The Rolling Stones have returned, but in a sense they never left. Being one of the most repackaged artists in the world means that one can hardly go a year without some live record, rarities or compilation being released. Grrr! marks their 50th anniversary and asks the question; do we really care anymore? The answer from loyal fans, is a resounding yes; the band, however, seem to be suffering from a certain fatigue in their old age.
The last commemorative record Forty Licks was released in 2002 as the essential greatest hits album. In comparison, Grrr! seems more self-assured; there are bold omissions while tracks which did not appear last time are more welcome than even the sing-along classics. The album opens with their first single, ‘Come On’ and continues to peruse their history chronologically; far be it from anyone to deny that the roguish rockers have a tremendous back catalogue which almost justifies 30 compilations, 17 live albums and 5 box sets (not to mention the senseless pricing of tickets for their upcoming London gig) but certain tracks, particularly, ‘As Tears Go By’ outshine even the platinum selling singles.
As the album celebrates their golden jubilee we are treated to a whopping 50 tracks (80 if you buy the deluxe version) spread across three discs of quintessential British rock. Disc One features ’63 to ’68 including favourites ‘Little Red Rooster’, ‘Paint it Black’ and ‘Ruby Tuesday’. Disc Two (’68 to ’76) certainly has the strongest grouping of tracks, particularly for the casual listener who enjoys the better known singles without having to skip too often. Featuring material from the ’70s trifecta of Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed and Exile on Main Street, it serves this release more than the remainder and could stand alone as an impressive CD. The final chapter provides a summary from ’78 to the present, representing 35 years in just 17 songs and is a succinct and pleasing recollection.
When you break down Grrr!, you can see that the Stones were never able to match the success they achieved in their first two decades and the hit-and-miss records they released thereafter simply served to sustain the moniker without breaking new ground. This is indeed a milestone but with little to offer us in the last number of years, many will question why the concerts are not enough of a money spinner for the rock legends.
Two new tracks are the only thing on offer here, ‘Doom and Gloom’ and ‘One More Shot’; both have a great rhythm, the former suggested to be a ‘Street Fighting Man’ for the 21st century. Together, each seems reminiscent of the 80’s material and hold their own among the tracks on Disc Three; yet after seven years without any new material, they should do nothing less. But really the only reason to own Grrr! is to finally hold the definitive, Rolling Stones collection in your hands – until their 60th anniversary, that is.