All Time Greatest Hits
He's best known for his folksy and humorous novelty songs, but Roger "King of the Road" Miller is a deeper artist than that: His voice had a subtle country twang, and as a writer, he treasured language, finding insight in the most nonsensical formulations. All Time Greatest Hits presents 20 of Miller's most memorable performances, and all but five are songs he wrote. The bulk of this retrospective (13 cuts) is rightly focused on the artist's dominant 196465 chart run, when his Jerry Kennedyproduced singles for the Smash label routinely landed at or near the top of the country chart and often climbed into the pop chart's Top 40. The unqualified classic of the bunch is, of course, the aforementioned timeless paean to honorable rootlessness, "King of the Road," but there's also the loopy treatises "Dang Me" and "Chug-a-Lug" (does anyone hear in this song's send-up of a happy drunk a cautionary tale of temperance?). The goofy, vaudevillian salute to the local kiddie show host, "Kansas City Star," includes the timeless couplet, "Kansas City Star / That's what I are," and "You Can't Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd" is a gently swinging commonsense guide to happiness. Yet there's more than first meets the ear on many cuts, such as "Engine Engine #9," which masks a tale of lost love behind a sweet, catchy children's verse, and two devastating ballads of broken hearts, "The Last Word in Lonesome Is Me" (possibly the most clever song title ever) and "Husbands and Wives," the latter the last word in explaining a disintegrating institution. A songwriter who could infuse a kooky ditty with wry social commentary, or at least a meaningful story, Roger Miller was simply one of a kind, as every cut here proves.