The deluxe edition packaging, which includes a book (I love the photo of the practice drum kit Watts used on "Street Fighting Man"), is smart enough. But it's too bad the songs weren't sequenced in chronological order, to better show the band's evolution, and that the book doesn't include details such as when the singles were released and where and when they were recorded.
Then again, from the uninspired title ("Grrr!" as in "grrr, another greatest hits collection!") to the packaging, this one has the feel of a rush job.
-- "Crossfire Hurricane" -- Speaking of rush jobs, filmmaker Brett Morgen had about nine months to pull together this two-hour documentary, which premiered Thursday on HBO (it comes out on DVD on Jan. 15). He does a yeoman's job, considering he had a lot of material to sort through and so little time to sort it out, but it leaves you hanging in the end, cutting off at the early '80s.
Mostly because Morgen focused on the band's first 20 years -- when it was a fulltime occupation, not the part-time gig the Stones' became after infighting sidelined them through most of the '80s -- he is able to capture their incredible and sometimes unlikely rise. He skips their first couple of years altogether, jumping from behind-the-scenes footage from the band's 1972 American tour, when the Stones were at their most decadent (we see Jagger's bare butt, and a shot of him sniffing coke off a knife) to its mid-'60s pop stardom.
It's pretty much a whirlwind from there as Morgen traces their growth from innocents to societal bad boys to the showmen they became in middle age. Along the way there are screaming girls, rioting boys, cops and establishment press bent on the band's destruction and the almost cosmic forces that make their music a disquieting soundtrack of the '60s counterculture.
The death of founding member Brian Jones is an appropriately poignant moment here. The band-changing impact of a high-profile drug bust in 1967 and the murderous environment at their free Altamont, Calif., concert in 1969 aren't glossed over.
Morgen's two-hour ride wisely avoids talking heads and experts, and unwisely cuts out the women who played such key roles in the band's lives and music. Instead, he uses the recollections of the four current Stones -- Jagger, Richards, Watts and guitarist Ron Wood -- and former members Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor to tell this story of perseverance in spite of internal and external forces.Ê
Jagger, for example, defends his notoriously elusive nature in interviews as "a kind of protection against intrusion," not to mention a way to fend off the same questions over and over and over.
But the most telling observation is from Richards, who, recalling their formation, said, "We put together a band that was a little less show business. Show business was boring to us."
Of course, they're more about show business these days. Guess they'll talk about that in the sequel.
-- "Rolling Stones 50" -- Similar to, but much grander than their last retrospective book, "According to the Rolling Stones," this colorful collection includes more than 1,000 images arranged in chronological order from their first show show at London's Marquee Club on July 12, 1962, to shooting the "Shine a Light" concert film, with director Martin Scorsese in 2006.
It's filled with short reminisces by Jagger, Richards, Watts and Wood, whose blurbs are more reactive than insightful, and some wonderful concert photography.
But it's the words of drummer Charlie Watts, writing in the forward, that tells the real story of the band as it was and as it is now. "These days we don't see much of each other but when we get together we pick up right where we left off -- it's just like always," he writes. "In the early days we were very close; seeing each other and playing together almost every day was important to how we developed as a band."
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