Toby Keith, 35 Biggest Hits

Toby Keith
35 Biggest Hits

As the title suggests, Keith’s third greatest hits package collects 35 of his biggest hits. It is a two disc set that spans his career starting with his very first hit, “Should’ve Been A Cowboy” and concludes with his current previously unreleased single (and not found on any other album), the gratuitous, yet amusing, “She’s A Hottie”. The only album that is not represented in this collection is Big Dog Daddy, Keith’s first studio album on his own Show Dog Records label, which is likely being saved for a future hits offering. It appears that the songs are neatly sequenced in chronological order, according to the date they were released as singles.

AS the chronology theme dictates, the first disc opens with Keith’s smash debut single, “Should’ve Been A Cowboy”. This catchy, endearing tune about the wistfulness of the cowboy life is a fun way to begin the album. The song’s innocence and recurring guitar pattern make for a thoroughly enjoyable listen after all these years. The three other notable singles from Keith’s debut album are showcased as well: “He Ain’t Worth Missing”, “Little Less Talk And A Lot More Action” and the cleverly phrased “Wish I Didn’t Know Now.”

The first CD continues with a string of hits from Toby’s nineties career. “Who’s That Man” is from the perspective of a man who is lamenting the loss of his family and possessions. As he drives by his old house, he notes that everything is the same except for the man who is running his life by, literally, running what had once been his life. In somewhat the same vein, Keith revisits the divorce theme in his duet with Sting, “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying.” Since his estranged wife is asking how he is doing and for his forgiveness, we can assume that this is another situation where the divorce is not necessarily a mutual decision. It sardonically captures the bitter emotions of a single dad with joint custody. While this song is good, it probably would work even better without the inclusion of Sting, despite the fact that he’s the one who wrote it.

“You Ain’t Much Fun” is one of the first singles that alerts us to Toby’s clever, but twisted, sense of humor. The man realizes that his wife isn’t much fun since he quit drinking. In fact, instead of being drunk, she’s expecting him to be a responsible, sober contributor to the household who carries out the orders on her “Honey Do” lists. The moderate hit, “Getcha Some”, is a fun song that utilizes Keith’s deep voice to narrate a more mature version of the playground chant “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes {insert name} with a baby carriage.

Ballads such as “A Woman’s Touch”, “Me Too”, “We Were In Love”, “Dream Walkin’” and “You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like this” show Keith’s romantic side. This is something that is not as prominent as we enter the second disc.

As we leave Keith’s songs of the nineties, we also leave the calmer era of Keith’s career and enter the decade where his songs are more edgy, both in production and content. As we finish up the first disc, we start to see the upturn in Keith’s career as he switched to the Dreamworks label. “How Do You Like Me Now?” showcases Keith’s attitude in a way that most people only dream of being able to say to the person who rejected them in the past. Although Keith’s change of fortune is often attributed to his controversial “Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue”, “How Do You Like Me Now?” marks the actual beginning of the level of success that Keith currently enjoys.

Speaking of the “Angry American”, “Courtesy” is included on the second disc of the hits collection. As we all know, its aggressive sentiment in the emotionally raw time of 9/11 caused a lot of controversy. Due to its controversial nature, it likely remains one of Keith’s most well known songs. Toby’s patriotism shows up a couple more times on the disc with songs such as “American Soldier” and “Honky Tonk U.”

While patriotism is a theme on the second disc, drinking songs are even more prominent. An extended version of “I Love This Bar” is an ode to the bar crowd, which helps to set the tone for bar rompers like “Whiskey Girl”, “Stays In Mexico”, “As Good As I Once Was” and “Get Drunk And Be Somebody.”

“Beer For My Horses” features Willie Nelson as one of three duet partners on the project. While this song is certainly not one of Keith’s best, Nelson’s voice is strong and makes the song well worth a listening ear. The other duet, with Keith’s daughter, is an energetic, infectious cover of “Mockingbird.” Not only is it absolutely clear that his daughter inherited her daddy’s impressive vocal abilities, it’s nice to hear the often seemingly gruff Keith have some fun with his kid.

While many have argued that this package is premature, there is no doubt that it is a comprehensive representation of Toby Keith’s career thus far. For the more serious fans who already own all of his studio albums, this collection is pointless, with the exception of the one new track that is also available as a digital purchase. However, for the people who enjoy his music on a more casual level, this is a great opportunity to integrate some Toby Keith music into your music collection.

