Home Grown! The Beginner’s Guide to Understanding The Roots Vol. 1 & 2

Artist: The RootsTitle: Home Grown! The Beginner’s Guide to Understanding The Roots Vol. 1 & 2Rating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Jason Newman

The Roots have never been one to pander to traditional ideas of making and selling music. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Home Grown! The Beginner’s Guide to Understanding The Roots (Geffen) isn’t your typical greatest hits compilation. The title is a slight misnomer. However, this sprawling two volume set is far greater than the essential tracks a novice Roots fan needs to know. Where most greatest hits projects consist of, not surprisingly, a band’s most popular songs, The Roots (in classic Roots fashion) go the more ambitious route. Yes, there is a traditional line up of greatest hits lying somewhere among the 160-minute running time, but the group adds remixes, alternate versions, live versions and never-before-released new joints to pad out what could easily have been a throwaway release.

While the group’s entire studio catalog is evenly represented, Grown!’s inclusion of new songs, lesser-known cuts and alternate takes makes it feel more like a mix compiled by an obsessive Roots fan than a proper introduction to the band. The set is carefully constructed right down to ?uestlove's exhaustive liner notes detailing the history and circumstances surrounding each track. The notes are a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the forces, both internal and external, that shaped each song (and may even deter a download or two.)

So is this the best introduction to the band? That depends who you ask. Legions of already-diehard fans will argue that you need this much music to “understand” the band’s career and their long-established penchant for improvisation. The multitude of non-studio tracks, they’ll say, is needed to exemplify that for The Roots, no song is ever truly "finished." But for those who only know the band in passing, the set will most likely be an overwhelming experience that, while often rewarding, requires dedication on the listener's part. As ?uestlove himself says in the liner notes: “To truly understand The Roots as artists and as human beings you must exercise one character trait: Patience.” I couldn't have said it better myself.