The star rating system takes into account that these are "Acquisitions Of The Year". Therefore * represents 50-60%, ** is 60-70%, *** is 70-80%, **** is 80-90% and ***** is 90-99.9% (we're talking Pet Sounds or Forever Changes here). The retail price, actual price paid, packaging etc. are not relevant to the rating
Ramones Anthology - Hey Ho Let's Go! (78.55/77.18)*** P 1976-1995, P 1999
There are two essential questions facing an overview such as this: What's On It and What's Not On It. The Ramones were very prolific over their 21 year existence, a smart band playing dumb music. They seemed untroubled by the oxymoron facing most bands as to how to change whilst at the same time staying the same. To whittle down their entire repertoire to just two discs seems nigh on impossible, yet the compilers here have made a fair stab at it, and managed to squeeze in 58 tracks by the band, from debut single Blitzkrieg Bop at the birth of blank generation punk in 1976 to final studio album Adios Amigos in 1995. The package comes well documented and with a fullsome, illustrated 80 page book detailing their career from an inside perspective.
As you would expect, most of the most famous singles are on it, along with representative tracks from the albums Ramones, Leave Home, Rocket to Russia, Road To Ruin, End Of The Century, Pleasant Dreams, Subterranean Jungle, Too Tough To Die, Animal Boy, Halfway To Sanity, Brain Drain, Mondo Bizarro and Adios Amigos. The first 21 tracks all date from the intensely creative 18-month period when the first three albums were released, and where the average Ramones track lasted just over two minutes.
Sometimes the singles versions varied from those on the albums and the 45 rpm versions of Swallow My Pride, Sheena Is A Punk Rocker, I Don't Care, Needles And Pins, My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes To Bitburg), Something To Believe In, Merry Christmas (I Don't Wanna Fight Tonight) and Pet sematary have been selected for this anthology.
There are quite a few comparative rarities including the previously unreleased original film soundtrack mixes of Rock'n'Roll High School and I Want You Around. Carbona Not Glue only appeared on early pressings of the first album before being removed due to complaints from Carbona. I Don't Want To Live This Life (Anymore) was an out-take from Animal Boy that turned up on a UK 12", and Motorhead's tribute song R.A.M.O.N.E.S. was only on the Japanese pressing of Adios Amigos.
Despite being very effective composers themselves, the band loved to pepper their repertoire with some well-chosen covers, and this is reflected through the inclusion of California Sun, Surfin' Bird, Needles And Pins, Tom Waits' I Don't Wanna Grow Up and R.A.M.O.N.E.S.
So what's not on it? For a start, despite the Ramones releasing at least three live double-albums and numerous live B-sides, this Anthology features only studio recordings. This is probably sensible, as is the absence of any demos or unreleased out-takes. A couple of key tracks are noticeably absent, including Judy Is A Headbanger, Time Has Come Today and the Spector-produced Baby I Love You single, one of their biggest hits, though to me far less memorable than the Ronettes original. The album of psychedelic covers, Acid Eaters, is not represented by a single track and is written off in the sleeve notes as a "'covers' misfire", which seems a little harsh from what I know of the album.
Although I have been able to identify some examples of tracks I thought ought to have been included, it is harder to pick out what should have been left off to make way from them, since each disc has a playing time approaching the maximum, suggesting that the right balance has been achieved.
RIP Joey, Dee Dee, Johnny.
(review filed 22 July 2006)
The Very Best Of Jimmy Reed (53.57/53.15)*** P 1953-1965, P 1996
Anyone who likes rhythm and blues doesn't have a collection if they don't have a Jimmy Reed disc nestling on their shelves. His rudimentary approach, with his wife audibly prompting him and sparse accompaniment, is proof that good music is not just about technical proficiency, although the simplicity is deceptive and Jimmy's vocals and harmonica and Eddie Taylor's guitar work complement each other brilliantly well. Originals like Big Boss Man, Shame Shame Shame, Bright Lights Big City and Baby, What You Want Me To Do have become standards, played by a million bands, just like Chuck Berry songs
(indexed 12 August 2003)
Found Love (42.06)** P 1955-1960, P 2000
Having acquired a couple of Jimmy Reed compilations, the next inevitable stage is to want a complete original album by the "Bossman" and one could do a lot worse than begin with the 1960 Vee-Jay set, Found Love. The title song was a contemporary hit (the single version had an overdubbed bass) and the album featured the first appearance of lasting favourites like Baby What You Want Me To Do, as covered by everyone on the planet, Hush Hush and Big Boss Man (even Elvis recorded that one), songs that crossed over from the R&B charts and became national hits. I Ain't Got You, recorded in 1955, is also featured, as later covered by the Yardbirds with Eric Clapton, though most of the tracks were recorded in 1959 and 1960. Remarkably for a blues album, Found Love hit the US album charts at the time of its release.
