In her lengthy career, from 1965 to 1999, Cher scored singles charts entries on Imperial, Kapp, MCA, Warner Bros., Casablanca, Geffen, and Reprise Records. Because the hits are spread among three major labels (the Imperial catalog is owned by EMI; the Kapp, MCA, Casablanca, and Geffen catalogs by Universal; and the Warner Bros. and Reprise catalogs by Warner), putting together a compilation on her is a nightmare. Nevertheless, following her 1999 comeback with "Believe," Universal released four compilations in less than three years, the fourth being reissue division Hip-O's Essential Collection. The four are aimed at slightly different audiences, but there's some overlap: five songs -- "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves," "Dark Lady," "Half-Breed," "Take Me Home," and "The Way of Love" -- appear on all four. If I Could Turn Back Time: Greatest Hits focuses primarily on the singer's 1987-1991 Geffen hits; The Best of Cher: 20th Century Masters/The Millennium Collection is a budget compilation of Kapp, MCA, and Casablanca hits; and The Way of Love: The Cher Collection is a double CD that licenses some of the Imperial hits, but fails to include any of the Geffen ones. The single-disc Essential Collection (presumably intended for fans who want more than the Millennium set, but less than The Way of Love) is actually a more complete hits collection than The Way of Love, containing all of Cher's Top 40 hits from 1965 to 1979 and tossing in such miscellaneous items as a track by her short-lived band Black Rose and her duet with Meat Loaf on his typically frantic 1981 track "Dead Ringer for Love." But like its two predecessors, it fails to include any of the Geffen recordings, even though Geffen is within the corporate family. As such, it is yet another incomplete Cher hits compilation, albeit the best one at the time of its release.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
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