Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Review: 'The Rolling Stones Singles 1963 - 1966'

Back in the days before the LP took over as rock's main medium, groups usually put most of their weight behind their singles. While several of The Rolling Stones' early albums were recorded in piecemeal fashion in various studios while on tour, and largely consisted of blues and soul covers that didn't always stack up against the originals, their singles were consistently powerful. Well, at least they were after getting a weedy attempt to pop-up Chuck Berry with their first UK 45 out of the way, but you can't really blame the band for botching "Come On". They also gave matching suits a shot at management's insistence, but they binned their houndstooth jackets with all due haste, and Mick, Keith, and the gang got down to doing what they did best. If "Come On" seemed like a half-hearted attempt to hop on The Beatles' Mersey-beat bandwagon, the Stones could be judged directly against their main rivals when they next released Lennon and McCartney's very own "I Wanna Be Your Man" in a brutal rendition that slays the Ringo vehicle on With The Beatles.

Jagger and Richards would take some time to develop their own songwriting partnership, but in the meantime they continued standing out with their acoustic Buddy Holly rave "Not Fade Away", a heavy riff on The Valentinos' "It's All Over Now" that fully established their signature sound, and a take on Willie Dixon's "Little Red Rooster" that somehow pushed rustic American blues to the very top of the British charts. 

All the while, the Jagger/Richards partnership did, indeed, ripen, and by 1965, there was no longer any need to tomb-raid the blues vaults as they crafted hits like "The Last Time", "Satisfaction", "Get Off My Cloud", and "19th Nervous Breakdown" just in time for their LP-craft to similarly mature. But that's a story for another article. This one is about the group's seven inches and the eighteen UK and US ones collected in the new 7" Singles 1963 - 1966. This set is a vinyl variation on a couple ABKCO released in 2004. The Rolling Stones Singles 1963 - 1965 and Singles 1965 - 1967 (and, a year later, Singles 1967 - 1971) each featured their singles and EPs on CDs, which frankly always confused me. Compact Discs were all about convenience-- the lazy joy of popping in a digital disc and knowing you wouldn't have to get off your ass and hit the eject button for 75 minutes. Reissuing these singles on vinyl makes much more sense since so many fans spent the sixties hovering over their phonographs while rotating the Stones' singles. They will no doubt dig the nostalgia value in getting those discs again in a shiny new package. Seriously... good luck finding an original Stones single from the sixties that doesn't sound like it spent the night under Keith Richards' toilet. 

Original picture sleeves complete the nostalgic illusion for the three EPs and the US singles, while stock Decca sleeves adorn the UK ones as they did six decades years ago. Like the 180-gram vinyl, these covers are heavier duty than the originals, and they also open from the sides rather than the tops, but they still get the job done. The mono masters will be familiar to those who picked up the excellent Rolling Stones in Mono box set in 2016, and that includes a thin alternate mix of "19th Nervous Breakdown" that has unfortunately replaced the original take that has seemingly been permanently exiled presumably because it has a very brief tape defect in the fade. Mastering on this new singles set is a bit hot and I detected some groove distortion during the noisier passages, 
but that's also kind of true to the original 45s. Tracks with less intense peaks like "Little Red Rooster" play without issues. A full-size poster, booklet with liner notes, and envelope with photos complete 7" Singles 1963 - 1966 and should keep you busy while you wait for 7" Singles 1966 - 1971, which is due next year.

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