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Mini Dragon Group (ages 6-7)

Andrew Stewart
Andrew Stewart

25 All Time Greatest Hits

An excellent 26-song single-disc collection that has all of the significant hits and several very fine low-charting 45s and B-sides. Some good tracks are missing, however, notably "Putty" (which the Yardbirds covered) and Goffin-King's "Make the Night a Little Longer." Rhino's Anthology double LP still has a tiny edge in song selection if you can find it, but if you're not real picky this is certainly a quality summary of their career highlights. There are also a few items that don't show up on all the best-ofs, like the 1961 B-side "The Things I Want to Hear" and the small 1964 hit "Thank You, Baby."

25 All Time Greatest Hits

Charles Allan Rich - better known as Charlie Rich - came to country stardom late. Though he scored his first hit single in 1960, the favorite son of Colt, Arkansas had trouble following it up with any consistency. But once the big hits started coming in 1972 with a pair of Kenny O'Dell songs - "I Take It On Home" and "Behind Closed Doors" - Rich established himself as one of C&W's most versatile and beloved entertainers. Varese Vintage has recently celebrated the legacy of Rich (1932-1995) with a new anthology, 25 All-Time Greatest Hits, collecting for the first time on one CD his biggest hits for RCA Victor and Epic Records between 1968 and 1979.

His next singles all failed to register, however, and he left Sun for RCA Victor's Groove imprint in 1963. At Groove, he "bubbled under" the Hot 100 with a few minor hits before hitting big (No. 21 Pop) with 1965's "Mohair Sam" on Mercury's Smash imprint. But history repeated itself, and Rich couldn't build on its success. After a brief stint at Hi Records, he signed to Epic in 1967 under the auspices of producer Billy Sherrill. The countrypolitan king had faith that the lush, string-laden sound would prove right for Charlie Rich's potent croon. 25 All-Time Greatest Hits begins here, with minor hits like "Life's Little Ups and Downs" (written by Charlie's wife Margaret) which barely missed the Country top 40 at No. 41, and a spirited revival of the Frank Sinatra staple "Nice 'n' Easy" which barely made it at No. 37.

After Rich had been with the label for over four years, Sherrill's belief in him paid off when Kenny O'Dell's "I Take It On Home" and "Behind Closed Doors" went to No. 6 and No. 1, respectively. The latter even "crossed over" to the Pop chart with a No. 15 placement. Soon, the hits kept on a-comin'. Sherrill, Rory Bourke and Norro Wilson's "The Most Beautiful Girl" made No. 1 on both charts in 1973, and Sherrill and Wilson's "A Very Special Love Song" did almost as well at No. 1 Country/No. 11 Pop. RCA wanted in on the act, too, and dipped into its archives for a series of singles culled from his mid-sixties tenure. These songs, too, performed remarkably well. Rich's own "There Won't Be Anymore" made No. 1 Country/No. 18 Pop, Harlan Howard's "She Called Me Baby" went No. 1 Country/No. 47 Pop, and so on. All told, 25 All-Time Greatest Hits features nine Country chart-toppers from both Epic and RCA from the halcyon period which saw Rich win Grammys and American Music Awards, and recognitions from the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association.

The range of the Silver Fox, as he was deemed for his mane of gray hair, is evident here on the strength of both the original material and eclectic covers of Sherrill and Curly Putnam's "My Elusive Dreams," Bert Kaempfert's "Spanish Eyes," Buddy Johnson's doo-wop staple "Since I Fell for You" and even "America the Beautiful" with a dramatic recitation in time for the bicentennial. Varese's compilation concludes with "Spanish Eyes" and the chart-topping Janie Fricke duet "On My Knees," but Rich continued to record for labels including Elektra and United Artists before taking off from the recording studio for much of the 1980s. This collection features new liner notes by Laurence Zwisohn, and it has been remastered by Steve Massie.

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It's disappointing that, with so much of Charlie Rich's music out of print, the best anyone can do is recycle his '70s hits. This new one is basically the same as the Rollin' with the Flow CD of several years back, with a small handful of songs on this one that weren't on the other, and vice versa.

