In a way, it's like Garth Brooks never retired. He may have stopped touring and releasing new music, but he kept repackaging and reissuing his older albums, striking up an exclusive deal with Wal-Mart highlighted by a second box set called The Limited Series in 2006. That exclusivity contract expired in the summer of 2007, leaving Brooks a free agent, and he capitalized on his freedom almost immediately, delivering the double-disc singles collection The Ultimate Hits just in time for the holiday season of 2007. Where previous Garth repackagings could seem a little unnecessary -- it's not quite clear just how many of his fans needed that second Limited Series anyway -- The Ultimate Hits actually fills in a needed gap within his catalog, as Brooks hasn't had a hit compilation since his first, the 1994 The Hits. That disc was a "limited edition" at least in theory -- there were so many copies pressed it wasn't exactly rare -- and out of print since the mid-'90s, so it wasn't available in most retail stores, plus it didn't cover all the hits he had between its release and his retirement. The Ultimate Hits does exactly that, containing all 18 tracks from The Hits (albeit not in the same sequencing), adding 12 hits that he had in the last half of the '90s, along with four new songs highlighted by a cover of Huey Lewis & the News' "Workin' for a Livin'." The new songs are a nice touch, but the real purpose of this set is to offer casual fans a way to get all of Brooks' best-known hits in one package, and in that regard The Ultimate Hits not only succeeds, it's long overdue.