The Rolling Stones' 50th anniversary celebration is in full swing.
As is to be expected with such a rare milestone, at least in the world of popular music, there's plenty of commemorative merchandise to go around -- a line of T-shirts at Kohl's, books, skis, whiskey, DVDs and another greatest hits collections. They're doing plenty of interviews, too, often pointing out that even though they played their first gig as the Rollin' Stones in 1962, they consider the addition of drummer Charlie Watts in January 1963 to be their real beginning.
As the Stones ramp up for shows Sunday and Nov. 29 in London and Dec. 8, 13 and 15 in the New York area (the last on pay-per-view TV), I thought I'd look at three of their most important anniversary
releases. They cover a lot of ground, but feel like they were done quickly. Maybe because the ground's been covered before.
-- "Grrr!" -- The Stones have released periodic collections of their hits since their first, "Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass),"╩in 1966. They've assembled them at various turning points since, usually a record company change or anniversary.╩What Stones fan doesn't have "Through the Past Darkly," "Hot Rocks," "More Hot Rocks," "Made in the Shade," "Rewind," "Jump Back" and "Forty Licks,"╩among others?
"Grrr!," which comes in four different editions, has two new songs and is aimed at completists and newer fans who don't have much of their music in their iTunes collections. They cut two songs last spring
in Paris as they geared up for what promises to be a lengthy 50th anniversary party that could extend well into next year.
Singer Mick Jagger wrote "Doom and Gloom," a swinging rocker (and not one of his frothy ballads, thank God) and a buoyant appeal to have fun and "come dance with me" in a world full of negativity. Guitarist Keith Richards' "One Last Shot" is a little more poignant, and it grows on you. It's a musical cross between "Street Fighting Man" and "Mixed Emotions" that asks for another chance, a fitting sentiment for a guy who had to mend yet again a rift with Jagger, with whom he was once joined at the hip.
They're not great, but they're certainly better than questionable inclusions such as "Highwire," the preachy Persian Gulf War obscurity, and "Don't Stop," one of the so-so songs the band cut for 2002's 40th anniversary "Forty Licks" box set.
The rest of the three discs in the $30, 50-song deluxe version is pretty predictable. Still, it's an impressive body of hit singles and album tracks that, taken as a whole, trace the band's evolution from a blues and R&B cover group in the early '60s ("Come On," "Not Fade Away") to a hit-making pop machine in the mid-'60s ("Satisfaction," "Let's Spend the Night Together") to social commentators and provocateurs in the late '60s ("Gimme Shelter," "Sympathy for the Devil") and decadent rock stars with an edge in the '70s ("Tumbling Dice," "Miss You").
The Stones pretty much became a part-time band in the '80s and it -- and the decreasingly collaborative Jagger-Richards songwriting team -- shows in the lack of consistently good material. At least the $150, 80-song version does a better job of filling in some gaps.
The audio quality is a nice surprise. Slip on the headphones and you can practically see Jagger singing "You Can't Always Get What You Want" alone in the vocal booth, or hear just how tight the horns are on "Honky Tonk Women."
Most Popular Stories
- Bipartisan Budget Deal Gets Key Support in House
- Bitcoin Clones Lurch Onto Financial Scene
- Clinton to Keynote Annual Simmons Leadership Conference
- Budget Deal Will Cut 220,000 Californians Out of Jobless Benefits
- Futures Fall, Holiday Spending and Unemployment Up
- Senate Not So Keen on Budget Deal
- Oil Nears $98 a Barrel
- Health Coverage Disparities Emerge Among States
- Selena Gomez, Shakira Among Top Hispanic Searches
- PhD Project Grooms Business Profs