Michael Martin Murphey presents great challenges to anyone trying to construct a one-disc compilation of his work. For one thing, he has recorded for several record companies, all of which have catalogs now controlled by different major labels: A&M (Universal) 1972-1973; Epic (Sony), 1973-1981; Liberty (EMI), 1982-1983; and Warner Bros. (Warner) (1986-1997). (He has recorded independently since 1998.) For another, he has had at least three different careers, one in the 1970s as a pop singer/songwriter, another in the 1980s as a country singer, and a third as a Western artist. The least likely label to assemble a compilation would seem to be Universal, which possesses only two of his albums. But Hip-O, Universal's reissue arm, is nothing if not ambitious, and so we have this Ultimate Collection. You've got to admit that they've made an effort. No less than 12 of the 79-minute disc's 21 tracks have been licensed from other labels, including the major pop hit "Wildfire" and the number one country hits "What's Forever For?" and "A Long Line of Love." They've even dug up "I Feel Good (I Feel Bad)," the 1967 chart single by Murphey's early group, the Lewis & Clark Expedition. That said, the disc will not entirely satisfy any of Murphey's constituencies. Necessarily, there is a focus on his early solo work, with seven tracks drawn from A&M's Geronimo's Cadillac, while the rest of his career is presented very selectively. Only five tracks cover the Epic years, Murphey's peak as a singer/songwriter, and his period as a mouthpiece for Nashville songwriters is represented by only his biggest country hits. But as of the appearance of this set, neither Epic nor Warner Bros. had bothered to issue a Murphey best-of, which makes this miscast but well-intended effort by far the best Murphey collection ever released.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann