This 2008 release is arguably one of the more successful packages to properly assemble highlights from Michael Nesmith's pre- and post-"National Band" era. Perhaps that is because the artist himself was involved in the compiling. A good three decades earlier than the world was ready for, Nesmith single-handedly kicked off the whole alt-country scene via his First and then Second National Band. The contents of Disc One begin with "Rio," "Casablanca Moonlight," "More Than We Imagine," and "Navajo Trail" off of FROM A RADIO ENGINE TO THE PHOTON WING (1976). This is followed by a healthy sampling of his subsequent effort, INFINITE RIDER ON THE BIG DOGMA (1979), which would be his last studio album for a decade. Fast-forward a dozen or so years for the sublime TROPICAL CAMPFIRES (1992), which Nesmith recorded and then presented in complete Dolby Surround Sound.
In a wise move that doesn't repeat earlier entries and simultaneously offers updates of vintage Papa Nez songs, Disc Two looks back on his career with "Different Drum," "Two Different Roads," "Papa Gene's Blues," "Propinquity," "Some of Shelly's Blues," "Joanne," "Tomorrow and Me," "The Upside of Goodbye," "Harmony Constant," and "Silver Moon"--all of which are taken from the superior LIVE AT THE BRITT FESTIVAL (1992). Listeners are then transported back nearly two decades for "Life, the Unsuspecting Captive," which is the opening theme from THE PRISON (1974), a project structured around a short story/novella of the same name. Taking another giant step back in time are the WICHITA TRAIN WHISTLE SINGS (1967) versions of Nesmith's Monkees-related numbers "Nine Times Blue," "Papa Gene's Blues," and "Sweet Young Thing," while the songs "Dead Man's Duds" and "Escape to San Marcos" are highlights from TIMERIDER: THE ADVENTURES OF LYLE SWANN (1982). RIO: THE BEST OF MICHAEL NESMITH should be considered as definitive an anthology as exists on Papa Nez circa the late '70s, '80s, and '90s.