This digitally-remastered edition on Charly has four bonus tracks: the original B-side version of I'm Gonna Ruin You (1955), The Sun Is Shining (1957) and I'm Gonna Get My Baby (1958), both hit singles, and Please Don't, an outtake from the Found Love sessions of December 1959. I don't know if the first three have any special relationship to this album but it is certainly good to have them
(review filed 9 June 2004)
Me And My Shadows/Listen To Cliff! (77.03)* P 1960-1961, P 2001
Listen To Cliff! is fairly awful, only the 8 tracks with the Shadows being bearable, and at times the album really becomes unlistenable. It spawned no singles.
The Shadows, however, who had been his backing group since 1958, were the most accomplished instrumental group in the country at the time, and were hit makers in their own right through Apache, Man Of Mystery, FBI and, at the time of this release in 1961, The Frightened City. Presumably, though, they had career plans of their own. Several of the songs on which they appear are homegrown, usually written by Bruce Welch and former drummer Pete Chester, though Hank B Marvin gets one credit. The album is presented in mono.
The reason for buying this release is for Me And My Shadows, Cliff's 1960 album on which he is backed throughout by the Shadows in their classic line-up of Hank Marvin, Bruce Welch, Jet Harris and Tony Meehan, all heard here to good effect, and in welcome stereophonic sound.
Cliff is no Elvis, having a rather soft clean-cut tone and absolutely no sense of dangerous testosterone levels. However, he is well employed on the set of songs chosen here, mostly written by past and present members of the Shadows and embellished by some off-the-peg songs by regular contributors, including one by Elvis writers Ben Weisman and Fred Wise. Ian "Sammy" Samwell, their ex-bass player and manager, who wrote Cliff's debut smash Move It and Dynamite among others, has a hand in half a dozen of the songs including his solo composition I Cannot Find A True Love, an album highlight which graced the B-side of the hit from the album, Gee Whiz it's You (two non-album hit singles preceded it).
If your collection is short on British rock'n'roll albums, this is among the best examples of the genre to have, once you have acquired Billy Fury's The Sound Of Fury, of course
(review filed 20 January 2005)
A Rainbow In Curved Air (40.26)**** P 1969
One of those records you always remember hearing for the first time, back in the 1960s. It is apparent now just how hugely influential Terry Riley was, and the coupling on this CD, Poppy Nogood And The Phantom Band, is both equally good and completely different
(indexed 24 June 2003)
Hey Little Cobra - And Other Hot Rod Hits (30.55)** R 1962-1964, P 1996
"We've been going steady, and you've been making me cry. Now it's your turn baby, so I'm saying bye-bye". Over the sound of a revving engine Gracia Nitzsche from the Blossoms utters these iconic words at the start of Gone, before blasting away in a hot-rod into a new world of empowerment, leaving the Rip Chords standing alone on the corner, recalling the event in a frenzy of tattered emotion. When I first heard this on the radio in the stuffy environment of the BBC Light Programme in 1963, it seemed the perfect pop statement of a new era. It was the time of the surf and hot rod crazes, the Beach Boys, Phil Spector's Wall Of Sound and some new guys from Liverpool, but still a year before the Shangri-Las, and it made Birmingham, England, seem a million miles too far from California.
The Rip Chords were essentially originally Phil Stewart and Ernie Bringas, formerly known as the Opposites, augmented or replaced on record by producers Terry Melcher and Bruce Johnston and others, and backed by the top Los Angeles studio guys. Collectively referred to as the Wrecking Crew, they featured among their number Leon Russell, Steve Douglas, Glen Campbell, Carol Kaye, Earl Palmer and Hal Blaine, to name but a few.
