Words & Music: John Mellencamp's Greatest Hits

John Mellencamp

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Words & Music: John Mellencamp's Greatest Hits Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

John Mellencamp has been in need of a thorough, career-spanning compilation for a while, and Island/UTV's 2004 release Words & Music: John Mellencamp's Greatest Hits finally fills that gap. His previous hits collection, 1997's The Best That I Could Do, was too short, since he had more hits than could fit on a brief 14-track disc. Words & Music doesn't have the problem of brevity. Spanning 37 songs over two discs, this has nearly all of his charting hits. Radio hits like "Justice and Independence '85" and "Rooty Toot Toot" may be absent, but they're not missed, since all the big hits are here, including "Pink Houses," "Lonely Ol' Night," "Paper in Fire," "Authority Song," "Crumblin' Down," "Small Town," "Hurts So Good," and "Jack & Diane," among many others (including two solid new songs). The biggest complaint that could be lodged against this collection is that the sequencing is doggedly nonchronological, which may upset some listeners who would like to hear his career evolve, but this sequencing flows like a good concert and highlights the common threads in his music from 1978 to 2004. As such, it's not only a good collection of hits, but it's a good career summary and introduction, as well. [Initial pressings of Words & Music contained a bonus DVD containing videos for "Crumblin' Down," "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.," "Rain on the Scarecrow," "Check It Out (Live)," and "Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First)."]

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