Meet Me in Margaritaville: The Ultimate Collection really should deliver on the promise of the title, considering that it has 38 songs over the course of two discs. Something that exhaustive would seem like the perfect compromise for the Parrothead who wants more than Songs You Know By Heart but doesn't want as much as the four-disc box set Boats, Beaches, Bars & Ballads, but the compilation is undone by a scattershot sequencing and the inclusion of 11 new recordings, nine of which are remakes (four of which are live). This is a problem on a collection that purports to be a career-spanning overview, particularly because such key Jimmy Buffett songs as "Son of a Son of a Sailor" and "A Pirate Looks at Forty" are here in new versions. These new recordings aren't bad by any means -- they have a nice, breezy feel to them, and some of the cult favorites benefit from the reinterpretations (Buffett mentions in his track-by-track liner notes -- which appear only for the new numbers, by the way -- that "Saxophones" needed to be reworked, and he was right). But their quality isn't the issue; their presence is. They're perfectly fine new recordings, but they cut into Meet Me in Margaritaville's effectiveness as a career-spanning compilation, since these are of interest primarily to those dedicated longtime fans who like to hear new versions of old favorites, whereas the target audience for this compilation is those listeners who want one Jimmy Buffett album with all of their favorites in the versions they know by heart. This doesn't deliver on that level because over a quarter of the collection consists of new versions. Considering that, it's not bad, since the actual key songs are here, and it's all pretty enjoyable, but the fact remains, if you just want one Jimmy Buffett album in your collection, Songs You Know By Heart has all the tunes you need.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2