Although it's not a standard hits collection, EMI's The Best of Billie Jo Spears goes a long way toward fulfilling the promise of the title. Concentrating on the late '60s through the mid-'70s, her most artistic period, it includes the majority of her biggest hits: "Blanket on the Ground," "Misty Blue," and "What I've Got in Mind" (all of which hit the Top Ten). Granted, it's missing both a late hit, 1977's "If You Want Me," and an early one, 1969's "Mr. Walker, It's All Over," a superb tale of urban and male kiss-off. Included instead of the standard hits are Spears' covers of songs better known by other singers, although her interpretive skills transform these into excellent performances. She makes Patsy Cline's "I Fall to Pieces" possibly even more heartbreaking than the original, captures the disappointment and ennui in the Ray Price hit "For the Good Times," and does a captivating version of "What the World Needs Now Is Love." Even "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and "I Will Survive" get some pretty sympathetic treatment from one of country's most neglected singers. Listeners may have to pair this collection with another one to get all of her hit material, but that doesn't make the material here any less moving. ~ John Bush
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