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3.0 out of 5 stars Acquire With Caution, 25 Feb 2005
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This review is from: Singles Collection: The London Years (Audio CD)
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, and present them 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. It contained many botched edits and the UK album version of Time Is On My Side instead of the single.
This 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 has been mastered using Sony's high quality Direct Stream Digital process, whilst the track listing has not changed, and the artwork and liner notes are as close to the original release as possible. "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.
The 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, who is the son of Allen Klein, the Stones' former manager and president of ABKCO, which now controls the Decca/London years.
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 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.There are examples however 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 appears 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 2:50. This is the version that should be here, but instead the fade-out album version has been used.
The Under-Assistant West Coast Promotion Man is apparently the Out Of Our Heads version, not the US B-side with its "uncensored" lyric. Ruby Tuesday is not the single mix, which had an extra Mick Jagger vocal overdub on the chorus, but is the version first found on Between The Buttons in the US, although it has unfortunately been 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 to compare it with. It would be interesting to know if the Singles Boxes that were subsequently released corrected any of these errors.
For the UK, 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 on the less essential third CD. Firstly, Street Fighting Man is included without one of its British B-sides (Everybody Needs Somebody To Love), breaking the album concept. 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).
Then Honky Tonk Women breaks ranks and bursts into full stereo from the first cowbell, whereas the original single was mono, like its B-side, the short version of You Can't Always Get What You Want, as presented here. 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 in the unauthentic stereo album mix. 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 introduced the Sticky Fingers album. Neither it nor its US follow up, Wild Horses, belong here as they were not released on London or Decca. Their B-sides - Bitch, Let It Rock (Live At Leeds)(otherwise unavailable, except in Spain) and Sway (an alternative version) - all recorded during the same period as Sticky Fingers, are not included, so suddenly the whole collection again lacks 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 which can be found on Metamorphosis).
The collection ends with Sympathy For The Devil, the version from Beggar's Banquet, which apparently 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 ever wanted 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 a valuable but imperfectly realised round-up
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 15 Jun 2010 00:02:18 BDT
Brilliant review that is very informative indeed. Thanks for this.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Feb 2011 16:16:16 GMT
DE01 says:
This is a very useful and interesting review - even if it has alerted me to a few issues that make me like the compilation a little less! The only thing you haven't mentioned is that "Surprise surprise", which comes before "Honky tonk women", is also in stereo.

I agree that the third CD sounds in places like leftover material (its shorter running time compounds this feeling - I'd rather that more of disc 1 had been taken over onto disc 2, and likewise from 2 to 3). I'd also have preferred that the EPs were included as well as the As and Bs. Of all the errors you've listed, the only one that really bothers me is the crushing of "Ruby Tuesday" from stereo to mock-mono. I don't mind the inclusion of "Memo from Turner" - after all, Bill Wyman's "In another land", which features Wyman, Jagger and various non-Stones - is included as well. "Memo" is a different matter only insofar as it wasn't released under the Rolling Stones name.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Feb 2011 17:56:10 GMT
Last edited by the author on 17 Feb 2011 18:18:22 GMT
PGB says:
I agree with previous responses, and the original review, mostly. 3rd CD is very sketchy, and, as Honky Tonk Women is the only non-album song on it, could have been dispensed with entirely (Honky could have fit easily on CD2). Surprise , Surprise appears on the album Now! from 1964, a US hodge-podge album (but a good one!), like all of them up until Satanic Majesties.

Or, as you suggest, include all their EPs as the 3rd disc, don't upset the integrity of the As & Bs concept (as abkco did towards the end of the anthology) and don't include any songs anywhere in the collection that have already appeared elsewhere exactly as they would have appeared on whatever albums. The mono mixes (i.e., most of the songs) are useful, though, especially where there were "suspect" stereo mixes! (stereo was pretty bad in the sixties, with a ferw exceptions).

This is a good example of a great idea not quite properly executed, but remains a good collection, all in all.
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