I remember buying this 2CD set in Saskatoon when it was released (2002). I remember my lovely wife (then-still girlfriend, we married a year later) just smiling understandingly as I babbled about my excitement for it. She has long known about my addiction to this band.
I also remember it living in our car stereo for a good long time. In retrospect, I ought maybe to have shown more respect to one of my favourite bands ever than playing them in the shitty CD player of our shitty, shitty Kia (I hated that car), but there you go.
Made to celebrate the Stones’ 40th anniversary as a band, it is, of course, chock full of many of the hits you’d expect. Of course, many are missing, and we can always argue that this or that track deserved inclusion, etc (see below), but as you go through that line of thinking to its logical conclusion, you soon realize that you might as well give up on the compilation idea entirely and just buy all the friggin’ albums. That’s what I did!
A few days ago, I posted about GRRR!, the Stones’ 50th anniversary compilation set. In comparing these two track lists, most of the songs are duplicated between this 2CD set and my GRRR! 3CD set. Quelle surprise (not)! However, a couple of songs are missing that I find it worthy of note:
On Forty Licks, but not on the 3CD GRRR!:
Mother’s Little Helper
You Got Me Rocking
Now, all three tracks do show up on the 80 track deluxe edition of GRRR!, but these would be songs I’d think should have been on all 3 versions of GRRR! Weird that I missed them when reviewing that set… which is, I suppose, just more proof that the Stones have so many damn good songs, one here or there gone missing isn’t noticed until later!
Of course, GRRR! has a ton of songs that Forty Licks does not, but that makes sense when they had a whole extra disc’s-worth of space to play with. Anyway. I think those three (above) ought to have been on the GRRR! set, especially Mother’s Little Helper… And now we get down to…
The Real Reason To Get Forty Licks: Four New Songs!
Don’t Stop is a sweet, airy mid-tempo Stones rocker that plays it pretty straight. There isn’t a whole lot of guitar interplay like the Stones do so well, but it hardly matters. It’s a true new classic in the Stones catalogue. If they played it live, people would sing along and match every hand-clap, for sure!
Keys To Your Love is pure Stones slow jam lovefest, complete with Mick falsetto intro and chorus bits. It’s pretty straight-forward, though the middle section has some pure Keef chord changes. I like the guitar solo, too. Simple, but not. You know the kind. It’s pure feel.
Stealing My Heart chugs with some heavier 90s guitar chords, not sounding like any Stones song we’ve heard until you focus on Charlie’s drums. Only one man sounds like that! There a Stone pop elements to it, though, and once Mick starts singing it’s obvious. The guitar solo goes for textures more than it goes for improvised soloing, but it works for ths song. Good on them for trying this, I liked it off the bat and I still like it now, all these years later.
Losing My Touch is my favourite new track on this set, gentle piano and guitar bring in Keef’s little Tom Waits impersonation haha. It’s a sweet and low ballad, gorgeous in its imperfections. Keef’s voice is just what it needs to be, and the song goes along beautifully. I like the pedal steel guitar adding some country feel, the piano as a backbone, and Keef’s understated guitar solo… all of it is as it needs to be.
When I bought this, I was thrilled to get so many new songs on a career retrospective set like this. The Stones always find a way to make releases like this interesting and worthy of your hard-earned. Sure, I didn’t need Satisfaction in my collection for yet another time, but at this point, I buy what this band releases and to hell with duplications galore in my collection!
Forty Licks is worth it for the new tracks alone. Get you some!