Following are reviews, by members of the Deseret News staff, of anthologies featuring performers in genres ranging from rock and R&B to country and standards:

NAT KING COLE; "The Greatest Hits" (Capitol). * * * *

Nat King Cole's warm, softly husky - unforgettable - voice is so much a part of modern music, it's shocking to realize that he's been gone for 30 years and that his deserved stardom spanned barely 20 before his untimely death in 1965.

"The Greatest Hits" is but the latest in a string of anthologies tapping his legacy of recorded song - Capitol seems to release some new configuration just about every year of late. Those include, in 1992, a four-CD boxed set and, cleverly, a 24-tune collection called "The Unforgettable Nat King Cole" that matched daughter Natalie's multi-Grammy-winning tribute to him track by track. Not surprisingly, 10 of the 22 songs in this new set are also found in that collection.

"The Greatest Hits" is yet another superb summary of Cole's career. It's earliest components begin in 1943, when the Nat King Cole Trio moved to Capitol from Decca, producing an unmatched "(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66" and the jivey-swinging "Straighten Up and Fly Right." The anthology hops through the years, back and forth, entertaining with the big band sound ("Orange Colored Sky"), beautiful ballads ("Mona Lisa," "For Sentimental Reasons") and his jaunty last pop hits ("Ramblin' Rose," "Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer").

Naturally, "Unforgettable" opens the album . . . and, as a bonus, closes it as well - in the duet with Natalie that was wonderfully patched together in 1992.

- Ray Boren

MARIANNE FAITHFULL; "A Collection of Her Best Recordings" (Island). * * 1/2

This is not a "greatest hits" set per se - Marianne Faithfull hasn't had an unqualified hit in almost 30 years - but it is an intriguing, if spotty, sampler, timed to coincide with what's said to be a forthright new book about her roller-coaster life, "Faithfull: An Auto-biography."

Even so, "A Collection of Her Best Recordings," compiled by Island Records honcho Chris Blackwell, is not for the faint of heart; in fact, for those on the depressive edge it could be the last straw.

She is not the sadly winsome folksinger of "As Tears Go By," though that one '60s single (co-written by her erstwhile boyfriend Mick Jagger) is included. No, this is more the reborn punkish survivor of 1979 and beyond. That year's angry renaissance, the album "Broken English," actually provides five of this selection's 11 tracks, including the dark title song; writer Shel Silverstein's unhappy "Ballad of Lucy Jordan"; an ominous, jangly reading of "Working Class Hero" that John Lennon would approve of; and the accusatory "Why D'ya Do It."

From the '80s and '90s come the suicidal "Trouble in Mind," from Alan Rudolph's film; a tremulous Edith Piaf take on Tom Waits' "Strange Weather"; and "Ghost Dance," a folky, dare we say optimistic prayer than runs counter to the album's prevailing mood (and sounds like something circa the Summer of Love at that).

- Ray Boren

THE ISLEY BROTHERS; "Beautiful Ballads" (Epic Associated-Legacy). * * * *

Nice and smooth. . . . These brothers sure know how to get you in the mood.

The compilation, part of Legacy's "Rhythm and Soul" series, is a coup for fans of this popular harmonizing sextet. All the classic love songs are included: "Don't Say Goodnight (It's Time for Love)," "Lay Lady Lay," "Hello It's Me," "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight," "Make Me Say It Again Girl." In all, 14 beautiful ballads - more than 70 minutes worth - are included for your listening, loving, teasing, tempting pleasure.

Writer John Sinclair has done an excellent job providing historical data on the musical genre and the Isley Brothers' humble beginnings as a Cincinnati gospel group, while tracking the ascent of the black ballad as "much-needed escape from the realities of urban life."

These simple, sweet melodies are elegant compared to much of what's being released by balladeers today. These grooves bring back a lot of memories. If you're like me and grew up with these guys, here's one you don't want to miss.

- Dion M. Harris

ANNE MURRAY; "The Best . . . So Far" (EMI Music Canada-SBK Records). * * *

"The Best . . . So Far," of necessity, condenses Anne Murray's vast repertoire, considering the Canadian singer has been an international star and a pretty consistent hitmaker for a quarter-century. The 20-song collection includes all of her biggest pop crossover hits interspersed with several country-music successes.

This isn't the first Murray retrospective: Those who yearn for a deeper survey should check out the 64-song boxed set "Now & Forever," which takes its title from her 1986 country No. 1, also included here; and there's a three-disc set, "Her Greatest Hits and Finest Performances," available from Reader's Digest as well.

Nevertheless, "So Far" includes her ear-catching 1970 breakthrough, "Snowbird"; a touching cover of Kenny Loggins' "Danny's Song" (as well as Loggins' "A Love Song"); her percolating take on the Beatles' "You Won't See Me"; and her across-the-board No. 1 "You Needed Me."

