Harry James

Only the Best of Harry James

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The Collectables imprint's "Only the Best" series basically assembles several compilations together in a multi-disc package; compilations they've previously issued. In other words, the unassuming consumer takes a look at the back of one of these boxes -- in this case Only the Best of Harry James -- and from appearances it would seem that these were indeed eight actual catalog recordings by the artist split over five CDs, when in fact, it is eight different compilations assembled by the Collectables label -- even if they originally licensed them from other labels. It is a bit dubious if not fundamentally dishonest, but ultimately what any compilation gets graded on is the quality of the music. There's a ton of good stuff here, from the well known to the obscure, and James' fans, many of whom will have most if not all of this stuff, will no doubt find much to like here. Some of the material here is live, and it ranges from all over the course of James' career. If you are not put off by the way this set is being marketed, and are looking for a decently large James package, this one, for the price, may do it for you. That said, the four-CD Definitive Collection issued by the U.K.'s Castle imprint in 2004 is preferable, as it is arranged chronologically and contains every major cut from the artist, though it does cost a bit more.

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