The title of this 16-track compilation is a bit of a misnomer since about a third of its contents fall outside the 1970s and it also includes a number of Harley's solo songs. That quibble aside, this compilation offers a well-balanced cross section of Steve Harley's most notable songs both in and outside of Cockney Rebel. It includes most of the major 1970s tracks, including both hits like "Mr. Raffles (Man It Was Mean)" and album track favorites like the gothic epic "Sebastian." It also includes "Roll the Dice," a 1978 Harley solo song built on a bouncy synthesizer hook. However, it unfortunately omits some crucial tracks like the operatic "Tumbling Down" (later revived to memorable effect in the film Velvet Goldmine) and "Love's a Prima Donna," a 1976 single that was one of Harley's last major hits. As for the later solo tracks, their addition is not as jarring as they might seem because Harley maintained a consistent sound and style over the years. Thus, the two different sets of songs blend well. Highlights from the later years include "That's My Life in Your Hands," a spirited, acoustic guitar-driven song with a singalong quality, and "Rain in Venice," a richly textured ballad built on a soothing bed of elegant piano lines and subtle washes of synthesizer. All in all, Best of the 1970s can't be judged a thorough success because it fails to live up to its title but it still offers a consistent array of worthwhile songs that will provide a nice introduction to the Harley oeuvre for newcomers.
AllMusic Review by Donald A. Guarisco