Although long departed from Mercury Records, Robert Cray served as a co-compiler on this discount-priced best-of, which reviews his career from 1986 to 1997 by way of ten tracks drawn from seven albums. Maybe it was his influence that led to the range of material, since a record company executive left to himself might have been tempted to focus more on the earlier part of that period. For four years, from the fall of 1986, when "Smoking Gun" emerged from Strong Persuader on its way to a Top 40 placing, to the fall of 1990, when the gold-selling Midnight Stroll was released, Cray managed to be both a wonderful soul singer, blues guitarist, songwriter, and hitmaker. Thereafter, his record sales fell off. The compilers argue in effect that there was no diminution of his talents, just his popularity, which may be fair enough. But the best-of/greatest-hits compilation is a relatively unforgiving form, and one can't help noting the absence of recordings such as "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark," "Acting This Way," and "The Forecast (Calls for Pain)" that made the charts, earned significant radio play, and/or earned Grammy nominations or awards. Maybe the selected songs are the ten best recorded performances by Cray on Mercury, but if so that's primarily in the opinion of the compilers; other entities have thought otherwise. Nevertheless, the album does contain Cray's two signature songs, "Smoking Gun" and "Right Next Door (Because of Me)," and his work is consistent enough that any discussion of his best will find valid arguments on many sides. A neophyte on a limited budget who is curious about Cray can get a good idea of what his music sounds like by buying this collection.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann