In 1992, Columbia/Legacy released The Essential Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys (1945-1949), a double CD that contained 24 of Monroe's 40 released recordings made for Columbia Records between 1945 and 1949, along with alternate takes of the other 16. The 45-minute 16 Gems contains the originally released versions of those songs, so that it serves as a companion to the earlier compilation and completes the CD reissue of the complete Bill Monroe on Columbia. With the exception of "Kentucky Waltz," Monroe's first and biggest hit, which leads off the album, and the genre-defining "Bluegrass Breakdown," these are not the best known of the Columbia recordings. But even as an addenda, the set contains enough powerful performances, many of them featuring Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt, to live up to its name.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann