A hardcore-only limited-edition set – but what a fantastic set it is.
Ian Wade 2011
Controversial this may seem, but the biggest benefactors of The Beatles splitting up were The Rolling Stones. Throughout the 1960s the two of them, whether by accident or design, were interlinked and took it in turns to top the charts with their nifty beat numbers and upset the establishment.
Having literally – as generally considered – ended the 60s dream themselves when they staged their Altamont concert, the Stones were free of the competition and stared down the barrel of a new decade with their own label and a loosening up of their sound. Gone was the aping around in wizard hats; now a grittier, sleazier, bluesier rock and roll was back, and the years ahead were theirs for the taking.
Packaged in a lavish box, with CD single-sized replicas of each sleeve and featuring a total of 173 tracks, over 80 of which are not currently available on official releases, this is catnip for any serious Stones collector not currently undergoing a financial crisis. And, obviously, it’s only produced in limited numbers. Naturally you’re going to find the cash somehow.
The first few discs are stunning. With Brown Sugar, Wild Horses, Tumbling Dice, Happy and Angie, they delivered a run of singles that any act would be honoured to come up with. The B sides weren’t too shoddy either, with Bitch, Sweet Black Angel and Silver Train as evidence. In fact, how can anyone argue with a release that includes Emotional Rescue, Miss You and Undercover of the Night? Even 1990’s Almost Hear You Sigh is an underrated nugget from when the idea of being interesting in the studio was still prevalent, questions of how much they could make by playing colossal tours still in their infancy.
From then on, however, it goes downhill a bit. The extra tracks are either (admittedly rather good) live versions or revisits of previous glories. And it would take a will of steel to sit through the half-dozen or so remixes of latter numbers such as Saint of Me or Anybody Seen My Baby, tackled by the likes of Todd Terry, Deep Dish and Armand Van Helden.
So 45 x 45 is strictly for the hardcore. Those wanting a more straightforward best-of would be best served by getting the effortless majesty of 2002’s sublime 40 Licks or Jump Back compilations. But that doesn’t take anything away from the fan-pleasing completeness of this lavishly packaged set.