If box sets are a bit too pricey for your holiday budget, you might want to consider these greatest hits packages:

ABBA; "The Best of Abba: the Millennium Collection" (Polydor). ***— For the money, this compilation, which features "Waterloo," "Dancing Queen," "Take a Chance On Me" and "The Winner Takes It All," is great. But get the "Abba Gold" if you're a real fan. — Scott Iwasaki

ABC; "The Best of ABC: The Millennium Collection" (Mercury Records). *** — No '80s collection can be complete without the music of ABC. Led by vocalist Martin Fry and instrumentalist Mark White (and various other bandmates over the years), the synth-heavy glam band created a rich sound that holds up surprisingly well. Vintage songs like "Poison Arrow," "The Look of Love," "Be Near Me" and "When Smokey Sings" are quintessential new wave — slick, catchy and, most important, fun to listen to. — Todd Curtis

THE ALARM; "The Alarm — 1981-1991 (EMI Records). *** — This album features 24 of the Welsh band's hits, remastered by Mike Peters from the original master tapes. While certainly not as extensive as the The Alarm 2000 Collection, which includes 150 tracks, this album provides a good, solid overview of the classic songs — "Where Were You When the Storm Broke?" a couple of versions of the anthemic "Sixty Eight Guns," "Spirit of '76," "Knocking on Heaven's Door" (recorded live in Boston) and "Rain in the Summertime." Casual fans will more than likely be satisfied — and it's a lot cheaper than the nine-CD box set. — T.C.

ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND; "The Best of the Allman Brothers Band: the Millennium Collection" (Polydor). *** — This pioneering band, which mixed psychedelic jams with Southern rock, inspired other such bands as Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Georgia Satellites and Molly Hatchet. Rightfully so. Just take a look at some of the songs: "Whipping Post," "Dreams," "Midnight Rider," "Ramblin' Man" and "Jessica." — S.I.

JOAN ARMATRADING; "The Best of Joan Armatrading: the Millennium Collection" (A&M). *** — Joan Armatrading didn't have many Top 40 hits — none, to be exact. The closest was "Drop the Pilot," which peaked at No. 78. But she is still considered one of the most influential female singer/songwriters of this age. Tracy Chapman, Sarah MacLachlan and a fistful of real rhythm & blues artists have tapped into Armatrading's versatility. This disc is just a sample of what she was capable of doing. "Drop the Pilot," "Me Myself I," "Rosie," "All the Way From America" and "Love and Affection" are among the 12 tracks. — S.I.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG; "Hello, Dolly!" (MCA). ***— This isn't really a "Best of" collection; it's actually a reissue of Satchmo's 1964 best-selling album, which hit No. 1 on the charts and stayed there for seven weeks. And this was in 1964, when, as the liner notes point out, Beatlemania was in full swing. But good music has no bounds, and Armstrong's jazz riffs on these songs (including "A Lot of Livin' to Do," "Blueberry Hill" and even "Moon River") are solid listening, any time, any era.— Chris Hicks.

ASIA; "The Heat of the Moment: the Very Best of Asia (1982-1990)" (Geffen) ** 1/2 — Asia was one of the so-called supergroups of the '80s. In the tradition of Bad Company, Asia formed from members of various well-established British bands. While their bands were on hiatus, guitarist Steve Howe (Yes), drummer Carl Palmer (HELP), keyboardist Geoff Downs (Yes, the Buggles) and bassist John Wetton (King Crimson) joined forces and released the big sound of progressive rock with an '80s FM radio flair. "Heat of the Moment," "Only Time Will Tell," "Here Comes the Feeling" and "Don't Cry" are just a few of the power-rock tunes on this album, as well as later tunes by different incarnations of the band. —S.I.

ATLANTA RHYTHM SECTION; "The Best of Atlanta Rhythm Section: the Millennium Collection" (Polydor). ** 1/2 — Easy grooves that didn't go into too much soul touched the airwaves when the Atlanta Rhythm Section hit the scene. "So Into You," "Imaginary Lover" and "I'm Not gonna Let It Bother Me Tonight." But there aren't any head-turning wowies here. — S.I.

ATLANTIC STARR; "Ultimate Collection" (Hip-O). ** — Your typical Top 40 hits, "Always," "When Love Calls," Secret Lovers" and "Masterpiece," were Atlantic Starr's specialty. And this is the collection of the band's more recognizable successes. — S.I.

BABYFACE; "A Collection of His Greatest Hits (Epic). * 1/2 — It's too bad this isn't a collection of Babyface's greatest hits he wrote. The man, born Kenneth Edmonds, has penned such wonderful ballads as "I'll Make Love to You," "Waiting to Exhale (Shoop Shoop)" and "Breathe Again," which were recorded by Boyz II Men, Whitney Houston and Toni Braxton, respectively. None of these is included on this album. Instead, mediocre tunes like "For the Cool In You," "Never Keeping Secrets" and "I Love You Babe" are here. Good thing there's a reworking of "Change the World," which features Eric Clapton on guitar. — S.I.

ROY AYERS; "The Best of Roy Ayers: the Millennium Collection" (Polydor). * — Ayers played the vibraharp in the '70s, and his work is included here. It's like a new hybrid of new age music and Kenny G — hearing it in an elevator or grocery store will send you screaming from wherever you are to wherever the speakers are not. And you thought John Tesh was bad. The perfect "white elephant" gift. — Dainon Moody

BACHMAN-TURNER OVERDRIVE; "The Best of BTO: The Millennium Collection" (Mercury). ** 1/2 — A classic case of repackaging, this "best of" is little different from the numerous others that have been released since BTO disbanded in 1980. Various configurations of BTO have been touring since then, sure, but no new recordings to boast of. Still, the band's rock hits are good, in a Bob Seger-Bruce Springsteen "blue collar" kinda way. — D.M.

THE BAND; "Greatest Hits" (Capitol). *** — Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, Ronnie Hawkins and Garth Hudson were the Band. And they mixed folk, rock and little bit of mountain music with brilliant songwriting. "The Weight," "Up on Cripple Creek" and "Ain't Got No Home" were just the songs that finally got this group inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. — S.I.

THE BEATLES; "1" (Capitol). **** — All 27 No. 1 hits from "Love Me Do" to "The Long and Winding Road" are here. But the "No. 1" label doesn't mean each song was at the Top Stop in the United States. Sure, the disc includes "I Want to Hold Your Hand," "Let It Be" and "Hey Jude," but it also includes "From Me to You," "Day Tripper," "Yellow Submarine" and others that failed to top the charts in the United States but did in the United Kingdom. The liner notes say "Something" hit No. 1 in the United States on Oct. 6, 1969, but that's wrong; it was only No. 1 in the United Kingdom. Then again, without these other "No. 1" hits, the disc would just be a re-release of the 1982 compilation "20 Greatest Hits." Still, with the remastering and groovy liner notes booklet, this album is bound to put a smile on music fans' faces. — S.I.

BELL BIV DeVOE; "Greatest Hits" (MCA). **— The offshoot of New Edition — Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins and Ronnie DeVoe — had a couple of major hip-hop hits, "Poison" and "Do Me." Other singles such as "B.B.D. (I Thought It Was Me)," "When Will I See You Smile Again?" and "Something In Your Eyes" stalled on the charts. But fans of late '80s smooth, keyboard-laden hip-hop will want this album, if only to keep their memories alive. — S.I.

BROOK BENTON; "The Best of Brook Benton: the Millennium Collection" (Mercury). ***— The late Brook Benton is famous for his warm duets with Dinah Washington —"Baby (You've Got What It Takes)" and "A Rockin' Good Way (To Mess Around and Fall in Love)." Those cuts have been included in this 12-track greatest hits collection, along with Benton's other works, such as "It's Just a Matter of Time," "Endlessly," "Hotel Happiness" and "Kiddio." — S.I.

BLACK UHURU; "Ultimate Collection" (Hip-O Records). *** — The Jamaican reggae act was supposed to inherit the mantle of successors to the late Bob Marley, but flashier groups, such as Steel Pulse and Marley's own children instead got the record sales and acclaim. But as this long-needed, 17-song compilation of the group's '80s output shows, Black Uhuru actually made more consistently challenging and compelling albums. — Jeff Vice

THE BROTHERS JOHNSON; "The Best of the Brothers Johnson: the Millennium Collection" (A&M). ** 1/2 — George and Louis Johnson were weaned on everything from Sly & the Family Stone to the Beatles. This collection features some of the funk duo's more popular tunes, although only three —"I'll Be Good to You," "Strawberry Letter" and "Stomp" — made it to the Top 10. But there was no denying the brothers' knack for phat, funky, sassy rhythms. — S.I.

BOBBY BROWN; "Greatest Hits" (MCA). * 1/2 — It's a little sad when a musician's career retrospective says volumes more about how inactive he is in the industry now than how swell he was then. Not even some liner notes from a mentor who offers his/her praises — maybe wife Whitney could have pitched in? But he released it anyway, hoping he could talk you out of $15. After all, it's his "Prerogative" to do so.— D.M.

JAMES BROWN; "Ballads" (Universal). ** 1/2 — Now that all possible funk collections featuring the "Godfather of Soul" are part of the music-buying consumer subconscious, it's time he was allowed to expose his soft side. Most of the songs herein were released during his early years, before he developed his trademark raspy growl. And most of it is quite good, especially "Prisoner of Love" or "Georgia on my Mind." — D.M.

JERRY BUTLER; "The Best of Jerry Butler: The Millennium Collection" (Mercury).** 1/2 — Recalling the R&B singer coined "The Iceman" for his smooth delivery, this 11-song collection focuses on Butler's work released in the late '60s. It includes his No. 1 hit "Only the Strong Survive," which incidentally was based on advice his own mother gave him after his heart was broken. A ballad-heavy album, few songs are memorable, but each is chock-full of emotion.—D.M.

THE CALL: "The Best of The Call: The Millennium Collection" (Hip-O Records). *** — Rock solid. That's the best way to describe The Call's brand of music. Band members Michael Been, Tom Ferrier, Greg Freeman and Scott Musick combine straightforward music with edgy, socially ideal lyrics (a la Midnight Oil, U2, The Alarm) that will make listeners take notice. The album features the group's biggest hits, including "The Walls Came Down," "Modern Romans," "Let the Day Begin" and a fantastic live version of "I Still Believe (Great Design)." — T.C.

CARPENTERS; "Singles 1969-1981" (A&M). *** 1/2 — Much has been written about the late Karen Carpenter's incredible voice, and maybe as much about her brother Richard's Yale-trained arranging/producing abilities. And there are plenty of Carpenters compilations out there to compete with this one (including a four-disc box set that was released a few years back). But these 21 tracks, stripping the duo down to the best of the singles ("We've Only Just Begun," "Rainy Days and Mondays" . . . oh, you know them all by heart) and expanding their 1973 album "The Singles 1969-1973," is perfect for anyone who remembers the '70s fondly. And that's all of us, right? — C.H.

KENNY CHESNEY; "Greatest Hits" (BNA). ** 1/2 — The young lad from Knoxville, Tenn., has been in the business for more than seven years. And he's got some nice hits under his belt. This greatest-hits collection features a new recording of "The Tin Man," as well as his staples "I Lost It," "Fall In Love," "Me and You" and "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy," among others. He's more country than Sawyer Brown but more polished than Alan Jackson. — S.I.

TONI CHILDS; "Ultimate Collection" (Hip-O). ** 1/2 — Anyone remember Toni Child's soulful hit "Don't Walk Away"? That was actually her only bona fide hit; it reached No. 72 on the charts. Still, there are a lot of great songs on this collection. "Stop Your Fussin'," Jimmy Cliff's "Many Rivers to Cross" and "Where's the Ocean" are a few standouts on this 15-song list. — S.I.

CRAIG CHAQUICO; "Panorama: the Best of Craig Chaquico" (Higher Octave Music). *** 1/2 — The argument about former Jefferson Starship guitarist Craig Chaquico is that his music all sounds alike. But careful listening can find subtleties that prove otherwise. Taking the best from his five Higher Octave releases, "Panorama," is aptly titled. "Find Your Way Back," "Acoustic Highway," "Return of the Eagle," "Forbidden Love" and the newer "Beyond Words," and "Cafe Carnival" are mixed among the 14 different tracks. — S.I.

CINDERELLA; "The Best of Cinderella: the Millennium Collection" (Mercury). ** 1/2 — Don't knock the band Cinderella (at least not too much). It had the untimely misfortune to hit it big when hair-metal was huge. Poison, Nitro and Britney Foxx were among Cinderella's peers. But Cinderella had an edge — a Gothic blues edge. "Somebody Save Me," "Shelter Me," "Gypsy Road" and "Nobody's Fool" were among the cream of the tunes. Then came the downfall — "Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)." — S.I.

JOE COCKER; "The Best of Joe Cocker: the Millennium Collection" (A&M). ****— The Briton with the American blues voice has been copied and parodied throughout his career. But it's no secret the man feels his music. Just take a listen to the glorious remake of the Beatles' "With a Little Help From My Friends." And while you're at it, find "She Came In Through the Bathroom Window." Then take a gander at the live version of Julie London's "Cry Me a River" and Jimmy Cliff's "Many Rivers to Cross." But before you think the man is full of remakes, you might want to try "High Time We Went." And we can't forget "You Are So Beautiful," which was written for Cocker by soul pianist Billy Preston. — S.I.

NAT KING COLE; "Unforgettable" (Capitol). **** — In addition to Cole's singular take on the title tune, this collection also features the duet manufactured by his daughter Natalie six years ago. But it's Cole's unique vocal chords exquisitely wrapped around his hits "Mona Lisa," "Straighten Up and Fly Right" and myriad others, along with a few that may be less familiar (25 tracks in all), that make this one a keeper. Hit-seekers might quibble that "Ramblin' Rose" and "Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer" are missing, but this is a much more thoughtful and satisfying romantic collection without them.— C.H.

COLOR ME BADD; "The Best of Color Me Badd" (Giant). ** — There are only three songs that should be on here — "I Wanna Sex You Up," "All 4 Love" and "I Adore Mi Amor." Well, you guessed it, those melodic and catchy R&B songs are the first three tracks. Other than "Thinkin' Back," the other tracks — "Choose," "Wildflower," "The Last to Know" — didn't even chart. Why were other charting works like "Slow Motion," "Forever Love" and "Time and Chance" left off this so-called "Best of" collection? — S.I.

THE COMMODORES; "The Best of the Commodores: the Millennium Collection" (Motown). *** — Singer/songwriter Lionel Richie honed his craft in this group. "Three Times a Lady," "Easy," "Brick House," "Sail On" and "Still" were some of the Commodore's trademark hits. And once Richie left, the band proved it could make a No. hit without his input — "Nightshift." — S.I.

CREAM; "The Best of Cream: The Millennium Collection" *** — Hailed as one of rock's first supergroups — comprised of Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker — this is actually a worthy collection, despite its omissions, combining both memorable radio staples and lesser-known songs, such as the blues-oriented "Politician." — D.M.

MARSHALL CRENSHAW; "This is Easy: The Best of Marshall Crenshaw" (Warner Archives/Rhino). **** — The liner notes call this collection of should-have-been-hits by Crenshaw "an attempt to set things right," which finally exposes the unfairly neglected new-wave power-popper to the public. While it's pretty ridiculous to assume that this will finally bring him the success he deserves, songs like "Someday, Someway," "You're My Favorite Waste of Time" and "Someplace Where Love Can't Find Me" are pretty irresistible. — J.V.

DeBARGE; "The Best of DeBarge. ** — "The Rhythm of the Night" and "Who's Holding Donna Now?" were some fun pop R&B hits of the '80s, thanks to DeBarge. But it seems odd to create a greatest-hits package for a mediocre band whose only real claim to fame was the fact that keyboardist James DeBarge used to be married to Janet Jackson. — S.I.

THE DELLS; "Best of the Dells: The Millennium Collection" (MCA). ** 1/2 — There are several reasons to buy this short greatest-hits collection, but for my money, it's all because of "Stay in My Corner." It's six minutes and 12 seconds of sheer bliss — showcasing all the reasons the Illinois-born vocal group lasted as long as it did. Also, check out "Oh What a Night," the group's first big hit in 1956. — D.M.

THE DRAMATICS; "Ultimate Collection" (Hip-O). ** 1/2 — If this was supposed to be a true "Ultimate Collection," then "Toast to the Fool" and "Me and Mrs. Jones" would have been right up there with the soul favorites "Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get," "Get Up and Get Down" and "In the Rain." This is an "Almost Ultimate Collection." — S.I.

HEAVY D AND THE BOYZ; "Heavy Hitz" (MCA). ** 1/2 — The self-proclaimed "Overweight Lover MC" has always approached his works with a sense of responsibility. He knew his music was reaching young kids and he made sure his lyrics were empowering and, most of all, positive. "Mr. Big Stuff," "Somebody for Me," "Now that We Found Love" (with Aaron Hall) and "Got Me Waiting" are just a few samples of his career. — S.I.

JOE ELY; "The Best of Joe Ely" (MCA Nashville). *** — Singer/songwriter Joe Ely was once called a "New Wave Honky Tonker." In a just world, he would have been known as the father of modern punk-country, without losing the music style's integral roots. "She Never Spoke Spanish to Me," "Boxcars" and "Me and Billy The Kid" are among the 20 ditties pulled together for this release. — S.I.

FIXX: "The Best of Fixx: The Millennium Collection" (MCA). *** — It's an understatement to say the '80s were over the top — the hair, the clothes, the videos, the music. And the Fixx's brand of new wave was no exception. But the Brit band, led by vocalist Cy Curnin, did produce some of the best songs of the decade —"One Thing Leads to Another," "Saved By Zero," "Are We Ourselves," "Stand or Fall" and "Red Skies." While the Fixx faded fast, the songs didn't. And this CD proves it. — T.C.

FOUR TOPS; "Essential Collection" (Hip-O). **** — If only they made more greatest-hits albums more like this one — or, more truthfully, if only more bands out there could boast similar longevity and hit-heavy songlists. Just try to sit still during the album's first seven songs (out of a total 24!). With toe-tappers like "Baby I Need Your Loving," "Reach Out I'll Be There" and "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got)," it's one of the few "best of" collections actually worth your money. — D.M.

GLENN FREY; "The Best of Glenn Frey: the Millennium Collection" (MCA). ** 1/2 — Once the Eagles took their 15-year "vacation," lead Eagles Don Henley and Glenn Frey took off on some lucrative solo careers. Frey's tunes weren't as insightful as Henley's, but they were more fun. And he did manage to keep his name in the public eye. "The Heat Is On," "Smuggler's Blues," "You Belong to the City," "Sexy Girl" and "True Love" were his blockbusters. And they're all together on this compilation. — S.I.

THE GAP BAND; "The Best of the Gap Band: the Millennium Collection" (Mercury). ** 1/2 — Anyone remember the peel-out sound effects that kicked off "Burn Rubber (Why You Wanna Hurt Me)"? Well, that song is back, and it's the perfect tune to start this album, although it was one of the Gap Band's lowest-charting singles; it only got to No. 84 on the Pop Charts. But "You Dropped a Bomb on Me," which charted at No. 31, and "Early In the Morning," which hit No. 24, are also here. — S.I.

MARVIN GAYE & TAMMI TERRELL; "The Best of Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell: the Millennium Collection" (Motown). *** 1/2 — Soulful duets of the late Marvin Gaye & the late Tammi Terrell caught chart attention in the late '60s and early '70s. "Your Precious Love," "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing," "You're All I Need to Get By," which all hit the Top 10 between '67 and '68, have been remastered and stacked with rare tracks like "Hold Me Oh My Darling" and "You Ain't Livin' 'Till You're Lovin." — S.I.

GLORIA GAYNOR; "The Best of Gloria Gaynor: the Millennium Collection" (Polydor). ** 1/2 — Too bad Gloria Gaynor will always be remembered for her 1978 No. 1 hit, "I Will Survive." It's the weakest song on this compilation. Compare that to "Never Can Say Goodbye," "Reach Out, I'll Be There" and "How High the Moon." — S.I.

GO-GO'S; "VH1 Behind the Music: the Go-Go's Collection" (VH1/A&M). *** 1/2 — VH1's expos on one of the bubbliest girl groups of the '80s was an eye-opener to some. But what a lot of people don't remember is the Go-Go's actually emerged from the underground punk scene of the late '70s. Sure "We Got the Beat," "Our Lips are Sealed" and "Vacation" were bright and shiny. But also included on this compilation are the darker cuts "Lust to Love," "Mercenary" and "This Town." Don't worry, "Head Over Heals" and "Turn to You" are here, too. — S.I.

LESLIE GORE; "The Best of Leslie Gore: The Millennium Collection" (Motown). *** 1/2 — Gore cornered the market on teen angst (especially for girls) in the early '60s, but listening again to "It's My Party," "Judy's Turn to Cry" and especially "You Don't Own Me," all recorded when she was 16, renews respect for the honest emotion she brought to what could have been merely sappy sentiment. Gore had 19 hits on the charts during the mid-'60s, but only 12 are here. Still, they're the most memorable ones: "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows," "California Nights," etc.— C.H.

RICHIE HAVENS; "The Best of Richie Havens.: the Millennium Collection" (Polydor). *** — He opened the original Woodstock concert in '69. And he's made a career of remaking Beatles' hits — "Here Comes the Sun," "Lady Madonna" and "Strawberry Fields Forever." But his own works never charted. However, he is still considered an important folk artist of the late '60s and early '70s. A little listen to this "Best of" album will convince the cynics. "High Flyin' Bird," "Follow," "San Francisco Bay Blues" and the socially conscious "The Klan" are included with the three Beatles' remakes. — S.I.

HEART; "Greatest Hits 1985-1995" (Capitol). ** 1/2 — Some of Heart's more mundane works were the most popular. During their time on Capitol, every Heart song sounded like the other. However, there were some nice gems that found their way to the hearts of fans and radio. The band's two No. 1 hits — "Alone" and Nancy's vocals on "These Dreams" — are rightfully represented, as is the glossy "What About Love." Also included on this album are "Never," "All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You," "Who Will You Run To" and "Nothin' at All," which displayed Ann's crystal voice. — S.I.

JENNIFER HOLLIDAY; "The Best of Jennifer Holliday: The Millennium Collection" (Motown). ** 1/2 — I've always felt that Holliday's '80s R&B albums tended to be overproduced, which is especially unnecessary with such a powerhouse singer. These 12 songs, taken from her various Geffen albums, just confirm that. Fans won't care, of course; her two "Dreamgirls" hits — "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" and "I Am Changing" — will be enough for them. But it's more satisfying when her voice is allowed to do its stuff without overwhelming accompaniment, as on the Duke Ellington cut, "Come Sunday" — easily the album's best track.— C.H.

RUPERT HOLMES; "Greatest Hits" (Hip-O Records). * — Um, aren't you supposed to have more than one hit — in this case, "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)" — to qualify for a greatest-hits package? — J.V.

HUMBLE PIE; "The Best of Humble Pie: The Millennium Collection" (A&M). ** 1/2 — Guitarist Peter Frampton cut his teeth in this band. Although it didn't have any major hits — "Hot and Nasty" and "Fool for a Pretty Face (Hurt by Love)" each only made it to No. 52 — the band gained a loyal following for its low-down boogie and blues. In addition to the aforementioned tunes, this album includes a remake of Ike and Tina Turner's "Black Coffee" and Muddy Water's "Rollin' Stone." Still, there's a glimpse of Frampton's knack for hooks, with his "Stone Cold Fever," "Big Black Dog" and "Shine On." — S.I.

INDIGO GIRLS; "Retrospective" (Epic). ** — This "Retrospective" is a bland, souless compilation of ballads and hits that screams "thrown-together." For such passionate and politically driven artists, it is surprising that Amy Ray and Emily Sailers even consented to this release. Some of their best works aren't even in the mix. If you've never bought an Indigo Girls album and you're short on cash, "Retrospective," which doesn't even capture the intensity, rawness and melodic harmonies the duet is known for, isn't for you. Skip it. Buy "1200 Curfews" instead. — Lucy Campbell

MICHAEL JACKSON; "The Best of Michael Jackson: the Millennium Collection" (Motown). *** — Before Michael Jackson became a "Thriller," he was a little kid from Gary, Ind., with one incredible voice. This disc is a collection of his works outside of the Jackson Five. "Got to Be There," "Ben," "Rockin' Robin" and "People Make the World Go 'Round" are the flavors of this compilation. — S.I.

JAMES GANG; "Greatest Hits" (MCA). ** 1/2 — MCA has rereleased the James Gang's 1973 "Greatest Hits" album on the heels of the remastering and re-releasing of the band's MCA catalog. This is where sometime Eagle Joe Walsh got his start. "Walk Away," "Funk #49," "Must Be Love" and "Midnight Man" are here. This is definitely an album for classic-rock fans. But if you want Walsh's best work with and without the Gang, check out "The Best of Joe Walsh." — S.I.

RICK JAMES; "The Best of Rick James: the Millennium Collection" (Motown). *** — Funkster Rick James never had a No. 1 hit, but "Super Freak" will forever be imbedded in pop music listeners' psyche. Not only did MC Hammer sample it for "Can't Touch This," but the song found its way into Max Schreck's party scene in the flick "Batman Returns." "Super Freak," "Bustin' Out," "You and I" and the double meaning of "Mary Jane" are among the songs on this CD. — S.I.

JESSE JOHNSON; "Ultimate Collection" (Hip-O). ** 1/2 — The former guitarist for Prince & the Revolution and the Time is more than an '80s soul guitarist with moussed hair. He's got a little Jimi Hendrix and B.B. King in his veins. This compilation features Johnson's best work, although only a few of his singles actually charted. "Be Your Man," "Can You Help Me," "I Want My Girl" and "Love Struck" were just a few tunes that made the Top 40. — S.I.

EDDIE KENDRICKS; "The Best of Eddie Kendricks: the Millennium Collection" (Motown). ** 1/2 — The former Temptation had a string of charting hits, which peaked with 1973's "Keep On Truckin'," "1974's "Boogie Down." Still, he managed to keep his job with cool vocal hits as "Son of Sagittarius," "Tell Her Love Has Felt the Need" and "Shoeshine Boy." They're all here, including a live medley version of "The Way You Do the things You Do/My Girl" with Daryl Hall and John Oates. — S.I.

FREDDIE KING; "The Best of Freddie King: The Shelter Record Years" (Shelter). *** 1/2 — Although this album combines songs released while he was with the Shelter label (1971-1973), it seems a little bit unbelievable that the late blues guitarist-vocalist had any song with his other labels better than these. Alongside strong recordings of "Five Long Years" and "Reconsider Baby," the album also includes his take on the classic "Please Send Me Someone to Love." — D.M.

GLADYS KNIGHT & THE PIPS; "The Best of Gladys Knight & the Pips: The Millennium Collection" (Motown). ** 1/2 — Last year at this time, I gave four stars to the Hip-O collection of Knight's early work with the Pips, titled "Essential Collection" and featuring 18 tracks. This new compilation does have five songs that are missing from that one, but there are only 11 tracks! "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" shows up, but where's "Midnight Train to Georgia"? (And isn't it time for a four-CD overview of Knight's career?) We're talking serious short shrift here for someone who deserves better. Skip this one and go for the Hip-O album. — C.H.

KOOL & THE GANG; "The Best of Kool & the Gang: the Millennium Collection" (Mercury). ** 1/2 — We will never forget "Jungle Boogie," "Celebration" or "Lady's Night." And we might remember "Cherish" and "Too Hot." And if we don't, this CD has them all. — S.I.

LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO; "The Warner Bros. Collection" (Warner Archives/Rhino). **** — The Zulu music ambassadors from South Africa have found their way into American homes via Paul Simon's 1986 blockbuster album "Graceland." Since then, Ladysmith Black Mambazo has toured and entertained audiences all over the world. It's only fitting that a greatest-hits album — which features "Homeless," "King of Kings" and "How Long" — be released now. — S.I.

L.T.D.; "The Best of L.T.D.: the Millennium Collection" (A&M).** 1/2 — Riding the funk wave that Sly & the Family Stone started, L.T.D. (Love, Togetherness and Devotion) found its high point with 1977's "(Every Time I Turn Around) Back In Love Again," which hit No. 4 on the charts. Lead-singer Jeffery Osborne cut his teeth in the band with other hits, such as "Love Ballad" and "Never Get Enough of Your Love." — S.I.

LYNYRD SKYNYRD; "All Time Greatest Hits" (MCA). *** 1/2 — How many Lynyrd Skynyrd compilations are out there? Too many. But this one is the cream of the crop. "All Time Greatest Hits" is exactly what it professes to be. "What's Your Name," "Sweet Home Alabama," "Gimme Three Steps," "Saturday Night Special," "Swamp Music," "Call Me the Breeze," "That Smell" and a live version of "Freebird" are only about half of the tunes here. There's also a nice, heartful acoustic version of "All I Can Do Is Write About It." — S.I.

MADNESS; "Ultimate Collection" (Hip-O). *** — OK, you ska fans. Remember when Madness was all over MTV before the likes of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones? Madness, the septet from North London, is finally the subject of a hits compilation. The classics "One Step Beyond" and "House of Fun" are alongside "Madness (Two-Tone Single Version)" and "The Prince (Two-Tone Single Version)." And it wouldn't be a Madness collection without the catchy, albeit pop-angled "Our House." — S.I.

AIMEE MANN; "Ultimate Collection" (Hip-O). *** — An "ultimate collection" of Mann's songs should have probably included more than just two songs from her new-wave pop band 'Til Tuesday and a little less from her first two solo albums. But there's still an awful lot of good material on this 20-track compilation, including a lovely live version of "The Other End of the Telescope," co-written by Mann and Elvis Costello. — J.V.

TINA MARIE; "Ultimate Collection" (Hip-O). * 1/2 — While not the best vocalist, Tina Marie — born Mary Christine Brockert — had a bouncy minor hit, "Lovergirl." Most of her other songs, such as "It Might Be Magic," "Young Love" and "If I Were a Bell," made it to the R&B charts. This album is comprised of those and others that didn't make the charts. — S.I.

STEPHANIE MILLS; "The Best of Stephanie Mills: The Millennium Collection" (MCA). ** — "Never Knew Love Like This Before" brought Stephanie Mills to the charts. Too bad her follow-ups, "Two Hearts" and "(You're Putting) a Rush on Me" didn't fare better, although ". . . Rush . . ." did hit No. 1 on the R&B charts in '87. — S.I.

MOODY BLUES; "The Best of the Moody Blues: The Millennium Collection" (Polydor). *** — Moody Blues fans, this album is for you. It's got all the studio cuts of your favorite MB tunes. And though there may be some songs you wished were included — the first big single "Go Now" is missing, as is "Tuesday Afternoon (Forever Afternoon)" — the other staples are here: "Nights in White Satin," "Ride My See-Saw," "I'm Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)," "The Voice," "Gemini Dream," "Question," "Your Wildest Dreams," "I Know You're Out There Somewhere" and "The Story In Your Eyes." — S.I.

NEW EDITION; "All the Number Ones" (Hip-O). ** — Technically, this title is correct. All of New Edition's No. 1 charting songs are here — including "Candy Girl" and "Mr. Telephone Man." None of them, however, hit the Top spot on the Billboard Top 100 Singles. Instead, they found themselves at No. 1 on the sales charts or the R&B charts. This misleading album is for fans only. — S.I.

NIGHT RANGER; "The Best of Night Ranger: The Millennium Collection (MCA). ** 1/2 — Album rock radio had a heyday with this band. The melodic rock hits kept coming after its first Top 40 hit, "Don't Tell Me You Love Me," which was released back in 1983. "When You Close Your Eyes," "You can Still Rock In America" and "Four In the Morning (I Can't Take Anymore)" also found their way to MTV. But it was the No. 5 charting ballad "Sister Christian" and the follow-up "Sentimental Street" that put the band on the Top 40 stations across the nation. — S.I.

NINE INCH NAILS; "Things Falling Apart" (Nothing). *** — Nine Inch Nails' soul, Trent Reznor, has always looked at remixes as ways to freshen his music. His extended plays — "Fixed" and "Further Down the Spiral," just to name a couple — have been collections of remanipulated works that were found on the regular releases "Broken" and "Downward Spiral." This time, Reznor takes the hit singles off of NIN's recent release "The Fragile" and — along with Alan Moulder, Keith Hillebrandt and others — has created another musical entity, "Things Falling Apart." — S.I.

OHIO PLAYERS; "The Best of the Ohio Players: the Millennium Collection" (Mercury). ** 1/2 — Funkmeisters the Ohio Players grooved it out in the '70s with "Fire," Skin Tight" and "Who'd She Coo?" And who could forget the No. 1 charting "Love Rollercoaster"? Even modern rock fans remember this one; it's the one the Red Hot Chili Peppers remade for the "Beavis & Butthead Do America" soundtrack. — S.I.

PEBBLES; "Greatest Hits" (Hip-O). * 1/2 — The epitome of '80s pop soul, with a lot of production and keyboards, couldn't hide the fact that Pebbles' voice was weaker than Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson and Madonna. But her single "Mercedes Boy" still managed to reach No. 2. That song, along with "Girlfriend," "Giving You the Benefit" and "Backyard," her duet with the hip-hop trio Salt 'n' Pepa, are part of this CD. — S.I.

POCO; "The Best of Poco: the Millennium Collection" (MCA). *** — Former Eagles bassists Randy Meisner and Timothy B. Schmidt began their professional careers in this band. Poco was also the resting point for Jim Messina and Richie Furay after their stint in Buffalo Springfield. But histories aren't the story. It's the music. "Heart of the Night" and "Crazy Love" are probably the band's more famous cuts, even though none of the above-mentioned band members was part of the group when those singles hit the charts. Still, fan faves like "Indian Summer" and "Keep On Trying" feature Schmidt. — S.I.

THE POSIES; "Dream All Day: The Best of the Posies" (Geffen). **** — Unfortunately, Seattle's dear, departed Posies may turn out to be one of those bands that's finally appreciated years after its demise. This well-chosen 19-song collection of the group's major-label work shows what most of us were missing: unbelievably catchy and smart power-pop tracks like "My Big Mouth," "Flavor of the Month" and "Going, Going, Gone." — J.V.

BILLY PRESTON; "Ultimate Collection" (Hip-O).*** — The man who wrote "You Are So Beautiful" and buddied around with the Beatles in the early days (he was also in the movie based on "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band") has finally been the focus of a greatest-hits compilation. His original version of "You Are So Beautiful" is set up with his versions of the Beatles "Get Back" and "Blackbird." Other Preston originals include "Slaughter," "Outa-Space" and the No. 1 "Will It Go Round In Circles." — S.I.

RAINBOW; "The Best of Rainbow: the Millennium Collection" (Polydor). ** 1/2 — This is for rock fans only. It's not like the band — fronted by guitarist Richie Blackmore after he left the comfort of Deep Purple — has had any real hits, aside from a remake of Russ Ballard's "Since You Been Gone," "Stone Cold" and "Street of Dreams." And only "Stone Cold," hit the Top 40. There are rock fans who will remember singer Ronnie James Dio's vocals on "Man on the Silver Mountain" and the mystical ballad "Rainbow Eyes," but the general public probably has no memory of the other cuts. Another quibble: Polydor should have included "Can't Happen Here," one of the songs that MTV picked up in the early days that introduced Rainbow to the video age. — S.I.

SMOKEY ROBINSON; "The Best of Smokey Robinson: the Millennium Collection" (Motown). *** 1/2 — The unmistakable smooth vocals of William "Smokey" Robinson was one of Motown's greatest sounds. This album features the man's solo triumphs. "Cruisin'," "Baby Come Close," "One Heartbeat" and "Let Me Be the Clock" are more samples of his dynamic and seductive voice. Also included is an English/Spanish medley, "Being With You/Aqui Con Tigo." Still, fans will miss "Just to See Her," which was left off this 11-track CD. — S.I.

