Following their 1975 debut, Mental Notes, Split Enz signed a worldwide distribution deal with Chrysalis Records for their next two LPs: 1976's Second Thoughts, which Chrysalis confusingly titled Mental Notes (even using a modified version of the Mental Notes cover art instead of the cover for Second Thoughts), and 1977's Dizrythmia. The band stayed with the Mushroom label in Australia and New Zealand, a relationship that would continue throughout their career. By their fourth album, 1979's Frenzy, the Enz were dropped from Chrysalis, leaving them only with Mushroom to distribute the record in Australia and New Zealand. At the time they redefined themselves as a new wave band with 1980's True Colours, A&M became their worldwide label for their next four albums, but not their final album, See Ya Round, which was issued only in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. A modified version of Frenzy was issued by A&M in 1981. In 1990, Polygram purchased A&M Records, and by the late '90s, Polygram was bought by Seagrams, which incorporated the label into their record division under the name Universal Music. In the early '90s, the EMI Music Group purchased Chrysalis. This left the Split Enz catalog (minus the first and last album) divided between two of the major labels -- Universal Music handling the better-known new wave era, and EMI Music handling their earlier, lesser-known, more prog rock-oriented material -- and making a career-spanning collection outside of their homeland an impossibility. EMI Europe's The Collection (subtitled on the back cover as "The Best of the Early Years") is predictably limited to the two albums they have rights to, as well as one single, "Another Great Divide." As far as "early years" collections goes, this one isn't bad, with 15 of the 19 EMI-controlled tracks and substantial liner notes. All of the material here is terrific, though the omission of "Bold as Brass," "Time for a Change," "Charley," and "Crosswords" -- four of the better-known songs from that era and live favorites throughout the band's career -- seems odd.
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AllMusic Review by Chris Woodstra