Hey Little Cobra was released to capitalise on the US hit of the same name and also included the earlier singles Here I Stand, a revival of a minor hit by Wade Flemmons and the Newcomers from 1958, and Gone. The B-sides were The Queen, Karen and She Thinks I Still Care. The "Jackie" referred to in The Queen, is apparently the great Jackie DeShannon, then the girlfriend of Terry Melcher, apparently given to putting on airs, driving around in a Sting Ray, thinking she's a queen and treating everybody mean, according to this Dionesque ditty. She Thinks I Still Care had been a hit for George Jones the previous year, and is included in its album version, which has additional vocals compared to the original single version.
Most of the album has a hot-rod theme, including Beach Boys and Jan and Dean revivals among several Melcher/Johnston originals, and is one of the most prime examples of the genre. There are three bonus tracks not found on the original album, these being Karen, the 1964 single Don't Be Scared and its instrumental flipside Bunny Hill.
Apart from the two bonus B-sides all the tracks are in stereo. These have been taken from the original master tapes but, due to imperfections of balance that would have been corrected at the mastering stage for the vinyl release, sometimes lack oomph. My only other criticism is the rather short playing time of under 31 minutes.
(review filed 14 February 2006)
Hello Starling (Promo) (43.16)** P 2003
Hello Starling is the third album by Josh Ritter, a singer-songwriter and guitarist originally from Moscow ID who has been steadily building support since his first self-released album in 1999, particularly in his native States and in Ireland, where he initially toured supporting the Frames. For this album, Dave Odlum from the Frames was enlisted as producer and the album was recorded over a fortnight in February 2002 in a converted dairy barn near Angers in France (also used by Dave Odlum for an EP with Gemma Hayes in 2001), and with Josh's touring band augmented by Dave Odlum helping out on guitar and mandolin.
As a teenager, Josh Ritter had been inspired by discovering Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash playing together on the Nashville Skyline album, and has also acknowledged Townes Van Zandt, Leonard Cohen and Gillian Welch among his influences (there is a nod to Townes Van Zandt on this album's Kathleen, also the title of one of his songs). He studied American History through narrative music at college, spending six months in Scotland at the School of Scottish Folk Studies, and also made a study of American religious music, American Civil War songs and late 19th century popular ballads, parlour songs and cowboy songs.
Although he has found his own voice and a clear natural style it is clear from his stripped back approach and the meticulously recorded instruments that he has learned well and deeply from all these guiding legacies and adaptations. This is an album that has been built to last and leaves one keenly anticipating the next
(review filed 26 July 2005)
Singles Collection - The London Years (67.43/68.41/49.21)** R 1963-1968, P 2002
The Singles Collection first came out in 1989, in vinyl, cassette and CD editions, and was re-issued in 1995. Its purpose was to collect the singles released on the Stones' American and British labels London and Decca. Since the singles are presented in order of their release, it is a set that compiles itself. The EPs The Rolling Stones, 5 By 5 and Got Live If You Want It were not included.
The 1989 edition contained many botched edits, some fake stereo and the UK album version of Time Is On My Side instead of the single. This CD re-issue corrects many of the faults of the earlier releases, including Time Is On My Side, and claims to contain the original single masters. It represents a very useful way of replacing worn and scratchy old 7" singles or LP compilations. It has been mastered using Sony's Direct Stream Digital process and also contains an SACD layer for those with the appropriate equipment.
The track listing has not been changed, or the warts and all packaging. "The original sleeve artwork and liner notes have been retained," Steve Rosenthal, the archive co-ordinator for the Stones' back-catalogue project, said on its release. "We've not added anything – if things are misspelled, that's because that's the way they were done at the time." Indeed, many of the recording dates and other information appear to be questionable.
Other Stones CD singles collections such as Big Hits (High Tide And Green Grass), Through The Past Darkly, Hot Rocks, More Hot Rocks are said to feature true stereo recordings 'where appropriate'. "They have artistic integrity and deserve to come out for historical purposes," said Jody Klein, the restoration producer. The majority of The Rolling Stones Singles Collection, including all of the first two discs, is in mono (for reasons of authenticity, one would hope), as per the original release of each single, but the sound quality and definition, even on standard systems, would be hard to better.
Have You Seen Your Mother Baby Standing In The Shadow? and Mother's Little Helper appear at slightly faster speeds in this series of re-issues as it was found that previous tape masters were slow due to a production fault. This is also true of the three titles that appear on Beggar's Banquet.
