The problem with assembling a definitive Dr. Hook collection is two-fold. First, there's the simple fact that they had their hits at two different labels, spending the first part of the '70s at Columbia and the latter half at Capitol. To top it off, the band changed considerably during those two eras, beginning as the ramshackle, Shel Silverstein-singing, goofy bar band hippies of Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show and ending as the swanky, leisure-suited crooners Dr. Hook. Each era has its partisans, with a mere handful of listeners liking both, and because of this, each label-specific collection has endured criticism for not containing the other. It could be easy to level that argument against Columbia/Legacy's The Essential Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, since it primarily covers the Columbia recordings, with the exception of the 1975 cover of Sam Cooke's "Only Sixteen," which was their first hit for Capitol, and 1976's "A Little Bit More," one of their biggest hits. This leaves out many latter-day hits -- "Sharing the Night Together," "Better Love Next Time," "When You're in Love With a Beautiful Woman," "Sexy Eyes," and "Baby Makes Her Blue Jeans Talk" -- most of which are on Capitol's Classic Masters collection, and shines the focus on the group's first two albums, which were nearly entirely written by Silverstein, including the hits "Cover of the Rolling Stone," "Sylvia's Mother," and "Carry Me Carrie." There are also two tracks, "Life Ain't Easy" and "You Ain't Got the Right," from the 1973 album Belly Up!, along with some sharp selections of album tracks, which make for a good, entertaining sampling of the band at its early-'70s peak.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine