As Ian Brown is not exactly renowned for his lack of self-belief, The Greatest is an appropriately egotistical title for the first compilation from the Madchester scene's golden boy. Brown is always more consistent as a singles artist, and so this 2005 collection, which gathers 15 tracks from his patchy first four albums, is perhaps the ideal showcase for the former Stone Roses frontman's talents. Kicking off with three tracks from 1998's Unfinished Monkey Business, debut single "My Star" set the blueprint for his solo career, combining cod-mysticism, Middle Eastern instrumentation, and psychedelic indie rock with his trademark languid vocal delivery, a formula Brown clearly adheres to on the likes of the space rock of "Longsight M13" and the sole new composition, "All Ablaze." However, the Morricone-inspired Spaghetti western vibes of "Time Is My Everything," the authentic brass-fused reggae of "Lovebug" (previously only available on the U.S./Japan edition of 2004's Solarized), and the jangly Americana of "Corpses in Their Mouths," a bitter diatribe against former bandmate John Squire, proved that the self-described "monkey man" was no one-trick pony. All the singles are here (bar his lowest-charting release, "Whispers"), including the two Noel Gallagher collaborations ("Can't See Me," "Keep What Ya Got"), unexpected Top Five hit "Dolphins Were Monkeys," and his two guest spots with UNKLE ("Be There," "Reign"), but it's 2001's "F.E.A.R.," a haunting string-soaked slice of baggy hip-hop cleverly creating a series of acronyms from the title, that remains his defining moment. Brown very rarely lives up to his self-aggrandizing claims on his studio albums, but with only the lazy Hendrix pastiche "Forever and a Day" missing the target, this comprehensive retrospective finally puts his money where his mouth is.
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien