18 Tracks is a single-disc distillation of 1998's four-CD box set Tracks, the superb retrospective assembling unreleased material spanning the breadth of Bruce Springsteen's storied career; also featuring three previously unissued songs, this new, streamlined release is a frustration from both a critical and consumer standpoint. The issue of record company greed aside, the greatest disservice is actually to those listeners who buy the disc as a substitute for the full Tracks box; each of its 66 cuts is an invaluable addition to the Springsteen songbook, so even casual fans need the complete package to discover lost classics like "Thundercrack," "Give the Girl a Kiss," "Wages of Sin," and "The Wish" -- just 18 of these gems are simply not enough. Which means, then, that 18 Tracks is ultimately most essential for those hardcore fans who already shelled out for most of the material in question anyway; and though it's appalling to force the devoted to buy a full-length album for just three new songs, at least each is excellent, in particular longtime fan favorites "The Fever" and "The Promise" (the latter newly recorded for inclusion here).
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AllMusic Review by Jason Ankeny