This is a rather well balanced compilation, although I feel it would have been vastly improved had they done 2 discs: 1 for Dinosaur (before 'Jr' was tagged on) Mk.1 (J, Lou and Murph) and 1 for Dinosaur Jr Mk.2 (J and whoever he felt like getting in on the album) as the two styles differ so much it jars a little here.
Neither version of the band is superior -- Mk.1 made great pop music hidden under badly-recorded layers of noise (precursor to 'grunge' I think) and Mk.2 used the studio to create some great, complex rock tunes. But they are so different to one another -- only J's voice links the two really.
Now, to the choices: only one track from the 1985 debut LP 'Dinosaur'? I listen to it regularly and there's at least six classic tracks there (3 of them appeared on 'In Session' as alternative versions a few years back). I would expect 'The Leper' or 'Quest', at least.
'Little Fury Things' and 'In A Jar' are doubtless classic Dino tracks, but they're all that represent 'You're Living All Over Me'. Okay, maybe it's silly to expect 'Poledo' seeing as it's a Lou Barlow song and J wouldn't like that too much, but there are more great tracks from that period, such as 'Raisins'.
'Freak Scene' could not have been missed out as it's 'the hit' and 'Budge', also from 'Bug'. Bearing in mind the length of 'Bug' they should have squeezed another track from it in here.
Finally, Dino's cover of 'Just Like Heaven' which is undeniably great. What's scary is we're less than a third of the way thru the CD and we've hit the last of Dino Mk.1's music. From here on it's all major label recordings. Seeing as they make up 5 years of Dinosaur's 12 year recording life
this seems a little uneven.
On to Dino Mk.2.
'The Wagon' and 'Thumb' from Green Mind. Good choices, shame about the production (the whole album is horribly produced). Next, the title track and 'Not You Again' from 'Whatever's Cool With Me'. These are the last remnants of the poppier Dino - from her on things get incredibly complex.
Three tracks from the timpani and orchestra laden 'Where You Been' are absoluitely magnificent, but then there's not a bad track on the album. Light Years away from 'Bug' though.
'Without A Sound' was a very poor album, but boasted Dinosaur's 2nd best song ever (after 'Freak Scene') -- 'Feel The Pain'. The only other truly good song on this album was 'Over Your Shoulder', the closer. Unfortunately for some reason they chose 'I Don't Think So' over that superior song for this compilation.
Next we get one of three tracks released under the Dinosaur Jr name in the UK, which infuriated J as they were solo tracks (although, seeing as 'Withoput A Sound' was J on almost all instruments, you have to wonder what his problem was). 'Take A Run At The Sun' is not Dinosaur. It's J attempting to mimic (quite successfully) 1960's beat pop music. Why it's here I don't know. Surely one of the acoustic tracks from J's 'Martin And Me' live album would have been better? Bad choice!
After the poor showing of 94, J returned with 2 members of My Bloody Valentine (amongst others) with 97's swansong album 'Hand It Over'. It was a return to the form of 'Where You Been' but the choice of tracks here is bizarre, especially over the stunning 8 minute freakout 'Alone' which would have made a great album closer.
The tacked on the end (presumably becuz the label decided ending on a track from Dino's last years wasn't a good idea) is a tune from last year's J Mascis + The Fog album -- good music, indeed, but it would have been better to leave it out (as well as '...Run At The Sun') and include more early material.
They really should have expanded this set over two discs and made it more comprehensive. Especially so since it's rare to find more than one or two Dino albums in record shops (usually major label deBut 'Green Mind' and SST's compilation of early singles, 'Fossils') so a more complete compilation would have been welcome.
Why then have I given this LP 4 stars? Becuz, 'Without A Sound' excluded, Dino never turned out any really bad songs. The sound quality may have been variable, as were the band members by 91, and towards the end J seemed to be repeating himself a little, but the music was always exciting, invigorating, complex and rocking. J's voive is an aquired taste, but I'd rather the true emotion held within it that the note-perfect soul-sapped technicality of a Celine Dion. And the lyrics -- often sad, often self-obsessed but also funny (quote 'Vibes so bad I want to puke' and 'Never knew a rubber doll could be so hard to please') and all these elements make Dinosaur Jr and the J Mascis roadshow an essential part of your record collection.
Listen to this album and you'll be scouring the earth for all Dino's albums. Trust me.
[ FYI they are :
'You're Living All Over Me' 1987
'Fossils' (singles compilation) 1991
'Green Mind' 1991
'Whatever's Cool With Me' (B-sides compilation) 1991
'Where You Been' 1993
'Without A Sound' 1994
'Hand It Over' 1997
'In Session' (Posthumous comp of BBC radio sessions) 1999. ]