When it comes to greatest-hits packages, compiling tracks within the prog-art/prog rock genre is the most thankless. How do you present a fair and balanced overview of a group that specialized in 15-minute epics? You put it on two discs. While noble, the approach misses its mark on Sanctuary's sprawling Emerson, Lake & Palmer retrospective, Ultimate Collection. While by no means bad -- there are still 24 tracks of wicked and sublime pretense; ELP has so much material -- and very few singles -- that each one of their fans will find reason to argue for or against the inclusion or exclusion of a specific song(s). Where is "Trilogy"? or "Jeremy Bender"? Why is the title cut from 1992's exercise in futility, Black Moon on here? In the end, these questions don't really matter, as the amount of good material ("Pirates," "Still...You Turn Me On," "I Believe in Father Christmas," and all 20 minutes of "Tarkus Medley") far outweighs the bad. Ultimate Collection stands as one of the better comps of the band, but die-hard fans might as well pick up all of 1996's excellent Rhino reissues.
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2