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I've been a huge fan of the Dirt Band since I purchased their Uncle Charlie album in 1970--and I've bought every album since. Unfortunately, now that I'm looking to replace my old vinyl with CDs, I find that much of their catalog is out of print. In the case of their Eighties output, however, it's not a major tragedy. Much of what you'd want to hear from those albums is on this disc (and the companion disc, More Great Dirt).
Once you get past the fact that the first ten years of dirt are covered by only two songs (1970's "Mr. Bojangles" and 1975's "Ripplin' Waters"), this collection adequately covers the country radio-friendly tunes the Dirt Band recorded during their peak commercial years. [In fact, why didn't Warner Brothers simply focus on the Eighties? It would have made more sense than trying to promote this as a 20-year retrospective.]
Both "American Dream" and "Make a Little Magic" returned the Dirt Band to the pop charts for the first time in nearly a decade. They also shed any resemblance to being a bluegrass/country-rock band with the 1979 and 1980 albums those hits came from. With their follow-up album, Jealousy, in 1981 they continued to pursue a pop music course. "Fire in the Sky" from that album was about as far as you could stylistcally get from "Mr. Bonjangles." It wasn't until the return of long-time member Jimmy Ibbotson (who left after the classic Dream album) that the Dirt Band hit their stride again.
It was Ibbotson who wrote the joyous "Dance Little Jean," the energetic "High Horse" and the band biography "Partners Brothers & Friends," the latter with Jeff Hanna.
In 1984, Bob Carpenter joined the band on keyboards and vocals. His presence also added another songwriter. It's Carpenter's lovely ballad "Stand a Little Rain," released as a single and recorded specifically for this collection, that closes the set.
Unfortunately, this five-man lineup would record only two albums: Plain Dirt Fashion (1984) and Partners, Brothers and Friends (1985). After that album, founding member John McEuen would leave the band in 1986. [McEuen is a gifted banjo and fiddle player--as well as other stringed instruments--and his solo albums are worth seeking out.]
The Dirt Band would record two more albums in the Eighties: Workin' Band and Hold On. Songs from those albums along with tracks left off this collection can be found on the equally excellent More Great Dirt. These two "best ofs" offer an excellent overview of the Dirt Band's Eighties output. RECOMMENDED
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This CD is so much less than it could have been. 1986 marked the twentieth anniversary of the band and this is what we get? Eleven songs? Twenty years? What kind of career retrospective is that? I don't mind that there are no songs from their four albums prior to Uncle Charlie and His Dog Teddy (although the inclusion of "Buy for Me the Rain" would have seemed appropriate), but this collection contains only two songs ("Mr. Bojangles" and "Ripplin' Waters") from their first ten years--how skimpy is that?!!!
Essentially what this CD actually is, is a collection of their 1979-1985 country radio hits. And that's not altogether bad. I'm a huge NGDB fan and I own all the vinyl albums these songs came from. And except for the Uncle Charlie and the Dream albums, these songs represent most of what you'd want to own from this period of the Dirt Band's career. [An excellent overview of the Dirt Band's first ten years is the two-disc, 37-song Dirt, Silver & Gold reissued on One Way Records.]
My only complaint is the brevity and lack of scope of the song selection. There's nothing from their classic Will the Circle Be Unbroken album, and at only 45 minutes another six to eight songs could have easily been added. [The same could be said for the sequel: More Great Dirt, vol. II. It has only ten songs and 34 minutes. Again, great songs, but not much bang for your buck. In fact, these two discs would practically fit on a single disc.]
Bottom line? Five stars for the music, three stars for the skimpy song selection, minimal band history and photos. Maybe they'll get the job done right for the Dirt Band's Forty Years of Dirt Collection. RECOMMENDED
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VINE VOICEon March 26, 2005
For all of the complaints about this disc(lack of early tunes, too country, too brief), folks seem to forget that the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band has been around for a long time. Trying to pick the top hits from a band that has been consistently putting out great music is like trying to pick the best child in your family. It's impossible. Someone will get hurt because "their" song isn't included. Another person will cry because certain time periods or albums are focused on too much.

Anyway, take this album for what it is. It's a nice package of well known hits by a band that deserves the respect given to the top groups in country music. It doesn't include all of their greatest hits, but it has some great ones on it. Also, the price is great for such good songs.

Recommended to folks interested in learning more about NGDB who might have only heard songs like "Fishin' In The Dark" on the radio. It's not included here(but it is on their second greatest hits), but you will find "Mr. Bojangles," "Fire In The Sky," "Stand A Little Rain" and the brilliant "Dance Little Jean" and "High Horse."

If you think that too much of the album was focused on their hits of the eighties, buy their older stuff. If you find this album to be too country, go back to listening to Faith Hill and Mr. Faith Hill, I'm sure they're right up your alley. Leave the real country artists for the rest of us.

Thanks for reading my review. I highly recommend this disc.
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on August 16, 2016
The main reason I purchased this CD was for the song "Modern Day Romance". Even though I have some of the other songs in my collection, I wanted this song too.I could not find any other CD containing this song.
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on July 15, 2016
THE NITTY GRITTY DIRT BAND-TWENTY YEARS OF DIRT/THE BEST OF: Eleven tracks hardly seems adequate to sum up the first two decades of THE NITTY GRITTY DIRT BAND's formidable output, no matter how good these individual slices of euphoric folk rock may be. Aside from JERRY JEFF WALKER's heart-string tugging MR. BOJANGLES, the seventies are all but ignored, meaning you won't get to sample their earliest hit BUY FOR ME THE RAIN, let alone their sprightly interpretations of KENNY LOGGINS' HOUSE AT POOH CORNER and MIKE NESMITH's SOME OF SHELLEY'S BLUES. At least the big 1980 pop singles AMERICAN DREAM and MAKE A LITTLE MAGIC are here, followed by a string of smashes...notably the sentimental DANCE LITTLE JEAN and the hot two-stepper HIGH HORSE...which helped make them superstars on the country charts. THE NGBD actually lasted ANOTHER thirty years after this tribute (and counting, as of 2016)...WORKIN' MAN (NOWHERE TO GO), BABY'S GOT A HOLD ON ME and the chart topping FISHIN' IN THE DARK are chronicled on the appropriately titled companion compilation MORE GREAT DIRT.

RATING: FOUR GRITS
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on November 14, 2013
I have always loved their music. I don't hear them much anymore and was thinking about them and decided to get a CD for our car and am I glad I got this one. I liked it so much I got another one of theirs.
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on February 19, 2000
I still have the tape of this album. It was released in 1986, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's twentieth anniversary, and it includes my three favorite NGDB songs--"Mr. Bojangles", "Ripplin' Waters" and "Partners, Brothers and Friends". The latter two songs were written by Jimmy Ibbotson, who in my opinion is the Dirt Band's best songwriter. The one song here that was previously unreleased, "Stand A Little Rain", is also a great song. Bob Carpenter, NGDB's keyboard player, hardly ever sings lead vocals on an NGDB song, but on "Stand A Little Rain", he does a fine job of singing. The reason I give this record only four stars instead of five is because one song, "Fire In The Sky", doesn't sound country enough, in my opinion. True, the Dirt Band was influenced by pop music as well as folk and country music. Also, Ibbotson was not in the band when "Fire In The Sky" was originally recorded in 1981(he left NGDB in 1976 and rejoined the band in 1983). However, I think "Fire In The Sky", on which Jeff Hanna shares the lead vocals with Kenny Loggins, veers a little too far in the pop direction with its saxophone, although the song itself is well-done. Nevertheless, that's a small shortcoming. Overall, Twenty Years Of Dirt is a great collection. NGDB fans should have this one.
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on February 23, 2002
I have the tape of this album. Twenty Years Of Dirt was released in 1986, the twentieth anniversary of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. It has my three favorite Dirt Band songs on it: "Mr. Bojangles", "Ripplin' Waters" and "Partners, Brothers And Friends". The latter two songs were written by Jimmy Ibbotson, who in my opinion is the Dirt Band's best songwriter. The record also includes a number of other Dirt Band classics, as well as one previously unreleased song, "Stand A Little Rain". Bob Carpenter, NGDB's keyboard player, hardly ever sings lead on a Dirt Band song, but on "Stand A Little Rain", he does a fine job of singing. The reason I give this record only four stars instead of five is because one song on here, "Fire In The Sky", doesn't sound "country" enough, at least in my opinion. True, the Dirt Band was influenced by pop music as well as folk and country music. Also, Ibbotson, who besides the since-departed John McEuen was probably the band member with the most "country" musical background, was not in the band when "Fire In The Sky" was recorded(he left NGDB in 1976 and rejoined the band in 1983). However, I think "Fire In The Sky", on which Jeff Hanna shares the lead vocals with Kenny Loggins, veers a little too far in the pop direction with its saxophone, although the song itself is well-done. Nevertheless, that's a small shortcoming on a solid album. Overall, Twenty Years Of Dirt is a great collection. NGDB fans should have this one.
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on July 11, 2005
While this is supposedly a 20 year career retrospective of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, it only includes two songs from the band's first ten years. The first four songs cover the bands "pop" hits (although "Ripplin' Waters wasn't a hit), while the remainder of the album features their "country" hits. While the bands early years definitely get the short shrift here, most of the songs are good. It's a decent compilation that will be a disappointment to fans of the bands early stuff.
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on January 29, 2015
Have always loved the Dirt Band's music, but never had purchased any. Then a friend of mine, who was close friends with the Dirt Band members, passed last summer and I picked this up for a "send off" party. Always good tunes from these guys. Everyone enjoyed this.
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