DIANA ROSS & THE SUPREMES; "The Best of — Volume 2 — Diana Ross & the Supremes: The Millennium Collection" (Motown). ** 1/2; DIANA ROSS; "The Best of Diana Ross: The Millennium Collection" (Motown). ** 1/2; DIANA ROSS; "All the Greatest Hits" (Motown). *** 1/2 — The album with the Supremes (including three songs recorded after Ross left the group) is a follow-up to last year's "Volume 1" — and, as I wrote last year, there was no reason to split these cuts into two separate albums; one CD does hold 22 tracks, after all. (And is there any group on the planet with more compilation albums than the Supremes? . . . Well, OK, the Beatles maybe.) And the two Ross albums have Motown competing against itself. "The Best of . . . " has the Millennium Collection's usual 11 tracks, while "All the Greatest Hits" has all the same songs, plus five more (including her fabulous "Good Morning Heartache," from "Lady Sings the Blues"). Most of the big ones are on both, from "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" to "Touch Me in the Morning" to "Love Hangover" . . . but why would anyone buy the album with five fewer songs?— C.H.

DAVID RUFFIN; "The Best of David Ruffin: the Millennium Collection (Motown). ** 1/2 — Like Freddie Kendrick, David Ruffin was a former Temptation. But demons — drugs and obsessiveness plagued the late singer who was eventually booted out of the singing group. Since Motown released a Freddie Kendrick compilation, it was only fair they did one for Ruffin. The prophetic "My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me)" and "I've Lost Everything I've Ever Loved" set the tone for this 12-track CD. — S.I.

CAT STEVENS; "Greatest Hits"(A&M). **** — It's Cat Stevens (before he changed to Yusef Islam) at his best. This is a re-release of Steven's 1975 multi-platinum compilation album. "Moonshadow," "Morning Has Broken," "Another Saturday Night" and the overplayed "Wild World" have been digitally remastered and given grand packaging. Also "Another Saturday Night," "Oh, Very Young" and "Peace Train." — S.I.

BILLY STEWART; "The Best of Billy Stewart: the Millennium Collection" (Chess/MCA). ** 1/2 — Soul pioneer Billy Stewart, who was also a powerful blues keyboard player, once played with Bo Diddley and a young Marvin Gaye. He would eventually be remembered most for his version of the No. 10 hit "Summertime" from the Gershwin opera "Porgy and Bess." That, among other such goodies as "Secret Love," "Sitting In the Park" and "I Do Love You," are featured on this career retrospective. — S.I.

MATTHEW SWEET; "Time Capsule: The Best of Matthew Sweet 1990-2000" (Volcano). **** — Unbeknownst to most of the record-buying public, acclaimed power-popper Matthew Sweet released two albums before his 1990 breakthrough smash "Girlfriend." However, this "greatest-hits" package wisely overlooks those awful early efforts, instead concentrating on his nearly essential work over the past decade. Crucial for anyone who's never owned one of Sweet's albums. — J.V.

JAMES TAYLOR; "Greatest Hits Vol. 2" (Columbia). *** — When dealing with a career as long as "Sweet Baby" James Taylor's, you're going to have to make a few greatest hits albums. This one deals with his late '70s works to the present. "Handy Man," "Her Town Too" and "Little More Time With You" are here. — S.I.

TEARS FOR FEARS; "The Best of Tears for Fears: the Millennium Collection" (Mercury).** 1/2 — The main problem with this album is the fact that all Raoul "Roland" Orzabal and Curt Smith's best works are packed into the first few tracks. "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," "Shout," "Sowing the Seeds of Love" and "Head Over Heels" are probably the only four songs that people really want to hear. The others, "Woman In Chains," "Break It Down Again," "Advice for the Young at Heart" and more, are for TFT fans only. — S.I.

THE TEMPTATIONS; "The Best of the Temptations Volume 2 — The '70s, '80s, '90s: The Millennium Collection" (Motown). ** 1/2 — It's a little difficult to compare this collection to The Temptations' last installment in this series, which focused on their '60s recordings. This 11-song smattering shows the five singers finding the funk — and doing quite well with it. "Ball of Confusion," "Papa was a Rollin' Stone" and "Shakey Ground" are perfect examples. As a whole, the album really isn't long enough, but what's here is really, really good. — D.M.

JOHN TESH; "Forever More: the Greatest Hits of John Tesh" (Decca). ** 1/2 — No, this isn't John Tesh's take on Edgar Alllen Poe's "The Raven," as some morbid minds — like mine — might have thought. It's a collection of the lush, flowing instrumental smooth jazz that the former NBC sports commentator and "Entertainment Tonight" pitchman has composed throughout his career, including "The Games," which was written for the 1994 Barcelona Summer Olympic Games, and "Barcelona." Tesh has instrumentally reworked "Because You Loved Me" and plays with saxophonist Warren Hill on "One More Night." — S.I.

.38 SPECIAL; "The Best of .38 Special: the Millennium Collection" (A&M). ** 1/2 — It was always Southern rock with a pop when it came to .38 Special. Considered by most to be Lynyrd Skynyrd's little brother — that having to do with singer Donnie Van Zandt, younger sib of Skynyrd's late vocal man, Ronnie — .38 Special found a niche with hits like "Hold On Loosely," "Fantasy Girl" and "Back Where You Belong." But it was "Caught Up In You" and "If I'd Been the One" that made the band a household name in the mid '80s. — S.I.

RICHARD & LINDA THOMPSON; "The Best of Richard & Linda Thompson: the Island Records Years" (Island). ***— After the demise of Fairport Convention, husband-and-wife folk-singers Richard and Linda Thompson released four albums, not including Richard's self-titled solo work. His Celtic-inspired folk guitar and her lilting vocals were a mesmerizing combination. "Whithered and Died," "I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight" and "A Heart Needs a Home" were some of their trademark works, although they never had a Top Single hit. — S.I.

THREE DOG NIGHT; "The Best of Three Dog Night: the Millennium Collection" (MCA). *** — Three Dog Night had a knack for making hits. The group didn't really write a lot of its own hits; artists who wrote for the band included Hoyt Axton, Harry Nilsson and Paul Williams. Each of the 12 cuts on this compilation were Top 20, if not Top 10, works of fun: "Joy to the World," "Shambala," "One," "An Old Fashioned Love Song," "Liar," "Mama Told Me Not to Come," "The Show Must Go On" and other samples of the band's catchy style. — S.I.

