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Greatest Hits
The Beach Boys (EMI)

★★★★

Contents: The training wheels version of the definitive American pop group who boasted a fragile genius songwriter in Brian Wilson and the LA personalities to ruthlessly exploit him. Rightly heavy on the band's 1960s output, which builds from surf and hot-rod tunes (Surfer Girl) to glorious analog symphonies (God Only Knows); it loses half a star for including 1988's nightmarish hit Kokomo.

New material: None, although the band, complete with Brian Wilson, actually did put out a new album of sorts (some of the tracks were dug up from the vaults) this year with That's Why God Made the Radio.

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Unanswered question: When will someone release the Beach Boys Greatest Writs, a collection of the best lawsuits from a group whose members, notably the vindictively controlling Mike Love, have readily pursued legal action against each other?


GRRR!
The Rolling Stones (EMI)

★★★★☆

Contents: A two-disc, 40-track recap of the British group that between 1969 and 1972 actually was the greatest rock'n'roll band in the world. A 50-year narrative starts with spotty blues bravado (Little Red Rooster), articulates teen angst (Paint It, Black), gets heavy (Gimme Shelter), gets doomed (Angie), and then slowly gets old. The latter years have their moments, including Miss You, but Harlem Shuffle remains the worst Stones single by a decent margin.

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New material: Two unreleased tracks close the record: the feisty guitars and elongated vocal sneer of Doom and Gloom, and the laid-back One More Shot, complete with Johnnie Johnson-like piano. In other words, the former is Mick Jagger, the latter is Keith Richards.

Unanswered question: If the perpetually preening Mick Jagger has been knighted, why isn't unflappable drummer Charlie Watts at least a duke?


THE GOLDEN JUBILEE ALBUM
The Seekers (EMI)

★★★

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Contents: Another band celebrating 50 years - in a Mad Men-like moment, singer Judith Durham met double bassist Athol Guy on her first day of work at a Melbourne advertising agency in 1962 - that took them from local coffee bars to lasting international success flying the folk-pop flag. The 50 tracks include Georgy Girl, the mournful lament that is The Carnival is Over and, yes, a version of Kumbaya, while ignoring the line-ups and decades when Durham was absent.

New material: A pair of songs recorded earlier this year, starting with the brisk banjo and harmonies melody of Silver Threads and Golden Needles and concluding with a misjudged cover of the Beatles' In My Life.

Unanswered question: What other Australian group has evoked Irish folk ballads (The Leaving of Liverpool), recorded a gospel protest song (We Shall Not Be Moved) and covered Bob Dylan (Don't Think Twice, It's All Right)?


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HEALING STONE: THE BEST OF YOTHU YINDI
Yothu Yindi (Liberation)

★★★

Contents: Released to coincide with the Arnhem Land band's recent induction into the ARIA Hall of Fame, Healing Stone is a 17-track compilation from a group who achieved breakthrough success with dance remixes of two tracks - Treaty and Djapana - in the early 1990s, but also pursued roots rock (Mainstream), affecting pop (Dots on the Shell) and indigenous-electronic crossovers (Timeless Land).

New material: The first new music from Yothu Yindi in 12 years, the impressive title track is a weathered mix of traditional instrumentation, melancholic guitar rock and pointed lyrics written by singer Mandawuy Yunupingu, who suffers from End Stage Renal Disease, and INXS's Andrew Farriss.

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Unanswered question: Did anyone foresee that the band's sometimes keyboardist and guitarist Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu would go on to be a crucial Australian solo artist?


25 YEARS - THE CHAIN
Fleetwood Mac (Warner)

★★★

Contents: A four-CD box set that marks the career of the quintessential Californian band, in that they started as a British blues group fronted by Peter Green and mutated with the addition of American members into chart-topping juggernauts in the second half of the 1970s thanks to the melodic fury of Lindsey Buckingham (Go Your Own Way) and the otherworldly incantations of Stevie Nicks (Rhiannon). The exhaustive 72-track selection covers everything, giving voice to inter-band affairs, drug abuse and drummer Mick Fleetwood's signature beard.

New material: None - The Chain is actually a 20th-anniversary reissue of a 1992 release, which means it thankfully avoids the latter reunions and albums.

Unanswered question: Of Fleetwood Mac's many, many hits, why does Gold 104.3 insist on religiously playing Tusk every day? A little Landslide wouldn't hurt.


MYTHOLOGY
Bee Gees (Warner)

★★★

Contents: The 2010 box set documenting the career of the Gibb brothers gets the 50th anniversary treatment, reappearing with 81 tracks - both hits and rarities - across four CDs. Each disc represents a brother, including Bee Gees Barry, Robin and Maurice and younger brother Andy, a fallen pop star, and they traverse 1960s pop (Massachusetts), 1970s disco (Night Fever), easy listening (You Win Again) and the eternal power of harmonies (How Deep is Your Love)

New material: Maurice's CD, selected by his wife Yvonne following his death in 2003, includes two minor numbers from 1970, while Andy's final song, 1988's unreleased Arrow Through the Heart, is a sleek '80s studio production that might have given him a comeback if hadn't died at the age of 30 from complications following years of drug abuse.

Unanswered question: Would the world have paid more attention to the songs of the Gibb brothers if they'd stayed fixed in one genre, instead of proving to be chameleon-like composers?