Sometimes, when stereo and alternative mono mixes were prepared, further overdubbing and other differences were introduced. Where album versions differ from the singles, such as with Brown Sugar, Street Fighting Man and Tell Me (You’re Coming Back), the correct single version should have been used, but there are examples in this new edition where this has been fudged.
The single mix of Brown Sugar was not quite the same as the one included on Sticky Fingers and the 45 was variously available in mono and stereo in different regions and/or pressings. The version here does appear to be a stereo mix of the single, thankfully. Similarly, Street Fighting Man appeared on the US single in a unique mono mix with a triple-tracked lead vocal, and this is the version here.
Tell Me (You’re Coming Back) originally appeared in the UK on the debut album The Rolling Stones where it was over 4 minutes long and had a raggedy ending where it just stopped instead of fading out. Some later issues corrected this and had a fade ending at around 3:47. It wasn't on the US version of the album but was released instead as a single in an edited version which omitted the instrumental break and the chorus that follows, running at around 2:37. This is the version that should be here, but instead the fade-out album version has been used. The correct version was used in The Singles Box facsimile version.
The Under-Assistant West Coast Promotion Man is apparently the Out Of Our Heads version, not the US B-side with its reportedly "uncensored" lyric. Ruby Tuesday is not the single mix, which had an extra Mick Jagger vocal overdub on the chorus, but is the album version, first found on Between The Buttons in the US, but in this case mixed down to mono. It thus lacks both authenticity and the benefits of stereo sound. This may also be true of Heart Of Stone, although I do not have the stereo mix with which to compare. It would be interesting to know if the Singles Boxes that were subsequently released corrected any of these errors.
For UK purchasers, on the first CD, all but seven of the 25-tracks did not appear on original Rolling Stones albums (though they may have been anthologised elsewhere), and three were unreleased at the time. On the second disc there are 12 UK non-album tracks out of 20, including Sad Day, which didn't get a UK release until over seven years later. This is therefore a set worthy of consideration for a buyer who has or intends to have some original albums in their British versions. Of course, many more singles were included on their American LPs, making this set less good value.
Things go slightly awry with the basic concept of the box set on the less essential third CD. Firstly, Street Fighting Man is included without one of its British B-sides (Everybody Needs Somebody To Love). It's other B-side, Surprise, Surprise is of interest as it is an early example of a Jagger/Richards composition, recorded in September 1964. They evidently didn't care too much for it and donated it to a charity compilation LP called Fourteen (Lulu and her Luvvers made a more impassioned version of it and put it on a B-side the following year). Honky Tonk Women then breaks ranks and bursts into full stereo from the first cowbell, whereas the single was mono. Its B-side, the short version of You Can't Always Get What You Want, is found here in mono (The same stereo version of Honky Tonk Women can be found on the SACD issue of Through The Past Darkly).
After that, Mick Jagger's solo single Memo From Turner turns up, from the film Performance. This does not involve any other Stones apart from Keith, who co-wrote it, and again it is anachronistically stereo. The rest of disc 3 is entirely stereo but by this time singles that played in stereo were becoming commonplace.
Brown Sugar follows, but this is the single that launched their own record label, Rolling Stones Records and also served to introduce the Sticky Fingers album. Neither it nor its US follow up, Wild Horses, belong here as they were not released on the London or Decca labels. Their B-sides - Bitch, Let It Rock (Live At Leeds) and Sway (an alternative version) - all recorded during the same period as Sticky Fingers, are not included, so suddenly the whole collection lacks its internal consistency.
After this, no more Rolling Stones Records are included, but releases which their old labels London and Decca continued to release throughout the seventies, without the Stones' approval, fill the rest of the third disc, including some publishers demos Mick and Keith put together in the sixties (all of these can be found on Metamorphosis) and recycled album tracks.
The collection ends with Sympathy For The Devil, the version from Beggar's Banquet, which turned up in 1976, on the flip of a re-issue of Honky Tonk Women. It's a great track, but not one that the Stones themselves ever released on a single.
Without these final tracks, starting with Memo From Turner, and with errors corrected, the collection would have made a superb and cogent double CD. With the missing EPs included instead it would have been a wonderful box set. As it is, it is still valuable but an imperfectly realised round-up.
(review filed 24 February 2005)
Through The Past Darkly (Big Hits Vol. 2) (38.15)*** P 1964-1969, P 2002/
12 X 5 (32.24)**** P 1964, P 2002
The Stones' entire Decca output had been shabbily treated until now: poorly mastered, reprocessed stereo, available only in re-packaged American versions where hit singles replaced unique material. Now most of them have been given a complete make-over, and presented in pristine quality from the best available masters, tracked down from the many studios they recorded in around the world, and they sound just great, especially those from the Chess Studios in Chicago, often in stereo for the first time.
(indexed 4 April 2003, revised 11 January 2004)
Out Of Our Heads (UK Version)(29.36)*** P 1965, P 2002
This original LP was recorded in Hollywood and Chicago throughout 1964 and 1965 and shows them just beginning to move away from cover versions with 5 of the 12 tracks being their own compositions. Although the disc says "this stereo hybrid SACD can be played on any standard Compact Disc Player", it stays stubbornly mono throughout, but sounds great
(indexed 21 May 2003, revised 11 January 2004)
Metamorphosis (48.03)* R 1966-1970 P 1975, P 2002
Curiosity value wins this unapproved collection its one star by the skin of its teeth. The Stones' contract with Decca Records ended on 31 July 1970 and they formed their own label, Rolling Stones Records, for new product beginning with Brown Sugar and the Sticky Fingers album. Their former label unsurprisingly continued to release what they had in the vaults, both previously released and otherwise, beginning with the compilation Stone Age, timed to coincide with the release of Sticky Fingers, and then with others such as Gimme Shelter, Hot Rocks 1964-1971, Milestones, Rock'n'Rolling Stones, More Hot Rocks (Big Hits And Fazed Cookies), and, aptly, No Stone Unturned.
Metamorphosis followed in 1975 with poetical sleeve notes by Andrew Oldham promising "songs and stars to take you back/Some old some new, some gone, some due..." and offering thanks to "Jimmy Page, John McLaughlin, Phil Spector, Jack Nitzsche, Gene Pitney, John Paul Jones, Joe Morrett, Art Greenslade, Messrs Leander and Whittaker, Tony Hicks, Graham Nash, Dave Hassinger, Glyn Johns, Jimmy Miller, and all those we remember had it on the rocks, but forgot the rock they got off on."
There was little clue as to the provenance of what was on offer except that they all dated from their Decca period (London label in America). To tie in with the release, one track had been released as a single, I Don't Know Why, a stirring cover of a relatively obscure Stevie Wonder single from 1969 which had been flipped in favour of the more popular My Cherie Amour. It may be apocryphal that the Stones' rendition was being recorded on exactly 3 July 1969 when a phone call interrupted the session with the news of Brian Jones' death by drowning. He had quit the band less than a month earlier, and Mick Taylor had taken his place in the band.
The B-side was an unknown Jagger/Richards song called Try A Little Harder, which they had recorded as a publisher's demo on 13 February 1964 at Regent Sound, with session musicians replacing the rest of the Stones. Mick and Keith did a lot of these in the sixties, in a bid to establish themselves as songwriters in their own right, much as Lennon/McCartney had, by offering unrecorded new songs to other acts.
Of the first 9 songs on Metamorphosis, 7 seem to be more publisher's demos created by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, probably recorded with Arthur Greenslade, Mike Leander and David Whittaker, between 1964 and 1966, with a couple of the Hollies adding back-up vocals.
The first of these is Out Of Time, a demo with Mick Jagger's guide vocal over the arrangement as used by Chris Farlowe on the released version, which of course was a huge hit for him in 1966. The version here, recorded from 27 April 1966, was also extracted as a single in September 1975. It flopped here and reached no. 45 in the States. Sleepy City (September 1964) was recorded by the Mighty Avengers; We're Wasting Time (September 1964) by Jimmy Tarbuck; Each And Every Day Of The Year (September 1964) for The Thee; Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind (February 1964) for both Vashti and Dick and Deedee; I'd Much Rather Be With The Boys (February 1965) for the Toggery Five.