Over all, as I listened to this album, I was genuinely entertained and reminded of Keith’s abundant talent, which is not limited to the strength of his distinctive vocals and his keen ability to write and choose some good country songs.


  1. Thank you for a very well-written review. And I am one of those fans who already had all his studio albums, both greatest hits albums, and I still couldn’t wait to add this to my collection. Love the new song, “She’s a Hottie,” but even more it’s so nice to have what has commercially been received as his greatest work all together. I am one of those fans who believe that some of his best work has never been released. It’s always nice to have Toby’s vocal talent recognized, along with his daughter’s.

  2. This album is a very good value and apart from a fade edit on “Who’s That Man” the songs weren’t butchered due to time constraints like on the 50 GREATEST HITS collection George Strit issued a few years ago

  3. The songs from Big Dog Daddy aren’t being “saved”; he’s doing this only to fulfill contractual obligations with Mercury. And Paul, I assume they probably used the single version of “Who’s That Man”, which fades right after the instrumental break?

  4. Stephen, I was aware of the contractual obligation situation. However, I am wondering how the songs from his first record, before DreamWorks, was included. Did DreamWorks buy those albums?

    Paul, good point about the uncut songs on the package. I wonder why they included the single version of “Who’s That Man” while seeming to include the album versions of the other songs.

  5. i wouldn’t pay any attention to this blog if i didn’t think the editors (re)views weren’t worthwhile reading. however, i wonder, whether it’s time well spent reviewing “greatest hits” compilations to such an extend?

    the verdict on the material is already known for quite some time: it’s the commercially most successful output during a certain period of time -full stop.

    instead of commenting again, what has been judged long before, why not considering a valuation system based on numbers? simply, add together the peak-positions of each hit and divide it by the total number of hit-songs on the record. this average gives you immediately an idication what we are looking at. the sampler with the lowest average must be the best value for money. bonus tracks count for nothing because they are only teasers/fillers. should they turn out to be of some quality they might be found on the following “greatest hits” album anyway.

    by using a number-based evaluation one could also see immediately who’s been a major hit-maker (low average) and whose greatest hits were not such great chart-busters after all (high average). as a benchmark i would suggest a basket consisting of averages of a dozen chart-topping artists (male and female) of the last 50 years.

  6. Tom,

    The problem with that approach is the country chart is airplay only, so whether or not a song is a “greatest hit” would be solely defined by the weeks it received the most airplay in relation to the other songs on the chart, not the actual popularity of the song with fans.

    Was “Honey I’m Home” a bigger Shania Twain hit than “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” because it went to #1, while Man! stopped at #4?

    Was “Cold Day in July” a bigger Dixie Chicks hit than “Goodbye Earl” because it went top ten and “Earl” didn’t?

    The only single out of six from Vince Gill’s “When Love Finds You” that wasn’t a top ten hit was “Go Rest High On That Mountain”, but it won CMA Song of the Year and is now one of his signature songs.

    Even using Toby Keith, his most popular song is probably “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue”, the one that made him a superstar. But it only spent a week at #1, compared to multi-week #1 hits like “I Wanna Talk About Me” and “My List”, which aren’t quite signature songs for him.

    So in short, I don’ t think that formula would work.

  7. Tom, you make a fair argument about the need for greatest hits collections to be reviewed so extensively. I suppose I could have just written the first paragraph and the last two and the review would have been sufficient. I, however, write my reviews out of passion for the music and the review really just ended up coming out much longer than I had originally intended.

    To make a couple of other points though, I think there is a validity in reviewing greatest hits as though they are another album for an artist. I have a zillion CDs, but I do not buy each album of every artist. So, greatest hits packages are an important part of my music collection. Often times, I will buy a GH collection to see if I would be interested in buying more from the particular artist’s discography and there are many bad greatest hits out there. So, ultimately, I would not have written this extensive of a review if it had been one of those BMG collections. But since this collection is more substantive than the average collection, I feel it deserves a more thorough review.

    Finally, while your equation for rating a GH collection is quite methodical, it lacks the passion that drives me to write reviews in the first place.

  8. Along with reviews (which on a side note I am digging Leeann) I also think that a list like the Greatest Women list Kevin is doing would be sterile if it were strictly based on numbers. The opinion/analysis is what makes it personal and enjoyable, at least for me.

