Words & Music: John Mellencamp's Greatest Hits

Words and Music is more than just an impressive retrospective from the bard of Belmont, Indiana. It's also proof positive that a man who calls himself "Little Bastard" can overcome anything — even having a dangerous "Cougar" thrust into his name.

On a number of fronts, Words and Music offers a compelling overview, including not only all the obvious hits ("Small Town," "Pink Houses," "Jack and Diane," "Hurts So Good," among them) but also two encouragingly vital new tracks ("Walk Tall" and "Thank You," both produced with Babyface) and a cherry-picked selection of lesser-known gems from the past quarter century. These songs, too, find Mellencamp at his best, sounding alternately philosophical ("Your Life Is Now"), pissed off ("Pop Singer"), horny ("Get a Leg Up") and hurt ("Teardrops Will Fall"). Say this for the Little Bastard: He fights authority, but authority doesn't always win.