A companion (but not really) to the 1986 Street Life compilation, Ultimate Collection was released just two years later, yet thought nothing of restating half-a-dozen of its predecessor's tracks. It was a shocking miscalculation on the compilers' part for, had it not done so, The Ultimate Collection would have dovetailed with Street Life to create, indeed, the last word in Roxy Music/Bryan Ferry anthologies. Instead, it just seemed slapdash. Where Street Life concentrated on the two acts' biggest hits, The Ultimate Collection was concerned more with the tracks that slipped between the cracks, with further emphasis placed on Ferry's solo work. A heartpounding remix of "Let's Stick Together," 1977's curiously rockabilly-like "This Is Tomorrow," and the riff-laden revision of "The In Crowd" all leap out, alongside a stray Roxy hit omitted from Street Life, the churning "All I Want Is You." One newly recorded song, "He'll Have to Go," and a lovely collaboration with Nile Rodgers, "Help Me," furthered the album's brilliance, only for the entire, majestic edifice to be sent crashing down by the once-more-around reprises of "Love Is the Drug," "Slave to Love," "Jealous Guy" and so forth. And again, one wonders what the point was. Fans of the hits would have picked them up last time, fans of the odder stuff wouldn't have wanted them in any form. Or so one would presume. But Ultimate Collection reached number six in the U.K., proving that you can sell anything to anyone if you make them think it's worthwhile. And today, the record store shelves simply sag beneath the weight of so many identikit Roxy Music hits collections that complaining about a mere six duplications sounds positively over-reactionary. Things would be getting a lot worse very soon.
The Ultimate Collection Review
by Dave Thompson