For someone who racked up 17 number one country singles in her heyday, Crystal Gayle didn't have much of her music in print in the years following the turn of the century. A few CD compilations remained readily available -- namely Greatest Hits (Collectables, 2006), Super Hits (Columbia, 1999), and The Best of Crystal Gayle (Rhino, 2002) -- and most were dirt cheap, for better (good price) and for worse (poor quality). To make matters worse, her catalog was partitioned three ways: United Artists Records (1974-1979, 1990), Columbia Records (1979-1981), and Elektra/Warner Brothers Records (1982-1988). Rhino's The Best of Crystal Gayle is the rare CD that crosses company lines, and just barely in that case, cross-licensing only three songs; all other CD compilations focus on a particular company's holdings. EMI's Best Of is no different, focusing exclusively on Gayle's years with the conglomerate (1974-1979, 1990). These were peak years for the singer, no doubt, as she most notably recorded "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue," her signature song, during these years, along with other number one hits like "Talking in Your Sleep" and "Why Have You Left the One You Left Me For." These are just a few among the whopping 40 songs compiled here on EMI's Best Of, all of them remastered and sounding great. Now, keep in mind that 40 songs is a lot of Crystal Gayle, as a little of her streamlined country-pop tends to go a long way. In other words, only hardcore fans really need this bountiful double-disc set. Most listeners will be satisfied by one of the several budget-line compilations covering this same time span; in particular, the aforementioned Greatest Hits (Collectables, 2006) is recommended, because it retails for a fraction of the price and covers all the key hits. That's the other problem with EMI's Best Of, it needs to be stressed: not only does it run too long for its narrow focus, but it also somehow manages inexcusably to miss several key songs, including the number one hits "You Never Miss a Real Good Thing ('Till He Says Goodbye)" and "Ready for the Times to Get Better." Needless to say, EMI's Best Of is deeply flawed; however, at least it does put a lot of Gayle's United Artists catalog in print on CD for the first time, albeit randomly (in terms of selection as well as sequencing). So it does hold some value, ultimately. Just don't take the best-of billing literally and forgive the dunderhead omissions.
AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier
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