Compiled by Janis Ian herself, the two-CD The Essential Janis Ian offers a wealth of material spanning more than 40 years, though it might not be quite what some listeners primed for a best-of are expecting. Ian's most commercially successful recordings spanned less than half this period (roughly from the late '60s through the early '80s), and while the most famous songs from that era are here, greater weight is given to her post-1990 material. That might disappoint some listeners wanting to hear her most familiar tunes, though it might reward some of her more dedicated admirers by giving them a chance to listen to some work that has largely passed under the media radar. Whatever the era, Ian stylistically remained very much in a personal singer/songwriter vein. And yes, her teen hit "Society's Child" is here (though her late-'60s recordings are very sparsely represented), as well as her most prominent songs from her 1970s stint with Columbia Records, "At Seventeen" and "Jesse." Although there's not much in terms of rarities, there are a few inclusions that collectors will appreciate, among them a mid-'60s demo of "Hair of Spun Gold" that predates the version from her first album; a previously unissued 1978 track, "I Long for You"; a live 2000 performance of "God & the FBI"; the single version of "At Seventeen"; "Ginny the Flying Girl," originally heard on the 1981 Sesame Street album In Harmony 2; and re-recordings of "His Hands," "Some People's Lives," "Days Like These," and "Through the Years" done especially for this compilation.