The two exceptions are a Rolling Stones cover of Chuck Berry's Don't Lie To Me (the composer credits are wrong, and reviewers who think it was on their first British EP are mistaken; that was Bye Bye Johnny), recorded 12 May 1964 with Ian Stewart on piano, the same day they recorded Congratulations; and a version of Heart Of Stone that is quite a lot sweeter and more poppy than the original American single included on Out Of Our Heads, and has pedal steel guitar and chorus. The basic track for this was recorded 21-23 July 1964 with Mick Jagger being the only Stone involved, suggesting that this Jagger/Richards song was originally intended for someone else.
The final six selections all sound like Rolling Stones outtakes, probably from sessions for the later Decca albums Between The Buttons, Beggar's Banquet and Let It Bleed. Collector's of hen's teeth should note that Downtown Suzie is an almost unique Stones-period Bill Wyman composition.
Memo From Turner was released as a single in a different version from the film Performance, credited to Mick Jagger, that featured Ry Cooder's bottleneck guitar, so it is fascinating to hear this slightly later version by the Stones, recorded 17 November 1968, although it is inferior. Finally, the last track, I'm Going Down, has what sounds like Bobby Keyes on saxophone, and may date from early Sticky Fingers sessions in 1970 as it would not sound out of place on that album. A curate's egg of an album
(review filed 21 February 2004)
Rarities 1971-2003 (79.30)*** P 1971-2003, P 2005
Rolling Stones Rarities 1971-2003 is a compilation put out on the Virgin imprint in 2005. Most of the fare on offer is already available on CD, and none of it is previously unreleased, though three tracks make their official CD debut here. Rarities is a somewhat self-defeating title, since with its release on a major label the description immediately ceases to be true.
Although the subtitle of 1971-2003 suggests a wide-reaching overview, nearly three-quarters of the album dates from the 1980's and 1990's, with only one track more recent than 1998.
The four titles dating from the 1970's are potentially the most valuable as they pre-date the CD era. The El Macambo version of Mannish Boy is available on two CDs (Love You Live and Sucking In The Seventies) so its inclusion here is frankly shoddy, but the other three are new to the format.
Let It Rock is the oldest and most important recording here, a Sticky Finger era recording featuring Mick Taylor live at Leeds in March 1971, which appeared on the B-side of Brown Sugar but was missing from Singles Collection - The London Years, which included the rest of the maxi-single. It is here in its stereo mix. Incidentally, the gig was edited into an hour-long BBC In Concert radio programme at the time, and was re-broadcast on BBC 6 Music as recently as 2003, albeit in mono. Perhaps the whole gig will make it onto a stereo CD one day.
Through The Lonely Nights is the only other track from the Mick Taylor line-up and appeared on the flip of It's Only Rock And Roll. It is a long-time favourite of many and is one of the strongest justifications for this collection. Of course there are many more B-sides from this decade that demand an appearance on CD and their exclusion here is saddening.
The other new-to-CD track is the 12" mix of Miss You, Mick Jagger's first attempt at remixing, and far superior in my opinion to the standard album version and single edit. However, it is disappointingly incomplete, a minute shorter than the vinyl release; a fact that is undocumented in the liner notes, which actually imply it is the full deal. As a matter of fact, the liner notes are so full of falsehoods and errors as to be worse than useless and are best ignored.
Despite all these shortcomings, this is a collection which plays surprisingly well, kicking off with the excellent Fancy Man Blues, the B-side to Mixed Emotions, an uninhibited blues with Charlie on cracking form. The set remains coherent and interesting throughout, favouring the blues roots to which they returned with good effect over the decades, and features some undervalued B-sides where they actually sound engaged, as well as some efficient dance-floor extended mixes (including Mixed Emotions and Harlem Shuffle). It ends with a live version of Live With Me from March 2003 which was previously only to be found on the Four Flicks DVD. Nevertheless, it can only be viewed overall as a missed opportunity.
(review filed 17 October 2006)
More Hot Rocks (Big Hits And Fazed Cookies)(38.13/52.28)*** R 1963-1969, P 1972, P 2002
First released in 1972, this sequel to Hot Rocks 1964-1971 is necessarily somewhat short of greatest hits, as these had been liberally spattered all over the earlier double album. Nonetheless it does sport half a dozen A-sides. Surprisingly, these include The Last Time and It's All Over Now which were both number one hits in the UK, and Not Fade Away, which reached number three here. However it looks as if the collection was put together by the Stones' former US label, London, as it includes several selections that were on singles in America but that were album tracks in the UK, such as I'm Free and Lady Jane. Tell Me was also an early US single, though here it is in a longer version that was on the British version of their debut album.
