Released ten years after Rhino's exhaustively entertaining three-disc box The Beat Generation, 2002's The Best of the Beat Generation is essentially a single-disc distillation of that set with a couple of new tracks that, according to producer James Austin's liner notes, "weren't available (in 1992) or had slipped under my Beat radar." Though these new finds are good, they're probably not enticing enough for those who already own the set, but that's not the audience for this, anyway. This disc is for those that want to discover the Beats or know the Beats and know they don't need three discs of them. And on that front, this succeeds brilliantly, offering 20 tracks -- many by such legends as Jack Kerouac, Steve Allen, Ken Nordine, Langston Hughes, Lenny Bruce, Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dorough, Slim Gaillard, and William Burroughs -- that set the mood, plus a great set of liners that explain the era. Sure, there are a couple of cuts that were probably included for their novelty value, but The Best of the Beat Generation captures the feeling of the era and has a lot of great music, which is exactly what the curious listener needs.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine