18 RARE CLASSICS is an oddly organized but appealing collection of songs drawn from throughout Haggard's 10-year stay at Capitol Records. When this disc was released in 1991, many of these tracks were indeed "rare" to CD collectors (thus the title); most, however, have since been reissued on other collections. The lack of any other chronological or thematic link among these songs means that CLASSICS lacks the cohesion of other collections. Still, the material here is uniformly strong, and budget-minded shoppers will appreciate the chance to pick up eighteen Haggard recordings at one low price.
One of the strengths of 18 RARE CLASSICS is the way it shows off the many facets of Haggard's music. The mix includes nostalgic ballads ("The Way It Was in '51"), social commentary ("A Working Man Can't Get Nowhere Today"), Western swing ("Got A Letter From My Kid Today"), and honky-tonk ("Making Believe," "Green, Green Grass Of Home"). The collection leans heavily on heartbreak ballads, which are among Haggard's many strong suits. Also included are five Top Ten singles.