Who could have predicted that the bass player from a Smiths-ish pop combo called the Housemartins could change the face of dance music with a controlled noise jumble that was ridiculously infectious and extra thrilling, all while sounding virtually impossible? The story behind Norman Cook's evolution into dance music's savior is fascinating, but you won't find it here. With one of the most honest titles for a compilation, The Greatest Hits: Why Try Harder goes for the big numbers -- and sometimes the smaller numbers from the big full-lengths -- without pretending to be a history lesson or an attempt to define the scattershot career of Cook. Maybe it does try a little harder by including his remixes of Cornershop's "Brimful of Asha" and Groove Armada's "I See You Baby," both of which went "Ka-Boom!" across dancefloors worldwide. While it would complete the trilogy of important Cook remixes, the absence of his take on Wildchild's "Renegade Master" is telling, since the hit is just as important but a bit more underground and raw. Instead, Why Try Harder goes for the gloss, and does so triumphantly. "Praise You," "Weapon of Choice," and "Right Here, Right Now" are all instantly recognizable tracks and packed so tight together that they create a whirlwind of big beat excitement. The curious can now skip the so-so Palookaville since its best is here, but those bitten by the big beat bug will have to go further, because Cook's best productions weren't always his singles. Two new numbers -- "Champion Sound" and "That Old Pair of Jeans" with Lateef of Blackalicious on the mike -- fail to thrill, but with so much imagination and over the top brilliance elsewhere on the disc, they can't keep this collection from being vital for budget-minded clubbers.
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries
feat: Bootsy Collins
feat: Groove Armada