In many ways, Rhino's 1986 compilation Greatest Hits, Vol. 1: 1964-1966 is the standard-bearer among Yardbirds hits collections, largely because it is the one that was available domestically in the U.S. for so many years. It is undeniably excellent, containing a lion's share of the Yardbirds' biggest hits, but it bears a couple of major flaws that keep it from being a definitive single-disc set. First off, it is effectively a document of the Yardbirds with Eric Clapton, as it stops in 1966 just after Jeff Beck replaced Clapton as the group's lead guitarist. This happens to be the time they switched labels, but that is less of a clean break than it reads, since the Yardbirds started to get further out when Beck joined the group, as captured here by the droning "Still I'm Sad," the frenzied rave-up of "I'm a Man," the minor-key menace of "Evil Hearted You," and the bright piercing psychedelia of "Shapes of Things." Here, these tracks are mixed up with the bluesier cuts from the Clapton era, and this non-chronological sequencing -- while not distracting -- doesn't quite have the same dramatic impact as following the band single by single. All the noteworthy hits comps that followed in the wake of this 1986 comp did wind up following that blueprint, whether it was Raven's single-disc sets Over Under Sideways Down and Happenings Ten Years Time Ago or Rhino's splendid double-disc Ultimate! set, which contains every one of the tracks from Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 save "Putty (In Your Hands)," an atypically fluffy pop tune that's fun but not essential. All of these also have the benefit of fully exploring Beck's tenure with the band as well as Jimmy Page's stint toward the group's demise, so they are preferable to this set, but it's still hard to knock this Greatest Hits, Vol. 1, as it was the first hits compilation to take a serious approach to the band's catalog and it remains a dynamite listen on its own terms.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine