Co-compiler Gary Stewart and project assistant David Gorman waste no time at all before addressing the question that has plagued rock critics and fans since 1981: "how can we rationalize the continued underappreciation of Marshall Crenshaw?" It's not just that Crenshaw is a cult favorite and critics' pet; he's also steeped in rock & roll traditions that date back to Buddy Holly and Gene Vincent, and his records are such ear candy that you'd figure they would attract a big audience. Instead, only three of Crenshaw's previous ten albums have even reached the charts, along with just one single; Stewart and Gorman hope this compilation will "set things right." If only it could. Running from 1981 to 1996, the 22-track collection gathers four tracks each from Crenshaw's first three albums, as well as his first indie single "Something's Gonna Happen," the exceptional B-side "You're My Favorite Waste of Time," and assorted tracks from four subsequent albums. Crenshaw doesn't so much write songs as he makes records, at least as interested in guitar textures and what echo is placed on his vocal as what he's singing about. For all the surface pleasure his work provides, the only depth it reveals is one of craft; one is more impressed than really involved. And yet, it would be hard for a rock & roll fan not to enjoy this record, which cherry-picks Crenshaw's albums, diminishing, for example, the inappropriately bombastic production Steve Lillywhite brought to Field Day. The tracks are all pop gems, and they do, as Stewart and Gorman claim, induce the fantasy of a world in which classic, 1965-vintage pop/rock was still on top 20 years later. It's a nice dream for rock & roll fans; with this album they can close their eyes and, for 75 minutes, pretend it's true.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann