Eddie Rabbitt's catalog is in a bit of a mess, lacking a definitive greatest-hits collection that encompasses the hits he had for Elektra, Liberty (originally distributed through Warner, now available through EMI), and RCA. Since his peak period as a recording artist stretched from 1976-1988 as he hopped between the three labels, this is a little bit of a problem, since it can't all be contained on one disc without cross-licensing, which no label appears to want to do as of this writing in 2003. Without that cross-licensed collection, listeners have to either acquire no less than three collections to get the great majority of the hits, or choose which of the three has the right number -- and the right selection -- of hits. Of the three, Warner Strategic Marketing's 2003 collection, the 12-track The Essentials, may be the best, although it is in stiff competition with the 1991 ten-track collection All Time Greatest Hits, which also concentrates on his late-'70s and early-'80s recordings for Elektra. The two share four songs -- "Drivin' My Life Away," "I Love a Rainy Night," "Gone Too Far," and "Suspicions" -- and this has ten top hits, while All Time Greatest Hits has nine, which gives them a similar hits ratio. However, The Essentials has a bit better song selection, containing such necessary items as "Every Which Way but Loose," "You Don't Love Me Anymore," the Crystal Gayle duet "You and I," his first number one, "Drinkin' My Baby (Off My Mind)," and the Liberty-era "The Best Year of My Life," plus his own version of his original "Kentucky Rain," which Elvis made into a hit. None of these are on All Time, and they're all reason enough to choose this over the other collection, even though it is missing such big tunes as "Rocky Mountain Music," "Pour Me a Tequila," and "Hearts on Fire," not to mention the superb Liberty number ones "Step by Step" and "Someone Could Lose a Heart Tonight," both only available on CEMA's budget-line Greatest Hits. All of this reiterates that none of these collections are perfect, and all are necessary in order to get his hits, but if you were to choose just one -- or to choose one to start with -- The Essentials gets the nod.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
feat: Crystal Gayle