Various Artists

The Best of Miami Vice [Hip-O]

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First things first. This 2006 various-artists album titled The Best of Miami Vice and released on Universal's Hip-O reissue imprint is not to be confused with the 2004 Jan Hammer album called The Best of Miami Vice and released on AAO Records. That album is a reduction of Hammer's 2002 album, Miami Vice: The Complete Collection, which consists of the composer's instrumental music, some of it newly recorded, written as the soundtrack to the popular 1984-1989 NBC-TV crime series. Nor is the Hip-O album to be confused with an album called Miami Vice: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack released by Atlantic Records three weeks after it appeared; that album is the original soundtrack to the 2006 feature film based on the TV series. (Of course, the Hip-O album is no doubt being released to take advantage of the hoopla surrounding the movie.) And, for good measure, Hip-O's The Best of Miami Vice is not simply, as one might suppose, a single-disc distillation of the two Miami Vice TV soundtrack albums of the 1980s, although, like those discs, it is largely given over to pop/rock songs of the era that were heard in episodes of the show. Those albums were triumphs of multi-label licensing, and the licenses have long since run out. The legal team at Hip-O has managed to bring back Tina Turner's "Better Be Good to Me" from EMI, previously featured on 1985's Miami Vice, and Jackson Browne's "Lives in the Balance" from Asylum/Elektra, also on 1986's Miami Vice II, and there are songs from Universal's own vaults, such as Glenn Frey's hits "You Belong to the City" and "Smuggler's Blues," both of which are closely associated with the show. But tracks by Chaka Khan, Phil Collins, Roxy Music, and others seem to have been unavailable, and in their place the compilers have turned to other tracks that were used on different episodes. The result is, basically, a sampler of mainstream pop/rock of the mid-'80s with a picture of Miami Vice stars Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas on the cover. Although originally included on Miami Vice II and, as annotator Robyn Flans points out, heard in an episode concerning Contragate, the politically charged "Lives in the Balance" still doesn't seem to fit, especially sandwiched between Foreigner's faux-gospel chart-topper "I Want to Know What Love Is" and Autograph's brain-dead Top 30 rock anthem "Turn Up the Radio." Yet its Reagan-era warnings about the foreign policy overreaching of a rogue American presidential administration almost sound like they were based on the headlines of 2006 rather than 1986.

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