Among the country favorites are "Now & Forever," the 1986 No. 1 that lent its title to her boxed set; the award-winning "A Little Good News"; "Just Another Woman in Love"; and "Nobody Loves Me Like You Do," her big duet with that other Loggins, Dave. The collection also includes her remake of Jo Stafford's "Make Love to Me," from her recent album "Croonin'," and "Over You," an outtake originally produced by David Foster and beefed up for her boxed set.

- Ray Boren

NEW YORK DOLLS; "Rock 'n' Roll" (Mercury). * * *

What Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground started in the late 1960s, the New York Dolls scooped up and continued throughout the 1970s.

The Dolls, whose influence reverberates through the growth of bands such as the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Harlots, the Smiths and, most notably, Kiss, have released a 20-song "greatest hits" compilation comprised of songs from the band's two albums as well as some previously unreleased cuts.

Breaking the silence with the never-before released spy-theme spoof "Courageous Cat Theme," the album takes the listener to the dark hollow clubs of the New York underground. The rocking raunch of "Trash" follows with its punky beat and goes great just before the flaming "Personality Crisis."

Other hits include "Looking for a Kiss," "Babylon" and "Frankenstein."

"When I say I'm in luv, you best believe I'm in luv - L-U-V," says the Doll's flamboyant leader, David Johansen, as the intro to "Vietnamese Baby." "Lonely Planet Boy" is heard next.

"Human Being," the song that made the late guitarist Johnny Thunders famous, closes the album, which is dedicated to Thunders and drummer Jerry Nolan - a nice touch to a nice sound.

- Scott Iwasaki

RARE EARTH; "Earth Tones: The Essential Rare Earth" (Motown). * * 1/2

Rare Earth had soul. So much that this band was signed to Motown and inherited its own label - Rare Earth Records.

Though Rare Earth was one of the other funky 1970s bands around (Grand Funk Railroad; Bauchman, Turner Overdrive and Hot Chocolate), the band made the scene with some great mainstream tunes.

This compilation features such hits as "Get Ready" and "I Just Want to Celebrate" and the extended demo version of "Warm Ride."

Fans of the times will eat it up, but others will probably pass this release off as another '70s funk revival.

RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS; "Out in L.A." (EMI Records). * * 1/2

While this is not the Red Hot Chili Peppers' greatest hits (try "What Hits?!" released earlier this year), this album features collections of favorites taken from the band's five regular releases through the years.

The songs, though popular among the rave crowd, have been revised slightly and given new mixes. Sure, the industrial punky funk the Peppers are famous for is there, but each new version doesn't really add anything new to the songs.

"Hollywood (Africa)" is made into a dance mix, while "Higher Ground," released earlier as a 12-inch single mix, brings new jump and bump to the grinding groove. Also redone are "If You Want Me to Stay" and "Behind the Sun."

In addition to the mixes, the album features the unreleased demo versions of a few songs, including "Get Up and Jump," "Green Heaven" and "Police Helicopter." And they mix well with new songs "Blues for Meister," "Stranded," "Flea Fly" and "What It Is."

The high-point cut is a live remake of Jimi Hendrix's "Castles Made of Sand." Since the Peppers performed a Hendrix tribute at Woodstock '94, it would only seem appropriate for the band to keep the spirit alive.

"Out in L.A." is a nice item for fans and collectors. But once a song is heard, it's heard. A remix is just another way to recycle.

- Scott Iwasaki

DIANA ROSS; "The Ultimate Collection" (Motown). * * * 1/2

Perhaps Diana Ross and the people at Motown need to pick up a dictionary and track down the word "ultimate." Better yet, they should check out the definition of "penultimate," which, taking into consideration the 78-song boxed set "Forever Diana," this anthology just may be.

Title aside, this is a heck of a one-volume survey, tracing Ross' career from her earliest mega-hits to the present via 20 mostly memorable songs, from slick R&B to big ballads to dance numbers. That includes four lovestruck No. 1's with the Supremes ("Where Did Our Love Go," "Baby Love," "Stop! In the Name of Love" and "You Can't Hurry Love"); another remixed and . . . what year is this? . . . disco-fied ("Someday We'll Be Together"); and a No. 2 that should have been a No. 1 ("Reflections").

Also in the batch are all six of her post-Supremes chart-toppers: "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "Touch Me in the Morning," "The Theme from `Mahogany' (Do You Know Where You're Going To)," "Love Hangover," "Upside Down" and yes, her biggie with Lionel Richie, "Endless Love."

Although the hits sputtered and all but stopped by the late '80s, at least in the top 40, "The Ultimate Collection" continues through collaborations with the likes of the Bee Gees ("Chain Reaction") and producer Peter Asher.

