Having formed in Philadelphia 1989, and having long been considered to be the premier band for 'Live' performances, 'The Roots' are a band that although hugely talented, complete mainstream acceptance has eluded them thus far. With a penchant for Sprawling Jazz-inflected arrangements, and an organic form of production (they rarely, if ever use sampling), and the more cerebral and socially-conscious form of lyrical delivery and frequent excursions into extended Jam sessions, means that their music jars with the more Bling obsessed / Party orientated Hip-Hop that acquires slots in the music charts. Which is a shame, as they have a great deal to offer, and work alongside a relatively small collection of artists that seem intend on pushing forward positive messages ("Common", "Talib Kweli", "Jurassic 5", "Mos Def"..etc). But having a positive message or putting intelligence over posturing, isn't always a guaranteed way to success. So possibly in an effort of win some new fans, the label have lssued a two volume compilation of tracks that contains the majority of their most popular work, to ensnare new listeners, as well as including unreleased tracks, remixes and 'Live' versions of tracks to tempt existing fans (Like myself), into buying this.
The thing with the Roots is that their work is never really been made with the casual user in mind. Once you've discovered the band, the emphasis is on the listener to interpret their music, and digest their way of doing things. So simple things like track numbers, will intitally bemuse first time listeners, and the fact that their albums vary wildly in approach and stylisation (compare the more mannered and reflective tone of "Things Fall Apart" against the more challenging blunted rock/soul/electronic-fusion hybrid that is "Phrenology", to understand my point). But what these compilations intend to do is make some sort of sense for the new listeners, as well as giving something to those existing fans, without alienating them.
So what you get is a fairly broad selection of tracks that cover the large percentage of their back catalogue, without focusing too much on any one particular album. So for the new listener or people that have yet to be fully convinced by the bands work, this compilation is spring loaded with crowd favourites such as "Good Music", "The Next Movement", "You Got Me (feat Jill Scott", "Act Too (Love of My Life)", "Do You Want More?!!!??!", that arguably represent the case for the band being supremely confident performers that are able to switch between confident and celebratory cuts one minute, to intimate and sophisticated emotional neo-Soul the next, and then right through to progressive and ambitiously free-flowing numbers, that single them out as consistently nimble musicians.
And for the existing fans, you're interest in this album will depend on how much of the bands material you actually own. If you have all the albums & (more importantly) have downloaded/bought everything else that hasn't been so easy to come by, then tracks like "The Lesson", "Clones", "Proceed 2", "What You Want", and a Live version of "It's Comin'", will be of limited value to you. But is important to remember is that these are no mere filler songs, but each working as great tracks in their own right, and not only sit perfectly amongst the more popular material, but it's also incredibly handy to have them all in one tidy place. And this is where I have to say after owning all the studio albums (bar "The Tipping Point"), that this compilation really begins to shine. To be honest their probably isn't really enough of the unreleased or remixed tracks here to purchase for those reasons alone. And hardcore fans would mainly be buying this for is the brilliant convenience of having this varied tracklisting and the fact that these compilations come with extensive liner notes from band leader...drummer "?uestlove", who goes into relatively detailed explanations for tracks, his views regarding the music industry/labels, and a selection of more personal thoughts that although possibly not really too interlinked with their music and seemingly more suited to the existing fanbase, still makes for interesting readying. Of course if you fall into the middle section between new listener and Hardcore fan, (I.e. Own several albums), than this is even more essential for you, as it beautifully brings you up to speed on material that you'll have missed, by not owning the majority of their albums.
This is really a fantastic compilation, of that there is no doubt, and although it may prove to be a little tough going for new listeners, as this compilation is spread over two separate volumes, and may annoy those that simply wanted a disk, full with the hits and the bands more accessible work. But maybe that would (to some degree) go against what the band are about. Who enjoy creating music their way without pandering the almighty dollar or label pressure, and not dumbing down the art and simplify their methodology, to increase the fanbase. but, be prepared to stick with it and (eventually) you'll be reward with your patience, and the majesty of the band will shine through, because although their music can occasionally take a little while to fully sink in, the reward at the end of it is totally worth it. And for the fans with only a couple of albums, you also need to purchase this, because it a brilliant way to pad out your collections without having to run out and buy up the remainder of the albums that you don't have. And for the hardcore fans....weeeeell, the decision is a lot harder for you guys, as you'll pretty much have everything on here, so the decision is whether you don't mind forking out for something purely for completetist sake or just to have a nice cross section of the band work, will need to be weighed up....suffice to say that, I took the plunge and I'm completely happy with my purchase. Highly Recommended!!!