Singles 1968-1971

by: The Rolling Stones

If the final installment of ABKCO's series of box sets containing CD replicas of the Rolling Stones' original singles for Decca and London during the '60s seems not quite as impressive as the first two, there's a reason for it: it's not. But that has little to do with either the music -- some of the Stones' very best is here, including "Street Fighting Man," "Honky Tonk Women," and "Jumpin' Jack Flash," all viable contenders for the greatest rock & roll single ever -- or the packaging, which is every bit as lavish and loving as the first two installments. Instead, the problem is that the nine singles collected here are a bit of a hodgepodge. The aforementioned trio are the group's last singles of the '60s, with the latter two being the last two singles the band conceived as stand-alone 45s. After that, there were two singles pulled from the 1971 album Sticky Fingers -- "Brown Sugar" and "Wild Horses," both backed by album tracks (the former had a live version of Chuck Berry's "Let It Rock" on a U.K. pressing, but that's not available here) -- and that LP is more commonly associated with the Stones' '70s albums for their own label, not their '60s work, so even if historically they were part of the London years, they don't quite feel like the end of this chapter; rather, they feel like the beginning of the next. That accounts for half of Singles 1968-1971. The remaining five discs contain Mick Jagger's excellent solo single of "Memo from Turner" from the film Performance, two singles from the 1975 '60s rarities compilation Metamorphosis ("I Don't Know Why"/"Jiving Sister Fanny" and "I Don't Know Why"/"Try a Little Harder"), the "Sympathy for the Devil" single -- which was released in the U.K. in 1976, but is presented in its 2003 form containing contemporary dance remixes by the Neptunes and Fatboy Slim, variations that are, needless to say, rather incongruous in this setting -- and, finally, a welcome bonus DVD containing the Stones playing "Time Is On My Side" on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, a live version of "Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?" from 1967, and the classic promo video for "Jumpin' Jack Flash" from 1968, as well as an out-of-place 2003 video for the Neptunes' remix of "Sympathy for the Devil." While all these odds and ends are nice to have, since they tie up any loose ends from this era, the end result doesn't have the narrative flow or the rarities of the previous installments. That said, Singles 1968-1971 is a wonderful set for collectors, and it retains the high standard of the rest of the series. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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