Ultimate Hits may be something of a misnomer for the title of this 2017 compilation. In either its single CD or double-disc incarnation, Ultimate Hits contains the biggest songs from the Steve Miller Band, but they're surrounded by cuts that can't be classified as hits or even singles. This is especially true of the flagship double-disc, which opens up with an old recording of Steve Miller meeting Les Paul as a child -- a snippet that first surfaced on 1994's triple-disc box set Steve Miller Band -- followed by a live cut where Miller recounts the story for the crowd. Such sequencing suggests that Miller is more concerned with telling a narrative than presenting the nonstop party that the title Ultimate Hits suggests, and the first disc proves that to be true, offering an early airing of "The Joker" as a concession before unleashing a lot of latter-day live performances, including the only airing of the classic "Living in the U.S.A." Hits start to roll out toward the end of the first disc and carry through until halfway through the second, when the record shifts into second gear to close out the set. Several singles are absent -- "Your Cash Ain't Nothin' But Trash," "Macho City," "Wide River," "Ya Ya," "Circle of Love," "Cool Magic" among them -- which underscores that this Ultimate Hits is more of a career overview than a clearinghouse of familiar tunes. Listeners looking for just the hits should turn to 2003's Young Hearts: Complete Greatest Hits -- and, if they're all right with missing "Abracadabra," the 1978 LP Greatest Hits 1974-78 is the perfect distillation of Miller's prime -- because even in its single-disc incarnation, Ultimate Hits is too idiosyncratic for a casual fan. Instead, it's for the listener who is a serious Steve Miller Band fan but doesn't want to dig into the albums.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine