Complete is plagued by the same problem as many best-of compilations: It isn't comprehensive enough. Condensing Terry Hall's varied career onto a single disc offers only bite-sized pieces of the artist's range. Complete is far from complete; instead, it's an introduction to his stylistic deviations. Hall leapt from the groundbreaking ska of the Specials to the new wave bubblegum of Fun Boy Three to exploring neo-psychedelia and bossa nova with the Colourfield. And that isn't even including his solo work. Ironically, although the album is credited to him, Hall's post-band material isn't acknowledged here. "Forever J," Hall's moving love letter to his ex-wife, is nowhere to be found, although many of his fans consider it to be one of his finest songs. "Missing" was recorded with Blair Booth and Anouchka Grace, and it comes closest to reflecting the early-'70s AM radio pop style that he would perform on his own. Never let Hall fool you. Beneath the bouncy keyboards of "Missing," for example, are sad lyrics that describe the hardships of a father and child after a divorce: "The kids are crying/The dog is dying/I've just got the flu/Oh, how we're missing/Missing you." "The Lunatics (Have Taken Over the Asylum)" is a political diatribe disguised as a Halloween ditty. Complete is almost like an abridged version of The Collection from 1993, except that none of the tracks are presented in chronological order. Given Hall's bouncing from one genre to another, Complete can seem a little jarring, especially when the joyful "Really Saying Something" -- featuring Fun Boy Three buddies Bananarama -- is followed by the bleak "The Colourfield." Moreover, as good as these songs are, the Japanese release of the Colourfield's Virgins and Philistines CD is much better in showcasing Hall's brilliance. Complete is just a taste test.
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AllMusic Review by Michael Sutton
feat: The Special A.K.A.