When looking for a Rolling Stones greatest hits compilation, there are no shortage of choices as the band seems to release one every few years. When the GRRR! compilation came out in 2012, it was easy to scoff at the name, the gorilla picture on the cover and that it was yet another compilation release from the legendary band. However, looking back at the track listing, picking up one of the many deluxe versions was probably the one to get. With those being harder to come by these days, we had to go back and look at what else is available. We picked up the recently released, and terribly named, Honk compilation for hits after 1971. For the years preceding that, we also purchased the music collection staple and the band’s bestselling album, Hot Rocks 1964-71.
The first disc starts off with a few older tracks including “Time Is On My Side”. With a stop at the first major Mick Jagger/Keith Richards classic, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, the disc really gets going with 1965’s “Get Off Of My Cloud”. When we reviewed the boxset for Suede’s self-titled debut, we noted the track “Sleeping Pills” about housewives killing time and disappearing into their own minds. Possible inspiration may have come from “Mother’s Little Helper” with Jagger pleading – “doctor please, some more of these” as Mom’s just try to make it through the day.
With the technicolour 60s in full bloom, the nihilist anthem “Paint It Black” is a staggering look into the abyss. “I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes/I have to turn my head until my darkness grows”. A track like “Under My Thumb” would not get made today due to the overtly sexist lyrics of keeping a girl in her place. Having said that, it’s hard to resist Bill Wyman’s fuzz bass line and Brian Jones’ marimba that I’m sure was a standout in dance clubs throughout the 60s. The anthemic singalong ballad, “Ruby Tuesday” follows before the effervescent “Let’s Spend the Night Together” closes out the first disc.
With respect to “…Satisfaction”, the guitar riff of 1968’s “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” is right up there. The violence strewn “Street Fighting Man” still packs a punch. Nicky Hopkins’ piano and Jones’ sitar in the chorus adds a frenzy before both drop away in the verse to let Richards and drummer Charlie Watts hold a steady groove. “Sympathy for The Devil” keeps all its menace intact before the disc focuses on the Let It Bleed tracks including opener “Gimme Shelter” that sounds like a bomb going off while ushering out the sixties.
Where the album slips slightly is by including the nearly nine-minute live version of “Midnight Rambler” from the Get Yer Ya Ya’s album that came out a year earlier. It might make more sense on the album as the first track on side four but on CD it takes away from some of the momentum that has been in full force for nearly an hour. The choir that opens “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” is heavenly before the album closes with rock radio staples “Brown Sugar” and “Wild Horses”.
Of all the Stones compilations, Hot Rocks remains a firm favourite that has never gone out of fashion. The run of songs from middle of disc 1 to middle of disc 2 is extraordinary. The only nitpicking would be to swap out a couple of tracks and include “She’s A Rainbow” which seems to grow in stature every passing year. Even with a few minor quibbles, it’s hard to go wrong with the best rock music ever created.