Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Rolling Stones 6: Big Hits

In two years’ time, the Stones had released five albums in America, compared to three in the UK (where there were more songs exclusive to EPs and 45s). These had some great tracks and actual hit singles, of course, but with the possible exception of their debut, those LPs were increasingly chaotic, with arbitrary sequencing and consisting of a strange menu of covers, tentative songwriting attempts and incongruous “live” recordings punctuated by screaming girls. And for the completist, several but not all of those B-sides and EP tracks were scattered throughout, leaving little continuity. In that time they’d also evolved from an R&B combo to actual competition to the Beatles in the songwriting category.

So in many ways their first “great” album, and a much better place to soak up all the history up to 1966, is Big Hits (High Tide And Green Grass). This collection brings together practically all the snotty songs we love: “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, “The Last Time”, “Get Off Of My Cloud”, “19th Nervous Breakdown” and so forth. A few not-quite-hits like “Tell Me”, “Play With Fire” and “Good Times, Bad Times” and key covers including “Not Fade Away”, “Time Is On My Side” (here in its “guitar intro” incarnation) and “It’s All Over Now” round out the set, and if you’re feeling sensitive, there’s always “As Tears Go By”. The LP even came with a full-size booklet of dreamy photos. (Naturally, the British version, which came out eight months later, had different tracks and a different cover.)

If you love the Stones, you’re going to want those first five albums anyway. But for a starting point, Big Hits (High Tide And Green Grass) does the job well. And there’s nary a clunker in the set.

The Rolling Stones Big Hits (High Tide And Green Grass) (1966)—5

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