With the occasional exception, such as Motown records in the 1960s, record companies don't have any particular sound or approach, at least as appreciated by record buyers, who simply buy what they like without reference to what label it is on. But when it comes to samplers, companies tend to stick to their own, and here is a budget-priced, triple-disc examination of three middle years of the 1980s, as seen through the holdings of what used to be called CBS records (now Sony Music Entertainment) on its imprints Columbia records, Epic records, and several Epic subsidiaries. (Further narrowing that universe is the absence of superstars like Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, and Billy Joel, who usually do not allow their recordings to be anthologized.) Through these hits, big and small, one can hear a major label strategy of going for mass-market sounds. The dominant style is catchy pop/rock, some of it leaning toward heavy metal (Quiet Riot's "Cum On Feel the Noize"), some toward new wave (Men at Work, Adam Ant), some of it representing crossover from the R&B charts (Luther Vandross), but none of it leaning too far. Those who listened to the radio in the '80s will recognize a few major hits, recall a few moderate ones, and perhaps discover some very minor ones. As such, the collection is a reasonable sampler of the kind of music that was broadly popular in the middle of the decade, and given its bargain-basement price (it was selling for as little as $15 in convenience stores upon release), it can be recommended on that basis, especially to fans of Toto (three selections), Loverboy, REO Speedwagon, Paul Young, and Luther Vandross (two each).
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann