This is basically the budget version of the more comprehensive Every Day: The Best of the Verve Years anthology. While Verve could have easily compiled a better 60 minutes by sticking to Williams' '50s recordings with Count Basie, Joe Williams' Finest Hour shoots for the broader picture, from Williams' pre-Basie big-band work from the late '40s to his swingin'-senior-citizen days of the '80s and '90s. (Still, this is not exactly a retrospective, as there's a 30-year gap between Williams' last Verve session with Basie and the next record he cut for the label, 1987's Every Night). Overall, Finest Hour is a decent sampling of Williams' many stylistic hats -- swinging, scatting, balladeering, and blues-shouting. On half of the tracks, he fronts a big band (either Basie's or Andy Kirk's); on the other half, he sings slow blues or pop ballads (ranging from sublime to syrupy) with a small combo. Not a bad "finest hour," but if you're looking for a finer one, try Blue Note's The Best of Joe Williams.
AllMusic Review by Ken Chang