I’m a Stones fan from way back. You knew this already, from reading these pages… I own all the studio albums, most of the comps, some of the live stuff… And for some reason I never bought this compilation when it finally hit CD (the vinyl was released way long ago, in 1975…). Don’t ask me why I never picked it up, I ‘ve certainly eyed it in the shops many times. Well, at least I had enough foresight to throw it on my Amazon wishlist and, voilà, all these years later and come Christmas morning there it was!
Can I even begin to describe what a pleasure it is to hear these songs? A collection of outtakes and different versions of known tunes, it’s a real keeper. Oh sure, most of these aren’t the “hit” tracks, but as a fan who’s heard some of the nitty and the gritty, these are awesome snapshots of a band that held its creative peak for so long it’s not fair to other groups. Getting to hear these songs now, many of them for the first time is, for me, like finding a Lost Stones disc from the ‘classic’ early years. Which is what it is.
NB #1. One Amazon reviewer pointed out something I hadn’t noticed: this may be one of (if not the) only Stones record with 6 band members pictured on the cover [the artwork of which, you’ll also notice, is a nod to Kafka (of course)]! Cool.
NB #2. I have leaned heavily upon Wikipedia for song details contained below. It’d be nice if you believed I am this knowledgeable just on my own, but it’d all be a lie. However, the opinions contained herein, for what they’re worth, are all mine. Ready? Of course you are.
I like this demo version of Out Of Time (with strings added!), and Don’t You Lie To Me is originally a Tampa Red song, though Fats Domino and Chuck Berry covered it. The Stones covered the Berry version. It’s a rocker as only the Stones can do such a thing. Somethings Just Stick In Your Mind is a mournful, repetitive, slightly cheesy track. Each And Every Day Of The Year plods along a bit, but there are enough elements here to keep it interesting. Trumpet! I like trumpets.
Heart Of Stone is not the album/single version. It has Jimmy Page on guitar! This one’s a bit slower and a bit more… what? Bluesy? Swinging? Swaggering? Yes. I like it. I’d Much Rather Be With The Boys is a tuneful keeper, complete with handclaps. (Walkin’ Through The) Sleepy City is pure west coast sixties, would sound great coming out of a jukebox. And it has a solo on bells. Oh my. We’re Wastin’ Time is a sweet waltz (yes, it’s a bit disorienting) that still sounds like it could’ve been on England’s Newest Hitmakers. Cool guitar solo, here. Try A Little Harder is a chugging little 12-bar rocker with harmony vocals and persistent tambourine.
I Don’t Know Why, originally a Stevie Wonder song, was recorded the night the news of Brian Jones’ death broke (the band was recording Let It Bleed at the time). I’d need to listen to this track another ten times to tell you what I think of what it says. It’s typical of the period, musically, a quiet build into a mid-tempo Stones stomp rocker. This may be the most affecting track here, which is saying something since every track here is a keeper.
If You Let Me is a Between The Buttons outtake, and it’s a simple, pleasing little tune with lots of build and then release, build and then release pacing… Jiving Sister Fanny is pure Stones jangling-blues rock. I love it, even the odd bit where Taylor’s guitar solo kicks in and it’s way louder in the mix than Mick’s vocals. Way louder. Anyway, I could hear the Black Crowes covering this one, easily. Right in their wheelhouse.
Downtown Suzie (originally titled Sweet Lyle Lucie) is a Let It Bleed outtake, and includes Ry Cooder on guitar. It’s an acoustic blues that struggles a bit to hold together in the intro, and with backing vocals that sound tired or bored (or stoned) here and there. Weird. But then it kicks in, complete with bongo drums (I think) and it sounds like a Stones jam around a campfire. Eventually in there somewhere it becomes a typical Stones full-band rocker too… Cool. Family Is a Beggars Banquet outtake, an odd little rocker that switches tempos and dynamics quite often. Memo From Turner (not the version from Performance) features Al Kooper on guitar, and may also contain some Steve Winwood and Jim Capaldi (with Traffic at the time). It’s a cool tune. Mick’s talking more than he’s singing… I don’t have the Performance version here, so I cannot compare. And finally there’s I’m Going Down has Stephen Stills on guitar. It’s a pure Stones rocker. It’s that sound, so indelible and perfect. It’s all a bit lost-sounding, somehow, but it’s pure Stones.
Whew! I’ve played this disc three times since I received it as a gift and I love it. It’s a real gift, though, to be able to add (to me) unheard early Stones to my collection. Yes, I’m way behind the times, but I consider myself lucky to have this one here, now. I will play it often, for sure.
Hooray! Thanks heaps, Mom!