"Ultimate" is, of course, an absolute term, which makes its use in the title of a compilation daunting. In this case, what we have is a three-disc, three-decade label sampler which selects rock tracks from the vaults of Sony Music that originally appeared on such labels as Columbia and Epic. In succession, the 12-track discs are devoted to the 1960s, '70s, and '80s; with one exception (the Jeff Beck Group's "Shapes of Things"), all of the recordings were chart singles, and with three exceptions (Big Brother & the Holding Company's "Down on Me," REO Speedwagon's "Roll With the Changes," and the Romantics' "What I Like About You"), all of those were Top 40 hits. Even within the restriction that all the tracks derive from only one of the major labels, the choices seem to have been narrowed further by coupling restrictions that have excluded major Sony rock acts like Bruce Springsteen. So, this is not an ultimate collection even of the Sony archives. That said, however, there is plenty of good music here. The '60s disc leans more toward the pop side of rock, including the likes of Roy Orbison and Donovan (and oddly, given the stylistic shifts of the decade, in that immediate sequence, Orbison's early-'60s balladeering giving way to Donovan's mid-'60s pop psychedelia). The '70s disc is full of AOR radio staples like the Edgar Winter Group's "Frankenstein" and Mountain's "Mississippi Queen." The '80s disc is the weakest of the three, choosing from among forgettable acts like Warrant and Europe. It should be noted that in many cases, the compilers have used longer album edits of the tracks instead of the shortened single versions, so that, for example, Argent's "Hold Your Head Up" runs six minutes and 16 seconds rather than the two minutes and 52 seconds heard on AM radio in the '70s.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann