With the Absolute Best collections out of print at the end of the '90s and 20 Good Vibrations: The Greatest Hits missing about as many great singles as it included, Capitol's release of two generous Beach Boys Greatest Hits discs in 1999 was welcome. Unfortunately, they got it only half-right. Since the Beach Boys had too many hits to fit onto one 20-track collection, it made sense to have two separate 20-track discs, but the dividing line is arbitrary. For its three quarters, Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 appears to be a straight chronological trawl through the hits, beginning with "Surfin' Safari" and running through "Barbara Ann." Upon close inspection, a number of major songs -- "Surfin'," "Shut Down," "In My Room," "Don't Worry Baby" -- are missing, yet that portion of the album plays very well. The last five songs are a bit problematic. True, there's a good selection of highlights from the Pet Sounds era, but the late '60s and '70s are skipped in favor of "Kokomo," which has never sounded more out of place than it does here. Of course, to some casual fans this will seem like nitpicking, since Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 does have the lion's share of the Beach Boys' popular material, and it is nice to have these songs on one disc, even if "Do It Again," "Caroline No," and "Heroes and Villains" are missing, along with the previously mentioned cuts. What is here qualifies as a top-notch introduction, yet it's hard not to wish that the two Greatest Hits were chronological, with Vol. 1 ending before Pet Sounds and the second volume tying up the remaining Capitol recordings.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine