"Greatest Hits Volume 3" - Bob Dylan's first compact compilation since 1972 - is almost of necessity a little scattershot. Nor are many of these songs truly "hits" in the chart-topping sense of the word. Only the concluding "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," the atmospheric ode from director Sam Peckinpah's "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid," came anywhere near the top 10 (plateauing at No. 12).

Nevertheless, this 14-song album, clocking in at a generous 77 minutes, effectively samples a great many of Dylan's moods and stylistic experiments over a quarter-century in which he continued to be one of the most insightful and prolific singer-songwriters of the era.Folk, folk-rock, country- and R&B-tinged ballads, Christian rock - Dylan's never been at a loss for musical avenues to transport his words and images, as expressed by that nasally one-of-a-kind sing-song croon. And with the support of other distinctive artists - performers and producers - he's put an impressive number of fine songs on tape over the years.

The Band was there to help out on the gangly, gentle "Forever Young," from "Planet Waves." Scarlet Rivera's insistent violin gave haunting power to Dylan's angry 1975 tirade "Hurricane." George Harrison's Teflon-smooth Wilbury-style slide guitar buoyed the fairy-tale simplicity of "Under the Red Sky." Dire Strait's Mark Knopfler added his patented guitar to "Jokerman" and the do-right-or-do-wrong message of "Gotta Serve Somebody," from Dylan's early '80s Christian convert period.

But Dylan's most gracefully effective and complementary partner in the years represented by this package was probably producer Daniel Lanois. Lanois' reflective ambience gave Dylan's lyrics and songs perhaps the most artful setting of his career. The examples here are the spiritually meditative gem "Ring Them Bells," from the Lanois-helmed 1989 masterpiece "Oh Mercy"; "Series of Dreams," pulled from the boxed collection "The Bootleg Series"; and "Dignity," a rolling and beautifully performed little essay on that topic never before released.

BOB DYLAN: "Greatest Hits Volume 3," including: Tangled Up in Blue, Changing of the Guards, The Groom's Still Waiting at the Altar, Hurricane, Forever Young, Jokerman, Dignity, Silvio, Ring Them Bells, Gotta Serve Somebody, Series of Dreams, Brownsville Girl, Under the Red Sky, Knockin' on Heaven's Door.