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50 Number Ones

Having a No. 1 hit requires a rare blend of skill, talent and luck. To have as many as George has had ... well, who knows how he does it? But he's done it again and again for 22 years - and there's no end in sight.

One thing's for sure: George has not achieved this feat by changing with the times. That's the first lesson in this two-disc, two-and-a-half-hour, 51-track anthology. The leadoff song is George's current hit, "I Hate Everything," and the second is his first-ever chart-topper, 1982's "Fool Hearted Memory" - and the two songs sound like they could have been recorded at the same session. George's style is just as consistent as it is timeless, which makes 50 Number Ones about the most listenable greatest-hits album around.

This compilation also demonstrates the success George has had with ballads - as a whole, 50 Number Ones is much slower and more romantic than any of his original studio albums. Quicker paced tracks like "Ace in the Hole" and "Heartland" are in the minority here, overwhelmed by simmering numbers like "You Look So Good in Love" and "Carrying Your Love with Me." But one of the most important things fans can learn from 50 Number Ones is just how many of George's signature tunes never reached the top spot. "Unwound," "The Fireman," "The Cowboy Rides Away," "Amarillo by Morning" and others were never No. 1s, so they don't qualify for inclusion here. Their absence makes 50 Number Ones a less-than-definitive look at George's career.

That said, it's hard to argue with this much great music in one package. It's a nearly overwhelming testament to one man's masterful singing, unfailing good taste and enduring artistry.

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