If you kept your Stones albums in chronological release order in your record rack, you’d’ve noticed the studio albums were slowly being overtaken by live albums and compilations. Even though it had been three years since their last album, word on the street was that a new one was on the way. And that’s when ABKCO decided to cash in on both their catalog and the box set trend. They’d already reissued the American albums on CD, but as there were several extraneous tracks floating around, a collection of singles covering the London years (read: ‘60s) made some sense—particularly when they included some of the British Decca tracks too.
For the most part, it’s a well-paced set, with every single presented in order. This causes some eyebrow raising later on, however, when “Street Fighting Man” is followed by its American B-side “No Expectations” and the British choice, “Surprise, Surprise”, a Chicago blues session from 1964. Because the emphasis is on the singles here, many of the tracks are in mono and sound different from their LP counterparts. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, for instance, opens at the acoustic guitar and not with the choir.
Still, collectors could be excited about getting such early classics as “I Wanna Be Your Man” and “Stoned” and middle-period Dylan takeoffs like “Sad Day” and “Who’s Driving Your Plane?” Mick’s solo single “Memo From Turner” is a nice touch, while the failed singles from Metamorphosis don’t add much outside making sure the set was complete. And of course, since you only have them five times already, it also has “Brown Sugar” and “Wild Horses”.
As a “hits” album, Singles Collection is hardly a replacement for Hot Rocks, and since it only covers the sixties, it’s hardly complete. Therefore, it’s not the best place for newbies to start. But as a package, it is worth the bucks if you want to dig deeper. To get full value for your money, search out the original three-CD set in the LP-sized box, which includes a thick booklet of lyrics, recording notes and photos from the picture sleeves, printed in monochrome black on multicolored construction paper.
The Rolling Stones Singles Collection: The London Years (1989)—3½