2003)
  36. Sade – The Essential Sade (2014)
  37. Sly & the Family Stone – The Essential Sly & the Family Stone (2002)
  38. Stevie Wonder – The Definitive Collection (2002)
  39. The Band – Greatest Hits (2000)
  40. The Beach Boys – Sounds of Summer: The Very Best of The Beach Boys (2003)
  41. The Beatles – 1962-1966 [“Red Album”]/1967-1970 [“Blue Album”] (1971)
  42. The Cars – Greatest Hits (1985)
  43. The Cure – Staring at the Sea: The Singles (1986)/Galore: The Singles 1987-1997 (1997)
  44. The Jam – Snap! (1983)
  45. The Monkees – The Best of The Monkees (2003)
  46. The Rolling Stones – Hot Rocks 1964-1971 (1972)
  47. The Smiths – The Sound of The Smiths (2008)
  48. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Greatest Hits (1993)
  49. U2 – The Best of 1980-1990 (1998)
  50. Van Halen – Best of Both Worlds (2004)

Although a few artists like Pink Floyd, The Who and Bruce Springsteen have excellent compilations available, I still feel like their studio albums better represent their artistry than these watered down sets. Plus, there are many other artists who have excellent compilations. Major artists like Pearl Jam and Tina Turner have great collections too, as do some more obscure bands like Buzzcocks and Siouxsie & the Banshees have excellent sets as well.

Author: ifmyalbumscouldtalk

I am just a long-time music fan who used to be a high school science teacher and a varsity coach of several high school athletic teams. Before that, I worked as a medical technologist at three hospitals in their labs, mainly as a microbiologist. I am retired/disabled (Failed Back Surgery Syndrome), and this is my attempt to remain a human. Additionally, I am a serious vinyl aficionado, with a CD addiction and a love of reading about rock history. Finally, I am a fan of Prince, Cheap Trick, Tom Petty, R.E.M., Hall & Oates, Springsteen, Paul Weller & his bands and Power Pop music.

One thought on “50 (Or Is It 54) Greatest Hits Albums You Gotta Own”

  1. I’m glad you included Staring at the Sea toward the end there. That is an amazing compilation. It’s a great list and you cover a lot of essentials. Personally, I think it’s very male heavy. Five women? Out of 50 plus? That’s just wrong. I could give you a long list, but you know who they are.

    FYI, Def Leppard and The Jam both take up two spots on your list.

    Liked by 1 person

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