How many albums that carry the adjective "Ultimate" or "Definitive" aren't? Most? All? This is certainly not the one that proves to be ultimate. The best Easybeats anthology ever was one that appeared on vinyl entitled THE ABSOLUTE ANTHOLOGY. My copy was contained on three beautiful all-white records and why I got rid of it along with all my other LPs is still a mystery I haven't been able to solve. It was a glorious collection and one reason was that unlike THE ULTIMATE ANTHOLOGY it presented the music chronologically rather than according to some weird logic of the producer. I rarely played the final disc of THE ABSOLUTE ANTHOLOGY, simply because the Easybeats were at their best early on and got less and less interesting after their huge internationally megahit "Friday on My Mind."
This disc will serve as an adequate introduction to the Easybeats, but one would do much better purchasing three discs separately. I would strongly recommend getting copies of their 1965 album EASY, their 1966 effort IT'S 2 EASY, and the 1967 FRIDAY ON MY MIND, which contains the hit by the same name. The problem with anthologies like this one or GONNA HAVE A GOOD TIME is that you get some great songs, but they are surrounded by many songs from their later, post-"Friday on My Mind" period. In fact, most anthologies for some bizarre reason emphasize the later, much weaker albums.
The Easybeats were a very odd band. Somewhat inappropriately they are known as Australia's first great rock and roll band, even though only one member of the band was raised in Australia. Two members were from the Netherlands, another from England, and another Scotland. Even the one Aussie in the band, the superb lead singer Stevie Wright, was born in England, though he immigrated to Australia as a child. But they adopted Australia as their own and Australia certainly adopted in turn. Visually, they were somewhat unusual. Wright was small enough to have been a member of the Small Faces, while blonde guitarist Harry Vanda (one of the band's Dutch members and with lead guitarist George Young the main songwriter) towered over other members of the band. They were distinguished by their excellent musicianship, with two wonderfully bluesy guitarists and Wright providing great vocals, as well as a great visual presence as front man.
Basically, the closer the Easybeats were to either the early Rolling Stones or Mitch Ryder, the better they were. They did great R&B and blues rockers. But as their career progressed, they more and more moved to a sound closer to the Beatles and the Kinks and as a result the became increasingly less interesting. They could do easy rocking numbers like "It's So Easy" with great skill, but they were never better than when doing such bluesy numbers as "Rock and Roll Boogie," "Good Times," and "Wedding Ring." They could do some fine pop tunes as well, as seen in numbers like "Friday on My Mind" and the excellent "You Me We Love." The difference is that most of the stuff they did in rock mode is at least pretty decent, while a great deal of their pop stuff is just boring.
What I would recommend to anyone who decides to get this album is to either make a single-CD out of the two by doing a compilation that excises the later songs or putting it on their iPod or equivalent and deleting the songs they don't like. At their best the Easybeats were one of the truly great sixties Invasion bands, but this anthology like the others truly does not present them at their best.
I'll end with the one piece of Easybeats trivia that ranks as mandatory. The wonderful guitarist for the band was George Young, who really was one of the nicer players of the era in a Keith Richards's mode. After the band broke up he and co-guitarist Harry Vanda became producers, their most successful project being a band formed with George's younger brothers Angus and Malcolm, AC/DC.