Unlike Hot Rocks which, with just a couple of exceptions, contained only songs featured on singles, More Hot Rocks provides a wider and richer peek into the Stones' vast back catalogue by also plundering albums and assorted odds and ends. Out Of Time, for example, and Sittin' On A Fence were well-known songs because they were hits for Chris Farlowe and Twice As Much, but the Stones' own renditions were only on album. What To Do and Let It Bleed are also album tracks.
The Stones were more adventurous, diverse and experimental than a cursory run through their hits would indicate, and the B-sides chosen here make the point nicely: Good Times Bad Times, Dandelion, Two Thousand Light Years From Home (more like the Pink Floyd than anything else), Child Of The Moon, No Expectations and Long Long While.
Rarities include Poison Ivy (Version One) and Fortune Teller. These two covers were recorded as a follow-up to Come On, their debut British single, but were rejected and instead turned up later on a mixed artists compilation that nobody bought entitled Saturday Club. Money (That's What I Want) and Bye Bye Johnny come from their first British EP, which was not released stateside. I Can't Be Satisfied was on the UK version of their second album but was unreleased in the US.
One of the aims of the reissue programme was to find the best and purest sources of the Stones' masters and get as many variants in catalogue as possible, excising all electronic stereo. Therefore, whereas the Singles Collection is all in mono up until Honky Tonk Woman, this compilation is liberally sprinkled with stereo where available, including It's All Over Now, the We Love You/Dandelion single and Child Of The Moon. Sonically, it is a big improvement on previous CD editions and sounds even better in SACD, though it maintains the authentically bright sound of the original production, as the aim here was not to remix.
Three other tracks have been added to this US version of the album, all unavailable on any other CD. Curiously, I think this is the only instance of this happening in the whole 2002 re-master reissue programme. Everybody Needs Somebody To Love is the five minute mono version of the Solomon Burke song that opened the UK album Rolling Stones No. 2 but was accidentally replaced on the US equivalent album Rolling Stones, Now! by a shorter rehearsal version. Since the 2002 reissue programme did not include the British versions of the first two albums, this is the only place it can be found on CD (along with I Can't Be Satisfied, in a splendid stereo mix, thereby making all the tracks on Rolling Stones No. 2 separately available). Poison Ivy (Version Two) was recorded three months after the abandoned single version and is the third track to have appeared on the UK EP Rolling Stones (the fourth track, You Better Move On, can be found on December's Children). I've Been Loving You Too Long is the previously unreleased undubbed studio master of the track that appeared on the US album Got Live If You Want It, replete with fake audience hysteria. It was actually recorded at the RCA Studios in Hollywood and sounds vastly better without the overdubbed noise.
(review filed 25 June 2009, revised 27 June 2009)
All The Hits (57.04)**** P 1963-1966, P 1995
At first glance this Classic Hits/Charly label release seems to largely duplicate The Best Of The Ronettes on Phil Spector/EMI, but contains several extra tracks not available on that CD or elsewhere: the later Jeff Barry produced single I Can Hear Music, a couple of more obscure but welcome singles: Oh, I Love You, possibly the weakest track they recorded with Spector and unbelievably the American topside, with the sublime Is This What I Get For Loving You? relegated to the flip, and the jazzy, delightfully throwaway Blues For Baby which backed up the lovely Born To Be Together). It also featured two earlier dance covers (The Twist and Mashed Potato Time) by the Crystals, but on which Veronica (Ronnie Spector) sings lead. These were originally from The Crystals Sing Their Greatest Hits Vol. 1, an LP never blessed with a CD release and, like so many Phil Spector albums, long since deleted on vinyl.
The Best Of The Ronettes contained all but two of the tracks that made up The Fabulous Ronettes (one of the greatest albums ever made and scandalously unavailable in its original form). These two, Chapel Of Love and the live What'd I Say, are included here but, along with all the other tracks from that album, in the stereo mixes that Phil Spector prepared for their UK vinyl reissue in 1975. This was a joy to discover as it is untrumpeted on the CD itself, and makes this compilation complementary to the Best Of collection.
Also included is Why Don't They Let Us Fall In Love, originally released as a solo single by Veronica in 1964 but recorded the year before.
