attempts to sum up the history of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but its focus is firmly in the second half of their career. Early on, in the late 1980s, the Chili Peppers were an LA band who played a unique fusion of punk and funk--four guys, united by a love of partying and playing music. But they had a problem: although they were developing an underground following, nobody was buying their albums. Their first three albums failed to set the charts on fire, though they finally had a bit of a breakthrough with 1989's Mother's Milk
. It wasn't enough--their label, EMI, dropped them.
EMI's A&R department must be kicking themselves now because the Red Hot Chili Peppers have since gone on to become one of the most popular bands in the world. Their next album. Blood Sugar Sex Magik, was a massive, worldwide hit, containing such huge singles as "Give It Away" and "Under the Bridge". It's follow-up One Hot Minute was frankly a bit poor, but it hardly stalled their upward trajectory. These funky punks had matured and they found a whole new audience on albums such as Californication and By the Way. On them, there's the perfect marriage of playful innuendo, blistering musicianship (Flea is--quite rightly--considered one of the finest bassists in rock) and thoughtful songwriting. Greatest Hits focuses on these later years of the Chili Peppers' career (only the Stevie Wonder cover "Higher Ground" predates Blood Sugar
). It may not please all of their fans, but it's certainly a great starting point for the casual listener. --Robert Burrow