The songs are, as a rule, great, or near-great. The package could use some recollections by Ross or notes by someone else in a position to enlighten. And the provocative poses from the past? Didn't need those, Diana.

- Ray Boren

SADE; "The Best of Sade" (Epic). * * *

Sade is as much about mood as music, and "The Best of Sade" captures her intent quite well.

Helen Focasade Adu, born in Nigeria and raised in London, and her eponymous band glided up the international charts in 1985 with "Smooth Operator." The title aptly described her style, though the lyrics told of the M.O. of a high-living hustler.

In the songs of the subsequent decade, Sade turned her creamy midrange vocal approach into a pop-jazz success story. "The Best of Sade" mines, basically chronologically, the four albums of that period, "Diamond Life," "Promise," "Stronger Than Pride" and "Love Deluxe"

Many of the earlier tunes - Sade's hazy voice floating above subdued instrumental arrangements, including Stuart Mathewman's sax - conjure up a smoky late-night cocktail lounge. But her dominant suggestion has been more twilight cozy. Her second top 10 hit, "The Sweetest Taboo," epitomizes this style, which also encompasses songs like "Paradise," "Love Is Stronger Than Pride" and even the slightly edgy "Ordinary Love."

"The Best of Sade" reels off a total of 16 tracks over 74 bountiful minutes and also includes "Never As Good As the First Time," her 1986 duet with Jake Jacas; a breathy new remake of the Moonglows' "Please Send Me Someone to Love," and the concluding, cello-colored "Pearls."

- Ray Boren

DOUG STONE, "Greatest Hits: Vol. 1" (Epic) * * 1/2

Even since Doug Stone decided he'd be "better off in a pine box, on a slow train back to Georgia," he's done quite well, thank you. He took that debut hit to No. 1 on the charts (one of the first to take a debut hit to the top, although it has been done many times since with the influx of new singers fueling the country boom). Stone's soft, Georgia drawl lends itself to ballads and love songs, and he has consistently taken them high on the charts.

This collection includes the previously unpublished "Little Houses," Stone's current single, which sits at the 25 spot on Billboard's list this week. It's a song of similar vein: "Love grows best in little houses." The rest are his trademark hits: "Too Busy Being in Love," "Why Didn't I Think of That," "In a Different Light," "Come in Out of the Pain." "A Jukebox With a Country Song" is the only up-tempo song among them, but Stone doesn't have a problem with being a ballad singer; and it's what he does best, wrapping a song in sentiment and feeling that reaches out to the listener.

- Carma Wadley

W.A.S.P. "First Blood . . . Last Cuts" (Capitol Records). * *

The more theatrical than talented band W.A.S.P. has finally released a greatest hits compilation, putting the band to rest - for good.

Determined to break the Motley Crue protege stamp, W.A.S.P. produced some overblown and more often than not tasteless concerts. The band used stage shows depicting the victimization and degradation of women to shake the "glam-band" label.

The band's lone remaining member, Blackie Lawless, compiled this album.

Opening with the notorious "Animal (. . . Like a Beast)," the album takes on new life (something many people would have preferred to stay dead) and proceeds with "On Your Knees," "Blind in Texas," "Wild Child" (not the Doors' version) and "I Don't Need No Doctor."

The near-choral arrangement of "Headless Children," probably one of the more tasteful songs, is featured alongside a remake of the Who's "The Real Me" and the ballad "Forever Free."

A new song, the heartfelt "Hold on to My Heart," is juxtaposed with "Animal (. . . Like a Beast)" bringing a hypocritical feel to the album. Definitely for fans only.

- Scott Iwasaki

ZZ TOP; "One Foot in the Blues" (Warner Brothers). * * *

The "little band from Texas" reached deep into its roots and pulled out a blues-filled album comprised of 17 cuts taken from a few chosen albums of the band's 25-year career.

Beginning with "Brown Sugar," from "ZZ Top's First Album," the album becomes a raw and grinding kaleidoscope of blues. Billy Gibbons' gritty guitars and throatful vocals are slapped with Frank Beard's head-on drumming and Dusty Hill's bass.

The album features "Apologies to Pearly" from "Rio Grande Mad"; "Hot, Blue and Righteous" from "Tres Hombres"; the suggestive "She Loves My Automobile" from "Deguello"; "Heaven, Hell or Houston" from "El Loco"; "If I Could Only Flag Her Down" from the multiplatinum "Eliminator"; and the grungy single "My Head's in Mississippi" from "Recycler," among others.

One thing about ZZ Top is style. Once a song begins, it is immediately identifiable by the bluesy hooks the band throws in. There's nothing earth-shattering about this album, but it's good to sit back and sip lemonade to.

- Scott Iwasaki

RATINGS: four stars (* * * * ), excellent; three stars (* * * ), good; two stars (* * ), fair; one star (* ), poor, with 1/2 representing a higher, intermediate grade.