Greatest Hits

by: Billy Idol

Billy Idol's recording career did such a fast fade in the early '90s that his beleaguered record label Chrysalis (since absorbed by Capitol) didn't even put out a best-of in the U.S. (Idol Songs: 11 of the Best was an interim report issued in Great Britain in 1988.) But the rise of the '80s rock radio format and Idol's own interest in a comeback make this belated hits collection timely. With one caveat, it is a well-chosen collection of the singer's most successful recordings. The exception, oddly enough, is his biggest hit, "Mony Mony," which is presented in a 1983 studio version rather than the 1987 live take that topped the charts. (The annotations claim "This version was never released as a single." Actually, it was -- as Chrysalis 2543 -- but it flopped.) Otherwise, all of Idol's big hits are here, among them "Cradle of Love," "Eyes Without a Face," "To Be a Lover," "Rebel Yell," and "White Wedding," each of which reached the Top Ten on one side of the Atlantic or the other. Also included are an "unplugged" live version of "Rebel Yell" and a newly recorded cover of the 1985 Simple Minds hit "Don't You (Forget About Me)," which was co-written by Idol's producer, Keith Forsey. The only omitted chart singles are "Prodigal Blues," a track from Idol's 1990 album Charmed Life, and "Speed," the title song from the 1994 film; both missed the American pop charts. In his day, Idol seemed to some a commercial sellout of the punk ideal, having abandoned Generation X for a slicker image and sound. In retrospect, he seems more like a logical successor to the kind of portentous baritones who preceded him, particularly Jim Morrison and David Bowie, while Forsey's new wave/disco sound, anchored by guitarist Steve Stevens, holds up well. ~ William Ruhlmann

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