The old Peter Guralnick-compiled Feel Like Going Home remains the gold standard, but really, isn't it past time for a comprehensive, career-spanning retrospective of Rich's work? Or, at the very least, a budget-priced gathering of his Epic albums and a complete reissue of his Groove recordings? I dunno, it just seems like every "new" Charlie Rich CD is a missed opportunity.

What he's best known for: The most admired star of the first two decades of 20th century baseball, Mathewson's three shutouts in a five-day span in 1905 remains one of the most heroic feats in World Series history. He won 30 games four times, led the NL five times in ERA and strikeouts, and was one of the five original inductees into the Hall of Fame in 1936. Mathewson relied on impeccable control and a pitch he called a "fadeaway," which some say was a screwball while others suggest might have been more like a modern-day circle change. "Matty was master of them all," reads his Hall of Fame plaque. -- David Schoenfield

What he's best known for: The "Big Unit" was to lefties what Nolan Ryan was to righties. After a slow start to his career, the 6-foot-10 Johnson harnessed his command and was lights out for the next two decades. Of his 303 wins, 293 came after his age-25 season. Johnson won his league strikeout crown nine times, including two different stretches of four straight. During the latter stretch, he won four straight Cy Young Awards, giving him five overall.

What he's best known for: He was loud, brash, defiant, cocky and electric. He was the greatest base stealer in history, the greatest leadoff hitter in history and one of the greatest trash-talkers in history. Henderson stole 50% more bases than the all-time runner-up, Lou Brock. Henderson hit 81 leadoff home runs, and nobody else has hit more than 54. After being traded to the Yankees, he was asked about wearing the same uniform Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle once donned. "I don't care about them," he said. "I never saw DiMaggio and Mantle play. It's Rickey time." It always was. -- Alden Gonzalez

What he's best known for: The Cy Young-winning ace of the '69 Miracle Mets, Seaver was one of the most beloved athletes in New York sports history. To this day, Mets fans of a certain age still cry in disbelief that the club traded him away. Known for his power pitching -- his drop-and-drive delivery that stained his right knee with dirt was the iconic motion for a generation of pitchers -- Seaver topped 230 innings pitched in 15 seasons. He would add two more Cy Young Awards after 1969, and when elected to the Hall of Fame in 1992, he received 98.8% of the vote -- the highest ever at the time. -- David Schoenfield

What he's best known for: Sixty-six years after Young died, his name has remained omnipresent in big league baseball because of the annual award given in his name to the best pitcher in each league. Denton True Young dominated the last decade of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th century, putting up numbers that to the modern eye just don't look real. You could fill a book with a list of them, but here's one: Young had 19 seasons in which he completed at least 30 games. The active career leader in that category is Adam Wainwright -- with 27. Yes, the game has transformed since Young's time, but that's exactly why his career record is something that will never be replicated. -- Bradford Doolittle

What he's best known for: Any conversation around the greatest hitter in baseball history needs to include Hornsby, whose combination of hitting for average and power is legendary. Hornsby boasts the third-highest career batting average, behind only Ty Cobb and Oscar Charleston. He hit over .400 three times, including .424 in 1924. Two years earlier, he combined a .401 batting average with 42 home runs, an accomplishment no player has ever matched. And it took 50 years for someone (Joe Morgan) to break his record for home runs by a second baseman. -- Alden Gonzalez

What he's best known for: A pioneer as the first African American manager in MLB, Robinson was also a two-time MVP, a Triple Crown winner and one of the toughest and fiercest competitors the game has known. "He plays the game the way the great ones played it -- out of pure hate," famed writer Jim Murray wrote. He stood close to the plate, his head hanging over it, daring pitchers to come inside. In his six seasons as leader of the Orioles, they won four pennants and two World Series. What was his impact? Cincinnati, Baltimore and Cleveland all erected Robinson statues outside their stadiums. -- David Schoenfield

What he's best known for: Schmidt was an ideal third baseman. Power bat, elite reflexes in the field and a strong throwing arm. No one combined these traits better or longer at the hot corner than Schmidt did during a career of near uniform excellence. Schmidt wasn't quite a three-true-outcomes player, as he did have seasons with solid batting averages, but he did put up prodigious numbers in homers (seven times leading the NL), walks (four times in the lead) and strikeouts (also four times in the lead). Tack on 10 Gold Glove awards and you have what Schmidt became: the greatest Phillie of them all. -- Bradford Doolittle 041b061a72


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