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Music Review: Radiohead – The Best Of Radiohead (2 CD Special Edition/Single DVD Edition)

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I have to admit that I was a rather late arrival to the Radiohead party — having not fully embraced them until they released their semi-electronica trilogy (minus one), in the form of the albums Kid A (2000) and Amnesiac (2001).

Don't ask me why, but it wasn't until the release of those two albums that I really first started to "get" the band, with my first live Radiohead concert — in 2001 under the starry skies and picturesque setting of the Gorge Ampitheatre in Eastern Washington state — pretty much sealing the deal.

Even though I've long since gone backwards and absorbed the rest of the Radiohead catalog, it is these two albums that remain among my favorites by the band. Don't get me wrong here. I think OK Computer and The Bends are every bit as brilliant as everybody else says they are, and the current In Rainbows is a stunningly gorgeous piece of work as well.

But for all their icy, mechanized sounding loops, bleeps, and beats, you'll also find things like the jazzy, borderline flamenco guitar runs of "Knives Out," and Thom Yorke's haunting, anguished sounding vocal on "Pyramid Song" on those same two albums I first discovered this great band with.

More than anything else, Kid A and Amnesiac represent a defining moment of musical discovery for me. Call them sentimental favorites I guess.

"Knives Out" and "Pyramid Song" are among the tracks which each show up on both the double CD and DVD versions of Radiohead's first official retrospective set, Capitol's The Best Of Radiohead. The double CD edition also features cuts like "Optimistic" and "Everything In It's Right Place" from my two favorite albums. Unfortunately, the DVD doesn't include promo videos for either of those.

Still, as easy as it would be to dismiss The Best Of Radiohead as one of those releases designed to blow off the band's contract with its former label (in this case EMI/Capitol), both the double CD and the DVD editions do a surprisingly great job in compiling a satisfying overview of the band's career up until just before In Rainbows.

You could actually call the double CD a really great Radiohead mixtape. In the thirty songs represented on the two discs, it really misses very little, while hitting almost all of the high points from Radiohead's amazing career at EMI/Capitol. I've already covered the highlights from my two favorite albums. But for fellow late bloomers, this is also a great chance to go back and do a quick catchup without having to buy the entire back catalog.

The hits are covered nicely in the form of songs like "Creep," "Paranoid Android," "The Bends," "Karma Police," and "No Surprises." Meanwhile, the deeper and rarer cuts are also represented well by "Street Spirit (Fade Out)" and its rarer B-side "Talk Show Host."
You'll also find the best tracks from Radiohead's final EMI album Hail To The Thief like the magnificently textured and guitar driven "There, There" and the frenetic "2+2=5."

The DVD compiles 21 of Radiohead's promo videos together on one disc for the first time, ranging from the still getting their feet wet at the time "Creep" all the way through to their final videos with EMI in the form of Hail's "There, There," "Go To Sleep," and "Sit Down, Stand Up." There is also a great live clip of the band performing "2+2=5" from the Belfort Festival. All told, nine of the videos here are seen on an official DVD release for the first time.

Always considered as much of an innovator in their videos as in their music, this set also features Radiohead's groundbreaking work with such directors as Jonathan Glazer ("Street Spirit," "Karma Police"), Shynola ("Pyramid Song"), Jamie Thraves ("Just"), and Jake Scott ("Fake Plastic Trees").

As much as both of these sets might look like (and probably are) a blow off designed to satisfy a former label obligation, The Best Of Radiohead does a great job of summing up their association with Capitol/EMI. Both the double CD and the DVD appear to have been compiled with both a sense of Radiohead's history thus far, and it would appear the sort of loving care that any fan would hope for and expect.

Together, they not only accomplish the mission at hand, but do so with results that are as satisfying as they are surprising. Both make worthy additions to any Radiohead fans collection.

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About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at The Rockologist, and at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.
  • http://wp.jarretthousenorth.com/ Tim Jarrett

    That show at the Gorge was phenomenal–the only time I ever saw them. Thanks for the review.