The appeal and rationale behind buying this deluxe package is twofold. On the one hand (or rather, the first CD) you have the inviting nostalgia of a Rolling Stones classic. Their first album on Rolling Stones Records, and the first without Brian Jones, it’s a mature cornerstone of their late 60s/early 70s golden era. And armed with such jewels as Brown Sugar and Bitch, it shows them off in their element - first ignited by schoolboy friends Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.
Indeed, seeing them as rock elder statesmen today, it’s easy to forget what early, rootsy starters they were; back when their musical lust was sparked off by blues heroes like Muddy Waters. This would lead to lasting, authentic affiliation with the blues, blended brilliantly into a commercially winning brand of rock. All of which we’re reminded of here.
It’s interesting to think that by the time Sticky Fingers was first released, in 1971, the Stones had already released eight albums - steadily building the Rn’B, rock n’ soul foundations from which Sticky Fingers was able to thrive. Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’, with its irresistibly sliding, syncopated opening lick (velvety luxe and gravelly rock’n’roll at the same time) and organic blues jam is a beautiful thing. The soulful balladry of I Got The Blues reflects their matured evolution from their early days doing raw, frenetic Chuck Berry covers. You Gotta Move introduces a countrified twang… great stuff, for both existing Stones fans and certainly for those who’d maybe lost touch with them.
And on the other hand (i.e. the other CD in this package), you have an intriguing collection of hitherto unreleased renditions and live cuts. Eric Clapton joins in for a run of Brown Sugar. Alternate versions of Can’t You Hear… and Bitch are loose, spontaneous-sounding affairs, offering an interesting insight into the Stones’ development - the process behind Sticky Fingers’ natural finish. The live stuff is arguably one of the best things about this package. Live With Me, from the Roundhouse in ‘71, is an especially tasty slice, while Stray Cat Blues carries a hint of Sweet Home Alabama. All complete with some of Richards’ smoothest, most bona fide bluesy axework. “Spotlight on Keith’s arse…” we hear Mick drawl, just as they shlomp easily into a live run of Midnight Rambler. A class act at all times…
Nostalgia and new insights, then, from rock’n’roll pioneers in their prime. As double whammys go, this one’s pretty good.