Essentials was released in 2002, during a time when compilations weren't exactly a rare commodity. To make its presence a little better, Essentials was only one of two Average White Band compilations released domestically since their 1992 best-of. Luckily for consumers and compilers, the AWB catalog is so foolproof, a good compilation is almost assured. The best songs remain the ones from their classic self-titled album from 1974. "Picking Up the Pieces" and "Person to Person" display their J.B.'s-influenced rhythm scheme. The great "Got the Love" and "Work to Do" also feature the strong vocals of guitarist/bassist Hamish Stuart and bassist/guitarist Alan Gorrie and their effortless chemistry. After the 1974 cuts, AWB never really sounded as quirky or charming again. They did remain good to great, though. With drummer Steve Ferrone replacing the late Robbie McIntosh, tracks from Soul Searching, including the title "Queen of My Soul" and the phenomenal "A Love of Your Own," prove that point. Tracks from 1975's Cut the Cake and Feel No Fret's "Walk on By" are the only ones that didn't wear all that well. Despite the track list, Essentials doesn't tell the whole story, though. This set includes nothing from Warmer Communications or the clunky Benny & Us. Perhaps that's best. While Essentials isn't as worthy as a regular-release album or the more extensive The Best of Average White Band, it's not half bad.
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AllMusic Review by Jason Elias