I first heard the Desert Rose Band in my brother's living room. I'd gotten the group's premier album to review and we put on "Love Reunited," the band's first single.

I didn't like it, or them."Love Reunited" had the jaunty, tumble-down-the-road feel of Jim (call-me-Roger) McGuinn's work. And since McGuinn and Chris Hillman - lead singer and song-writer

RECORDfor Desert Rose - were both former Byrds, I wrote the DRB off as derivative and uninteresting.

But as class acts are wont to do, the band wouldn't go away.

A few hits later they appeared at the Westerner in Salt Lake City, and I reviewed the show. I came away amazed; so much talent in one group; Hillman, of course, but there was also Herb Pedersen (who wrote vocal harmonies for the Parton-Rostadt-Harris "Trio" album), Jay Dee Maness (best steel guitar in country music for 10 years running) and John Jorgenson (the man who revolutionized lead guitar playing with his six-string bass and incredible transitions.)

I gave them a glowing report that night and said they were the band that Alabama, Southern Pacific and Exile wished they were.

That review is now part of the Rose Band's promotional package.

People can, indeed, come to see the light.

Now comes the Band's "best of" album, featuring all the jacked-up, jaunty tunes that have changed the face of country music over the past five years. There's the easy word play and lilting melody of "He's Back and I'm Blue," the Buck Owens tribute tune "Hello Trouble" (With Hillman doing a wonderful knock-off of Owens on the chorus) and perhaps the best song of the lot, John Hiatt's "She Don't Love Nobody."

The album's important not just because it marks a milestone for the DRB but because it coincides with the Byrds getting a Hall of Fame nod, a band of '60s rockers who - next to the Beatles - may have been the most talented group of the era.

Chris Hillman is with Desert Rose now, David Crosby's doing who-knows-what, Gene Clark is still singing and Roger McGuinn keeps writing great material. Gram Parsons (who actually got all this "desert rose" business going) passed away, of course, after leaving his legacy in the hands of his true love, Emmylou Harris.

Fittingly, Harris (also known as "Desert Sally Rose") does a duet with the boys here called "Price I Pay." It's very manic.

In the end, one or two songs don't really qualify as hits ("Will This Be the Day" and "Come a Little Closer") but then that's the case with these "greatest hits" things.

The good news is there's more quality you'll find on most anthology albums. I mean the incredible steel guitar work on "Price I Pay" is worth $14.95.

But then you have to remember, I'm a big DRB fan.

I knew them before they were stars.