Either play from start to finish and enjoy a great compilation, or programme tracks 5, 4, 9, 3, 10, 20, 1, 11, 2, 12, 13, 18 to recreate ...Presenting The Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica in stereo.
(review filed 17 July 2004)
Early Classics (52.20)***P 1964-1974, P 1996
Although entitled Early Classics, this 18-track collection actually spans the period 1964 to 1970, with six tracks taken from the 1970 albums The Groove Governor and I Am My Brother's Keeper, the latter in partnership with his brother David Ruffin from the Temptations. This included the single Stand By Me, a revival of Ben E King's 1960 hit, and a terriffic cover of Tyrone Davis's Turn Back The Hands Of Time. A further four tracks are taken from the 1969 album Ruff'n Ready, which provided him with some of his biggest hits such as Farewell Is A Lonely Sound and I'll Say Forever My Love. It also contained his unlikely, but very successful cover of 96 Tears, and the Motown standard You've Got What It Takes. Another track, I Will Never Let You Get Away, probably dates from around the same period but didn't surface until 1974 when it became the B-side in the UK of the re-issued Farewell Is A Lonely Sound single.
Taking pride of place at the start of the CD is naturally What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted, which was a huge hit for Jimmy Ruffin in 1966 and again in 1974. Its original B-side, Baby I've Got It, is also included (the only mono selection on the CD). It was never included on an album and is a good reason for considering this collection, though it is now included on the more expensive Ultimate Collection.
However, it is some of the earliest recordings that were such a revelation to me. His second single, in 1964, was the original version of Since I've Lost You. Later to be covered by Gladys Knight and the Pips, the Temptations and, even later, the Undisputed Truth, here is the definitive blueprint version.
Lonely Lonely Man Am I is best known in the Velvelettes' re-titled version Lonely Lonely Girl Am I from 1965, but had been recorded the year before by Jimmy Ruffin. His version remained in the can until 1968 when it escaped on a B-side (by this time the Temptations' even earlier 1963 version had surfaced on their Gettin' Ready album of 1966 - but that's Motown for you). It is taken at a slower, more desperately soulful, lost pace with a deep groove laid down by the Funk Brothers. They excel on this and on tracks like I Want Her Love, which has some great bass guitar playing and horns, and the tear-jerker How Can I Say I'm Sorry, another great Norman Whitfield production from 1964 that was thrown away as a B-side.
If you want to discover more of the man than the couple of hits you probably know, this budget introduction is a good place to start.
(review filed 4 April 2007)
Bustin' Out (74.23)** R 1978-1982, P 2001
Subtitled The Essential Ruts Collection, this is a rather unsatisfying compilation, partly due to what it omits, but also in its documentation. There are extensive notes by Alan Parker, who is credited on the sleeve for "idea and concept" but while they provide a useful history of the Ruts, they do not particularly pertain to or in any way describe the contents of the CD, making it is impossible to determine which version of a song is represented (unless you already own their back catalogue, whereby there would be little point to owning this).
In A Rut appears to be the original single, released on Misty In Roots' People Unite label (but a mastering error deprives it of its first 3-4 seconds), whereas from its opening bells and sirens, Babylon's Burning would appear to be the later version from The Crack (all but five tracks from that album are included).
John Peel Speak is a twenty-three second clip of the veritable DJ back-announcing their debut single on his show, clearly recorded from the radio. Most of the rarer tracks that pre-date their signing with Virgin Records appeared on the band's own fuller collection In A Can, including for example the reggae workout Blackman's Pinch (later retitled Give The Youth A Chance, and re-recorded for a B-side), H-Eyes Version 2 (Version 1 was the B-side of In A Rut) and the demo Stepping Bondage, recorded at their first recording session on 1 October 1978.
The posthumous single West One (Shine On Me) is included, but their important groundbreaking reggae and ska influenced singles Jah War and Staring At The Rude Boys are not. Two songs from The Crack (Out Of Order and Human Punk) appear from a live performance, though this is not documented in the sleeve so no date or location or previous availability can be determined, and twenty minutes of the playing time is given over to an interview with Seggs. The one definitely previously unissued track is an instrumental reggae-based piece entitled Denial, which since it features a saxophone (Gary Barnacle or Dave Winthorpe?), was presumably recorded in 1981 or 1982 by Ruts D.C.
(review filed 21 June 2005)