When the legendary rock and roll band, The Rolling Stones, was soon to celebrate their 50th anniversary, the whole world knew it won’t be a regular birthday party. As soon as the gossips about their big new concert tour started to spread, all the fans began to jump with excitement.
The reality turned out to be much more beautiful than the dreams when The Rolling Stones announced not only the big tour but also a brand new album!
50 years of awesomeness
Half a century on the stage surely is a reason to celebrate. It’s also a reason to deliver a high-quality show. The Stones did not disappoint their fans and on November 12, 2012, GRRR! was released. Probably the last common project of The Rolling Stones.
It wouldn’t be Stones though if they didn’t go with their idea all the way. GRRR! was published in five (!) editions: 40 tracks, 3-times-50 tracks (including a vinyl), and an 80-songs CD. The most symbolic of the three, however, was the one with 50 tracks. 50 songs embody 50 long years of the band’s life. Naturally, it’s very interesting to listen to the album with the angle of historical and symbolical analysis. Is it only a naïve interpretation, or is it the right trail? I don’t know but I’ll gladly take off on that journey. Half of century of rock and roll is my road, and GRRR! is the driver!
Come On, sweet 60’s
The first of the three, 50-tracks albums transports us back to the good old decade of the UK in the ’60s. Back then the social revolution made girls cut their skirts short and their parents hide their eyes with shame. The Stones couldn’t feel better – it was definitely their natural habitat – and their lifestyle perfectly blended with the music they were creating. Come On, The Last Time or It’s All Over Now sound like anthems of that decade. Especially Come On, with one of a kind melody of Brian Jones’ harmonica. No surprises here that this track was picked as the band’s debut – got released in 1963. Funny fact; Come On is a cover of Chuck Berry’s songs who, by the way, was The Stones’ one of the biggest inspirations and idols during their rock and roll journey.
GRRR! wouldn’t miss their beloved blues; specifically, in Little Red Rooster which sounds like it was played in a dusty old bar, sipping a bottle of whiskey. What’s interesting, that blues gem is also not an original track of The Stones but a classic of its kind – played by the stars such as Willie Dixon, Sam Cooke, or The Doors. Don’t forget about hits such as (I can’t get no) Satisfaction, Under My Thumb, and Paint It Black which, with time, practically blended with the character of their creators.
The first album in the ‘GRRR!’ collection perfectly sums up the band in its first years. The Stones were reckless, wild, crazy, too nervous, and overly avid of new experiences – and all these features are present in their music. They were young but strangely mature and consequent in their art (at least back then). This strategy brought a strong brand which is still incredibly strong and recognizable.
It happens to the best of us…
The tracks from the ’70s truly be a masterpiece. And so is the second CD of GRRR! Filled with great songs such as Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Gimme Shelter, Brown Sugar, Sympathy For The Devil… Once again, The Rolling Stones proved that making music is something they can do very well. They’re not so straightforward and clear in their choice of style, as they used to be in the ’60s. The boys started to experiment with new genres but never stopped to worship rock and roll.
The second release of GRRR! consists of songs that made The Rolling Stones incredibly famous. On one hand, there are tracks that connected the band when it comes to style – and the style is diverse but, at the same time, very aligned – isn’t that what rock and roll is about? On the other hand, however, the fact that The Stones’ brand got stronger allowed them to go all the way with new experiments. And so, one day we listen to the classic Jumpin’ Jack Flash and the next day it’s a country-like Honky Tonk Woman. Then, some other day, there’s the ‘exotic’ Sympathy for the Devil. Don’t forget about that syncretic Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker) which sounds an awful lot like Led Zeppelin. The second album of the jubilee release proves that, despite stable brand recognition, The Rolling Stones never cease to surprise.
Despite so much time spent on the stage and so much experience, the British musicians managed to keep their nonchalance, curiosity, and young spirit. However, obviously, not all of their songs are worth applause. Just listen to Emotional Rescue; a classic disco track, not much different from what Bee Gees serves us. At the end of the ’80s, the Stones are definitely entering a new era. Their last album is perhaps the least surprising and the least classical rock and rolling. Nonetheless, the musicians never stopped to keep their art fresh. Don’t stop, put at the end of the album, seems to announce something unexpected…
Rock’n’roll doesn’t go out of style
Indeed there was a surprise – two last songs of GRRR! – totally new productions recorded a couple of months before the release of the CD. Songs which proved that The Rolling Stones still got it and their music hasn’t faded away, despite 50 years of being present on the world music stage. Doom and Gloom and One More Shot are very similar and at the same time, very different songs. Similar, because the British band again showed its craft and immortality in the history of rock and roll.
There’s one discord though – the chorus of One More Shot is basically all copied from All Night Long by AC/DC. Despite this one shortcoming, One More Shot defends itself with a traditional approach to the genre, an interesting guitar line, and very optimistic and hopeful aftertaste which stays long after the song finishes. When it comes to the second of the brand new songs of The Stones – Doom and Gloom – well, there is no doubt that this track is absolutely genius from the beginning to an end. It’s like a bridge connecting 1962 and 2012 – and that’s the point! The single is the best proof that the true rock and roll never gets old. It also proves that The Stones themselves never get old, despite all that flying time…
If the music is too loud, you’re too old
And what’s up with Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, and Charlie Watts? They are mature men with huge experience, talented musicians, rock and roll icons. What’s even more impressing is the fact that despite 50 years of working together (with some of these years being very challenging!), they were still able to give birth to an astounding production such as GRRR!. The 3-album release walks us through the whole history of The Stones, showing not only their ups and successes but also their downs and failures. It’s a perfect summary of half a century of work and a confrontation with the passing time. What was a hit in the ’60s, not necessarily needs to impress fans from the generation in the 21st century. The Stones present their art keeping their heads up high, PLUS add not only one but two great songs.
Same as Anthony Decurtis from Rolling Stone Magazine, I’ll ask: Is GRRR! perfect?’ Of course, it is not! And that’s great because above all, GRRR! is authentic. Blended not only with the music but also the irreplaceable style of the band and the musicians’ vibrant personalities. This mix is the best reward for millions of fans across the whole world.
Is GRRR! The Rolling Stones’ way to say a bittersweet goodbye to all the fans? Hopefully, it is not! Without them, it’d be so boring. Knowing their unpredictability, I dare to say that we may get this one more shot.
For more music reviews, check my Rock’n’Roll stories section.