There are many highlights on this set. The group's second single was never properly released in the U.S. and has been something of a collector's item for fans here for years. The A-side is the group's garage-y take on Lennon & McCartney's "I Wanna Be Your Man, tougher and stronger than the Beatles. The B-Side "Stoned" is the real treat, however, a Green Onions type riff with three very funny lines of lyrics from Jagger and his underrated harmonica playing. There fourth disc includes their brilliant remake of Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away," made memorable by their driving use of the Bo Diddley beat. "Time Is On My Side" finds them in complete command of the R&B ballad. Their cover of the Howlin' Wolf classic "Little Red Rooster" is exceptional not only for the way that Brian Jones was able to capture the essence of Hubert Sumlin's original guitar riff, but for the way that Mick Jagger was able to make the song his own without falling into the trap of trying to imitate Wolf's haunting vocals.
The Rolling Stones were an immediately influential group. Their detractors point to them for selling back American blues to white people in the U.S. who ignored the original, but that's not really fair. It's not their fault that they were more successful than their influences. Not only that, they added things of their own. Berry, Bo Diddley, et al are all important influences on the guitar sound of the early Rolling Stones, but one of the things that listening to the early recordings of the Stones drives home to you is how much Brian Jones and Keith Richards really influenced the initial generation of psychedelic guitar players. It is impossible to imagine the early work of guys like Roky Erickson, Jerry Garcia, Pete Albin et al without the work of Jones in particular.
This beautiful set from Abkco Records lovingly recreates the groups first twelve singles, being that rare reissue that is more than just a cash in on a popular artist but one that presents them in an interesting light. You can view this box of Rolling Stones singles as a labor of love. Each of the groups' first twelve releases is reproduced in exact detail as CDs, giving fans an chronological view of their initial development. Or you can view it as a big ripoff. A 12 CD set retailing for $50 when one CD could've contained most or all of this music? I hear you. But Love and Avarice are the two dominant Muses of Mick Jagger's career, so it seems an appropriate combination. If you don't have this music, it's as good an approach to presenting it as anything else out there.