It contains some of his biggest hits released from 1979 through 1986. The album was released at a time when Elton John had just moved back to his old U.S. label, MCA Records. Geffen's last-ditch compilation was met with some disdain from the artist, who resented the competition against his new live album on MCA, which eventually bought Geffen in 1990.
Fully one third of the contents came from the 1983 album Too Low for Zero, the album that had received the strongest critical and commercial response of the era. Elsewhere on the collection, less successful but more recent songs such as "Wrap Her Up" and "Heartache All Over the World" were chosen over older but modestly more successful songs such as 1978's "Part Time Love" and 1981's "Nobody Wins". However, it did include two songs from MCA, 1979's "Mama Can't Buy You Love" (actually recorded in 1977) and 1980's "Little Jeannie". In the U.S., it was certified gold in February 1989, platinum in November 1991 and 2x platinum in October 1995 by the RIAA.
In 1992, this album was deleted and replaced with Greatest Hits 1976–1986. MCA had taken over Geffen Records, and control of copyrights had shifted such that 1977's Greatest Hits Volume II could no longer be presented as before. Two songs from it, "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" and "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word", were shifted to the new third volume, which also now included 1984's "Who Wears These Shoes". To make room for these additions, the 1986 non-hit "Heartache All Over The World" and 1983's album-only track "Too Low for Zero" were eliminated.