There are about a dozen collections like this available on CD, and most of them are even similarly titled. But this one truly lives up to its name, not only because of its range -- reaching out not only to the most familiar of Copland's popular compositions, but also to his lesser known (but equally worthy) concert pieces, such as "Quiet City" -- but also for going into oft-neglected corners of the Sony Classical library, as well as into the newly linked BMG Classical (formerly RCA Victor) library. Even the moments that might well be weak, involving the composer's own recordings of his work -- Copland was never noted as a terribly skilled conductor, and lacked an assistant/associate of the caliber of Robert Craft (who performed that function for Igor Stravinsky on the latter's post-1950 recordings of his own work) -- have been carefully selected for their quality. And the result is not only Copland's greatest hits, but also, arguably, within the context of a two-label anthology, the best of Aaron Copland. Michael Tilson Thomas' "Fanfare for the Common Man" starts things off, and then we move on to one of the finest of Copland's own recordings, "El Salon Mexico" with the New Philharmonia. Then it's on to some popular excerpts, Simple Gifts from "Appalachian Spring" (John Williams/Boston Pops), "Hoe-Down" from "Rodeo" (Leonard Bernstein/New York Philharmonic), Copland's own "Billy the Kid" excerpts with the London Philharmonic, and The Promise of Living from the composer's oft-forgotten late-'50s Boston Symphony Orchestra recording of the suite from "The Tender Land." Williams and the Boston Pops make a return appearance for "Quiet City, for strings, trumpet, and English horn," with solos by Tim Morrison and Laurence Thorstenberg; Leonard Slatkin and the Saint Louis Symphony are represented on Grovers Corners from "Our Town"; and pianist Leo Smit takes us "Down a Country Lane," an early Copland piece intended for solo keyboard or school orchestra. The main body of the collection finishes with Carl Sandburg's reading of the "Lincoln Portrait," accompanied by the New York Philharmonic under André Kostelanetz (who commissioned the piece). One of the jewels of the Columbia Masterworks library, this recording was neglected for decades in favor of those with better known speakers such as Henry Fonda and Gregory Peck; in fact, Sandburg's recording is one of the three best ever heard (the others being by William Warfield, a Grammy-winning recording that has never reappeared on CD, and Katharine Hepburn), and given Sandburg's scholarly and professional connections to Lincoln, carries cultural resonances far beyond those of his voice. Recorded in 1958 and originally paired on LP with similar American-themed works by Howard Hanson and Samuel Barber, this recording was previously relegated to a comparatively obscure, more scholarly oriented double-CD anthology, and to a 2006 compilation called The Aaron Copland Collection; perhaps between that CD and this, it can now get properly rediscovered. As "bonus tracks" (how does one append "bonus tracks" to a collection that never previously existed and, thus, never had a basic form?), the producers have included "Hoe-Down" as done, in a decidedly playful manner, by percussionist Evelyn Glennie and the National Philharmonic Orchestra under Barry Wordsworth, and the same piece as performed with electric amplification by Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. And they both fit perfectly into the collection. The sound quality is also excellent, the makers obviously having used the latest remasterings on all of the vintaqe material, and achieved a good balance in material ranging across more than three decades of recording. The flow of material is sublimely exquisite, as on the gossammer-textured transitions from "Quiet City" to the opening section of "Our Town," through the equally subtle shift to "Down a Country Lane"'s solo piano, and into "A Lincoln Portrait," then onto the more modern appended interpretations of "Hoe-Down." And there's even some spare though decent annotation, not always a given on budget-priced collections.