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In the entire universe of popular music, there may be no band as prolific or as widely-known as The Rolling Stones. Since their formation in London in 1962, the Stones have permanently left their mark on the genre worldwide; defining what it means to be a rock and roll band for future musicians and fans alike. They have achieved a musical legacy that artists today can only aspire to, releasing a hundred-plus singles off of nearly thirty studio albums over the past fifty years.
GRRR!, the latest addition to the Stones’ legendary discography, is a compilation album that gathers together thirty-eight of the band’s adeptly named greatest hits as well as two brand new studio tracks. The two new tracks, “Doom and Gloom” and “One More Shot,” mark the first time that Jagger, Richards, Wood, and Watts recorded together in the studio since the group’s last studio album 2005’s A Bigger Bang.
Released to coincide with The Rolling Stones’ fiftieth anniversary celebration and subsequent mini-tour, GRRR! features some of the group’s most well-known tracks. Tracks that are so well-known that they are not only mentioned when discussing only the Stones’ catalog, but also come to mind when talking about some of the best rock songs in general. Decades after their original recordings, sheer electricity still emulates from Richards’ guitar riffs in classics like “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” while Jagger continues to deliver his signature arena-sized vocal energy on crowd pleasers like “Start Me Up” and “Gimme Shelter.”
The Stones’ beloved upbeat sound is featured generously across GRRR!’s two discs, but their relative softer-side shines through as well on radio staples like “Wild Horses” and “Beast of Burden.” Jagger and Richards’ famously wide range as songwriters is also highlighted in the practically contrasting sounds of familiar hits like the growling gothic angst of “Paint It, Black,” and the choir and orchestra-infused “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”
While GRRR! features all of the classic rock anthems expected from a Stones greatest hits album, it also offers up some moderately lesser-known but equally as enjoyable and important pieces from throughout their history. Songs like “19th Nervous Breakdown,” “The Last Time,” and “Let’s Spend the Night Together” are fan favorites from earlier on in the Stones’ career that prove to be just as captivating as their more popular brethren. Other deeper cuts such as “As Tears Go By” and “Fool to Cry” are crooning ballads that showcase the band’s rarely seen intimate, vulnerable side.
The combination of mega-hits and next-level tracks that comprises GRRR! gives new listeners a crash course in the music of The Rolling Stones, yet it also has utility for older fans. As the primate on the album cover hints at, GRRR! depicts the Stones’ sonic evolution of their five decades together as a band. By listening to the forty tracks, the listener can experience the musical progression of the Stones as a group, starting with their beginnings as a humble British-invasion band influenced by the blues, to their imminent rise as one of the essential rock bands of the late sixties and seventies, to their eventual indoctrination as stadium gods and music legends in recent years.
Despite various changes and conflicts, The Rolling Stones have continually produced creative and original music all with an undying sense of vitality. As the very album title GRRR! suggests, the thread of borderline-primal energy and passion is what truly unites all of the Stones’ music. A sense of vitality that remains even today, fifty years later, as seen in the apocalyptic head-banger “Doom and Gloom” and the optimistically cheeky “One More Shot.”
GRRR! isn’t the first greatest hits compilation from the Stones and it certainly won’t be the last. The band’s music has captured a force of vitality and achieved a level of fame that has made it immortal. As this compilation further proves, even in another fifty years, on the eve of The Rolling Stones’ centennial anniversary, as long as there are music lovers, there will be people making their best attempts at Jagger struts and others trying to capture some of Richards’ residual electricity with their trusty air guitars, desperately attempting to experience what life was like in a world dominated by The Rolling Stones.