Now That’s What I Call Classic Rock Hits (review)

Various Artists – Now That’s What I Call Classic Rock Hits (Universal / EMI / Sony) review

With the weather warming up, you need a new drivin’ CD, don’t you?  This one should do the trick.

The Now series began life as a way to bring the biggest current hits together on a single CD.  But, it’s also resulted in a lot of really interesting collections that cover other types of music as well.  Now That’s What I Call Classic Rock Hits is their second foray into vintage rock.

The first one, simply titled Now That’s What I Call Classic Rock,  is also worth grabbing.  But, where that CD covered a wide range, going all the way back to the Sixties for cuts from the Who and Hendrix, this new volume concentrates almost entirely on the classic rock of the late Seventies, when bell bottoms and 8-tracks were all the rage.

The set kicks off with the only one-hit wonder of the bunch, Thin Lizzy’s macho-anthem “The Boys Are Back in Town,” before giving way to the first song we ever heard from Foreigner, “Feels Like the First Time.”  Toto, not a band that gets much play on current classic rock radio, sounds great mixed in here with their smash “Hold the Line” – and you forget just how damn good guitarist Steve Lukather is.

There are a few songs outside the late Seventies’ realm – it’s nice to see the underrated Kinks get included with their gender-bending “Lola,” while Chicago’s juiced-up, horn-driven “25 or 6 to 4” (here in it’s truncated, single version) adds a little spice to the set.

This collection is dominated by some of the most legendary LONG songs in history – Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird,” and Meat Loaf’s “Paradise By the Dashboard Light” almost take up 20 minutes on their own.  They’ve included the shorter, 7 minute version of Peter Frampton’s stoner anthem “Do You Feel Like We Do,” but surprisingly, you don’t miss the other six minutes (face it, most of that is crowd cheering anyway).  The same cannot be said of Styx’s “Come Sail Away,” here, appearing in an unholy 3:00 length – basically it’s just a verse and the chorus repeated over and over, the build of the song is just not there; the meat of the song has been cut out.

Now Classic Rock Hits is a nice mix of the really obvious (how many times can “Any Way You Want It” from Journey be included on a compilation?) and slightly deeper cuts (“Locomotive Breath” from Jethro Tull is a nice touch, while Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s “Blinded By the Light” sounds fresh next to some of its road-weary compatriots.

There are also two artists whose legends were built on live albums, Cheap Trick with “I Want You to Want Me,” and the aforementioned Frampton.  And, with all the long songs, Steve Miller sneaks in with his in-and-out at under 3:00, “Take the Money and Run.”

Every one of the 17 tracks here are stone-cold-classics, guaranteed to get your fist pumping.  And, at over 77 minutes of music, it’s jam-packed, begging for you to roll the window down and hit the accelerator.  –Tony Peters