With the release of 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Aaron Neville in 2002, Universal Music Group had released three Aaron Neville compilations in three years, following 2000's The Very Best of Aaron Neville on A&M and 2001's Ultimate Collection on Hip-O. Consumers might well be confused, and even when explained, the distinctions are a bit fine. Neville has had a long career on many different labels, though he enjoyed some commercial success on A&M in the 1990s. Ultimate Collection, released at a list price of about $18, is a 20-track compilation that, like all of Hip-O's similarly titled compilations, does not stint on licensing material from other labels to create a well-rounded look at the artist. The Very Best of Aaron Neville, listing at about $17 on release, contains 18 tracks, some of which are licensed from other labels, but focuses more on the A&M recordings. Nevertheless, it shares nine tracks with Ultimate Collection, and you've got to wonder if there isn't some competition between divisions at Universal to have such similar titles in the marketplace. The 20th Century Masters compilation is easier to understand, since it is the discount-priced entry in the bunch, listing for about $12 and containing 12 tracks (eight of which are on The Very Best Of), only one of them, the 1966-1967 hit "Tell It Like It Is," licensed from outside. Otherwise, it is a reasonable sampling of the A&M years, which saw Neville back in the Top Ten with a revival of the Main Ingredient's "Everybody Plays the Fool" and achieving platinum sales with the albums Warm Your Heart and The Grand Tour. No one should mistake this for a true overview of Neville's career, but that you can get by spending the extra bucks to buy Ultimate Collection.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
feat: Neville Brothers
feat: Linda Ronstadt