Rolling Stones Forty Licks Review

Compilation. Released 2006.  

BBC Review

So much here goes beyond mere R 'n' B. These are archetypes.

Chris Jones 2002

Poised, once more, to unleash the behemoth that is 'The Rolling Stones on tour' upon the world, it's time to cast an eye over the CVs of Messrs Jagger, Richards, Watts, Wyman and all the other naughty boys that never grew up. 'For the first time ever!' yells the sticker on the cover - but why? Do the racks not groan with innumerable compilations of Richmond's finest? Ah yes, but none have pulled off the trick of spanning those pesky label changes. This time it's the full picture...

After (approximately) forty years of dancing with Mr D, the Glimmer Twins and Co. have not only rattled the cages of the establishment but, in refusing (with one famous exception) to go down in a blaze of hell raising glory, have become as much pillars of society (to quote ''Respectable'', shamefully omitted here) as those who sought to silence them. Arise Sir Mick, indeed. So, while Mick Jagger's famous marketing savvy undoubtedly accounts for this collection, it's still important as a reminder of the days when each new release was easily as important as any of the Fab Four's.

From the bolshy rhythm guitar intro of ''Street Fighting Man'' the synapses are instantly beaten into a realisation (or re-awakening) that these pasty West London boys virtually wrote the blueprint for hard rock in the 60s and 70s. So much here goes beyond mere R 'n' B. These are archetypes. How many garage-punk bands based their entire careers on the fuzz psych-out of ''Satisfaction''? How many wasted but wasteful wannabes have attempted to emulate the louche pharmaceutical jive of ''Honky Tonk Women'' or ''Tumbling Dice''? Even the paisley nonsense of ''She's A Rainbow'' still echoes on in the work of, say, The Flaming Lips.

CD one has (and this is astounding) NO FILLER WHATSOEVER. Every track still shines like a grubby diamond. CD two fares less well - the post-Emotional Rescue era stuff, while efficient, falls into a more lackadaisical groove-driven formula, though stuff like ''Undercover (Of The Night)'' still packs a punch. There's plenty to get your teeth into however: Tracks such as ''Fool To Cry'' and ''It's Only Rock 'n' Roll'', lambasted at the time of release, now sound fresher and more heartfelt than any of today's lame copyists while ''Miss You'' from their last truly great album, Some Girls, proves that when they lost Bill Wyman they lost a vital part of their rhythmic backbone.

Four new tracks fare perfectly well, though the closer ''Losin' My Touch'' featuring Richard's groggy vocals actually has the power to tug at the most grizzled of heartstrings. An entire essay could be written on the omissions (''Little Red Rooster'', ''We Love You'', ''Time Is On My Side'' etc. etc.) and while the booklet has a fine selection of photos some kind of Stalinism seems to exist in the Stones camp whereby only one picture of Mick Taylor is included, despite his presence during what many cite as their classic years. But minor gripes aside, this first comprehensive look at all eras of satisfaction-seeking does a mighty fine job. Its a gas, gas gas...

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