  9. kevin,

    there are actually two reasons why i brought this argument up:

    1. i realised that there are quite a few reviews of “greatest hits” compilations, when reading through your “album reviews” section but it turned out that these reviews were at best “semi-helpful”.

    2. they were only “semi-helpful” because when it comes to big hitters like george strait, alabama, willie nelson, george jones, dolly, reba etc. there is an amazing amount of compilations issued over the years and an objective guiding-line would be quite a helpful tool to make the best possible pick. why not creating one if you think reviewing compilations adds value to the section.

    regarding your examples, which i liked and provided some food for thought, you are right and wrong. as long as generally accepted charts exist do not argue with them, but no doubt, there’s more than just airplay that determines the quality and impact of a piece of music, which again, makes some of your other lists such pleasant reading. however, a number one hit, even if it’s only for one week is by definition bigger/greater than anything that did not make it to the top-spot (see shania, dixie chicks). vince gill’s “go rest…..” is without any doubt an essential song of his catalogue, but sadly, was not such a big chart success. it would be top listed for an “essential hits” sampler but when it comes to “biggest” or “greatest” hits it might even not make it onto the record.

    when it comes to toby keith, whose music i really like and have collected from the first release, let me just point out that on this side of the atlantic, he did not receive the same reaction as at home, when this song came out. but since this would lead into politics, leave me off the hook by saying that at the end of the day, it was a #1 song like the others, therefore, surely a must on any toby keith compilation be it “biggest/greatest” or “essential”.

    final question: have you ever heard an artist or a label manager say: “i’d love to have a #1 song for 3 weeks”?

  10. leeann

    first of all: congratulations ! your review on toby keith’ 35 biggest hits has been noticed in the new and in the old world – even in times of the www. that’s not nothing.

    i think it’s great, when someone is so passionate about something that the person gets carried away by it. still, reviewing compilations is like walking, when there’s a ride available – not the obivious choice and a moderate waste of time and effort, in my eyes.

    taking up your point that gh-samplers are not useless in order to get some idea about an artist’s work, why not trying to dig a little deeper, when reviewing the past again, triggers so much passion in you.

    for example: i believe dierks bentley is releasing a gh collection soon/now (the picture-perfect output path: 3 studios give enough hits to make the fourth release a gh). a review of that sampler album resulting in your conclusion, whether this artist’s output can easily be covered by buying the sampler or perhaps his impact on today’s country is so significant that it’s worth to spent something more by chosing the slightly more expensive way of buying all his studio albums, would be much appreciated, at least by me, since i’m currently dealing with this very question.

    i feel, it’s the different approaches and views that make reviews the more or less fascinating reading that they are. a new tool, even if it comes from the methodical section of the tool-box should not be mistaken for being a passion killer – it’s just another angle to look at the same thing.

    your passionate writing attracted already readership around at least half the globe – keep on going, next stop asia.

  11. Nowadays, “Greatest Hits” collections seem to be the last 10 or 12 singles the artist issued, with maybe the most recent single or two held over for a the next hits collection, and a few new recordings the label hopes will be hits .

    In the 50s, 60s & 70s it was not uncommon for some fairly big hits to never make it onto a hits collection. RCA never did put Charley Pride’s “It’s Gonna Take A Little Bit Longer” (a 3 week #1) and they issued 3 ‘Best Of’ and 2 ‘Greatest Hits’ collections (with almost no overlap) on Pride. MCA never issued a hits collection on Cal Smith, and Capitol’s two Hank Thompson hit collections contained only about half of his charted Capitol hits. The 1967 release by Columbia’s of Johnny Cash’s Greatest Hits barely skimmed his output up ’til that time. The 1968 Ernest Tubbs Greatest Hits had maybe 15% of his hits on it as did the Webb Pierce’s Greatest Hits (and both were full of remakes). In the 1970s the some labels cynically started issuing “Encore” or “Biggest Hits” albums which hugely overlapped the already issued hits collections with a few different songs to entice the buyer

    I think if you are not a diehard fan of an artist, Greatest Hits collections are a good way to go. While I may have an occasional album (mostly early career albums) by the likes of Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Phil Vassar, Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney, mostly their representation in my collection is in the form of Greatest Hits collections Chesney

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