New ABKCO collection includes band's discography from early Sixties through 1969 alongside compilation of singles and non-album songs
The three-disc box set Singles Collection: The London Years contains every single Rolling Stones singles released during the '60s, including both the A- and B-sides. It is the first Stones compilation that tries to be comprehensive and logical – for all their attributes, the two Hot Rocks sets and the two Big Hits collections didn't present the singles in chronological order. In essence, the previous compilations were excellent samplers, where Singles Collection tells most of the story (certain albums, like Aftermath, Beggars Banquet, and Let It Bleed, fill in the gaps left by the singles). The Rolling Stones made genuine albums – even their early R&B/blues albums were impeccably paced – but their singles had a power all their own, which is quite clearly illustrated by the Singles Collection.
Recorded during their American tour in late 1969, and centered around live versions of material from the Beggars Banquet-Let It Bleed era. Often acclaimed as one of the top live rock albums of all time, its appeal has dimmed a little today. The live versions are reasonably different from the studio ones, but ultimately not as good, a notable exception being the long workout of "Midnight Rambler," with extended harmonica solos and the unforgettable section where the pace slows to a bump-and-grind crawl.
This album was spawned by three coinciding events – the need to acknowledge the death of band co-founder Brian Jones (whose epitaph graces the inside cover) in July of 1969; the need to get "Honky Tonk Women," then a huge hit single, onto an LP; and to fill the ten-month gap since the release of Beggars Banquet and get an album with built-in appeal into stores ahead of the Stones' first American tour in three years. The fact that the Stones had amassed a sufficient number of hits since their last greatest-hits compilation in early 1966 (Big Hits: High Tide and Green Grass) made this a no-brainer, and its song lineup was as potent at the time as any compilation of hit singles by any artist.
The Stones forsook psychedelic experimentation to return to their blues roots on this celebrated album, which was immediately acclaimed as one of their landmark achievements. A strong acoustic Delta blues flavor colors much of the material, particularly "Salt of the Earth" and "No Expectations," which features some beautiful slide guitar work. Basic rock & roll was not forgotten, however: "Street Fighting Man," a reflection of the political turbulence of 1968, was one of their most innovative singles, and "Sympathy for the Devil," with its fire-dancing guitar licks, leering Jagger vocals, African rhythms, and explicitly satanic lyrics, was an image-defining epic.