THE TUBES: "The Best of The Tubes— The Millennium Collection" (A&M Records). * — Remember the Tubes? Me neither. Yet "White Punks on Dope," "Mondo Bondage," "Slipped My Disco" sound vaguely familiar. Musically, the band is all over the place — there's punk, disco, a touch of new wave and yes, even a ballad. While the Tubes' music may have once been considered cutting edge, it now just comes across as silly. Unless you're a big fan, this retrospective will be played once then shoved to the back of the CD stack with other musical curiosities. — T.C.

STEVE VAI; "The 7th Song: Enchanting Guitar Melodies Archives Vol. 1" (Epic). **** — Guitarist Steve Vai, once a student of guitar guru Joe Satriani, has emerged from the confines of rock guitar with a vengeance. Embracing techno-guitar-wizardry but keeping true to what a guitar is suppose to sound like, Vai has released seven albums. Each one of those albums has contained a melodic and mystical piece of art for the seventh track. This album is a compilation of those seventh songs. And to the delight of Vai's fans, the guitarist has also included "Christmas Time Is Here," the seventh song on the first "Merry Axemas" album released in 1997. Also, "For the Love of God" and "Windows to the Soul," and three additional works — "Melissa's Garden," "The Wall of Light" and "Boston Rain Medley." — S.I.

GINO VANELLI; "Ultimate Collection" (Hip-O). ** — The crooner who will forever be imbedded in our minds for his his two Top 10 hits "I Just Wanna Stop" and "Living Inside Myself," has a greatest hits album. If this was a true greatest hits album, it would only be a two-song EP. This compilation was mainly A&M Records' way of cleaning out the vaults. You can find "Wild Horses," "Black Cars," "Wheels of Life" and "Hurts to Be in Love," none of which cracked the Top 40, or got radio play or sold as much as his two trademark ballads. —S.I.

THE VELVET UNDERGROUND; "The Best of the Velvet Underground: the Millennium Collection" (Polydor). *** — "Heroin," "I'm Waiting for the Man," "White Light/White Heat," live versions of "Sweet Jane" and "Rock and Roll" can't hide the fact that "Venus In Furs" is AWOL. — S.I.

RICK WAKEMAN; "Recollections: the Very Best of Rick Wakeman (1973-1979)" (A&M). *** 1/2 — While many consider progressive rock to be overindulgent and pompous, some of rock's best musicians hail from that style. Wakeman came from the ranks of Yes, which he joined as a replacement for Tony Kaye in 1971. The "Recollections" tracks are taken from his seven solo studio albums. "Catherine of Aragon" (from 1973's "Six Wives of Henry VIII"), "The Journey/Recollection" and "Battle" (both from his 1974 Jules Verne concept album "Journey to the Centre of the Earth"), "Arthur" and "Merlin the Magician" (from the 1975 LP "The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table") and "White Rock" (from the 1977 album of the same name) have been remastered in all their symphonic glory. — S.I.

JR. WALKER & THE ALL STARS; "The Best of Jr. Walker & the All Stars: the Millennium Collection" (Motown). *** — This should have been a two-CD compilation featuring more than 21 tunes. But this 12-song compilation is a nice nod to the saxophone-wielding band leader. "Shotgun," "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)," "Pucker Up Buttercup" and "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)" are just a few samples of this feel-good band's famous tunes. — S.I.

JOE WALSH; "The Best of Joe Walsh: the Millennium Collection" (MCA). *** — Walsh was the driving force of the James Gang. And this compilation shows off the band's best works, as well as Walsh's solo shiners. "Walk Away," "Funk #49" and "Midnight Man" were James Gang classics, but we can't forget Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way," "Mother Says" and "County Fair." Too bad a label-switch to Asylum prevented Walsh's "Life's Been Good" from being included on this CD. — S.I.

GROVER WASHINGTON, JR.; "Best of Grover Washington, Jr.: the Millennium Collection" (Motown).*** — Before the fuzzy Grover (the bearded saxophonist, not the Sesame Street staple) started into smooth jazz territory in the years leading up to his death last year, the man could jam. His funky numbers dot this scant 60-minute collection and are the reason to pick it up, if solely for his signature "Mister Magic" or his excellent take on Marvin Gaye's "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)." — D.M.

BRYAN WHITE; "Greatest Hits" (Asylum). ** — This young whippersnapper has turned a lot of heads during his career this past decade. He did a duet with Shania Twain ("From this Moment") and toured with LeAnn Rimes. This CD includes the Twain track but also "Love Is the Right Place," "Rebecca Lynn," "That's Another Song" and "Look at Me Now." There's also the lonesome mix of "Someone Else's Star," the singer's first No. 1 and a favorite of the young fans of this new-country hearthrob. — S.I.

WHITESNAKE; "The Best of Whitesnake: the Millennium Collection" (Geffen). ** — What were we thinking in the '80s? Big hair and the egos that went with it made singer David Coverdale who he is today — a Robert Plant wannabe who just happened to get his break in Deep Purple. Sure, Whitesnake had some good hard rockers — "In the Still of the Night" and "Slow and Easy" — but when it came to his lackluster works like "Here I Go Again" and "Is This Love," the only good thing about Coverdale was his videos featuring his leggy former girlfriend Tawny Kitaen. — S.I.

BUCKWHEAT ZYDECO; "The Ultimate Collection" (Hip-O). *** — Stanley Dural Jr. is a zydeco ambassador. For the past 30 years, Dural, who chose the stage-name Buckwheat when he formed his own band, has brought the Southwest Louisiana music to new ears. While mixing traditional zydeco — accordion-led dance music — with funk, jazz, pop, ska and blues, Buckwheat found a niche and has become one of the best-loved artists of his time. This CD contains 19 Buckwheat classics, ranging from "I Bought a Raccoon" to his struttin' remakes of Hank William's "Hey Good Lookin', " featuring Dwight Yoakam, and Eric Clapton's "Why Does Love Got to Be So Bad," which features Slow Hand himself on vocals and guitar. — S.I.