Part of the pleasure of Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto games is that they create their own world filled with clever, imaginative details, and one of the most obvious and satisfying of those details is the radio stations they create for their GTA games. It's not just that there's a variety of stations covering different genres, it's that the song selection is sharp and endlessly listenable -- which is a big bonus if you're going to spend hours listening to these stations as you complete game missions. San Andreas, their 2004 installment of the series, it the most ambitious yet, recreating the Southern California of the early '90s, starting in a re-creation of Los Angeles and then expanding to variations on Las Vegas and San Francisco. The music to the game is similarly sprawling, not just covering the omnipresent gangsta rap and grunge of 1991/1992, but also classic soul, reggae, classic rock, new jack swing, classic hip-hop, and country. There are many hits here, but what brings these stations to life is that each has some idiosyncratic selections, choosing songs that aren't widely heard on the radio, whether it's such album tracks as David Bowie
's "Somebody Up There Likes Me" or such country gems as Jerry Reed
's "Amos Moses." Both of these appear in the game, but the accompanying eight-disc box set soundtrack only contains the latter, presumably due to licensing restrictions. There are a few other songs that appear in the game that aren't here, but this isn't a set for music collectors, it's a set for fans of the game who want enough of the highlights from each of the stations so they can re-create the gaming experience in their own, real-life cars (well, at least the driving aspect of it, anyway). On that level, this works tremendously well, since each of the eight discs is well sequenced and well chosen and represents its genre well. Plus, the packaging -- the size of a DVD, not CD, box set -- is very attractive and would fit nicely next to the games on the shelves, making this a cool collector's item for hardcore GTA fanatics.