Curiosity value wins this unapproved collection its third 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, with 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 Dick and Deedee and later recorded by Vashti; 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), 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, and 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