Unable to get an album released between 1995 and 1999, Aimee Mann suddenly had three on the market within 12 months, including this September 2000 compilation. There is, of course, a certain irony that the current configuration of a record company that gave her so much trouble (demanding changes to her third album, refusing to release it, dropping her, and then forcing her to buy back the album's master tapes) is now attempting to cash in on the exposure she received due to her 1999 Academy Award nomination for "Save Me" from Magnolia. Mann's music is catchy, guitar-based pop/rock, which sounds like it should be at the top of the charts. But since Mann has reached the Top 40 only twice in 15 years, she has largely been subject to standard operating procedure in the major-label record business. Journalists have howled largely on critical grounds, and Ultimate Collection should give them more ammunition despite its limits. One of her two hits, "What About Love," is not included, and only three tracks have been licensed from her most popular period. Two regular albums doesn't seem like much material to choose from for a best-of, so to make up for the limited choice of material, compilation producer Rhonda Shields has pulled a variety of stray tracks, turning this into a virtual rarities album. Several songs were contributed to movie soundtracks, and five tracks are drawn from the non-LP B-sides of singles. Thus, even those who have copies of Whatever and I'm With Stupid will need this album, and they will find that the rarities are some of her better performances. Aimee Mann is unquestionably one of the most impressive singer/songwriters of her time, but her lyrics of bitter romantic complaint may destine her to a limited audience.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann