1. Long Long While. If I had to pick a lesser-known pre-1966 track, it’d probably be their rude, stinging version of Lennon/McCartney’s “I Wanna Be Your Man.” But starting off an alternate history of The Stones with a Beatles song seems like asking for trouble. Instead, we’ll jump ahead to 1966 and this B-side to “Paint It Black”, which serves as a sublime bridge between early R&B cover band Stones and their vintage Brian Jones-era prime.
2. Out of Time (orchestral). As opposed to the version which appeared on Aftermath, the backing track here wasn’t actually played by The Stones. It was borrowed from the Chris Farlowe recording of the Jagger/Richards song, which was also released in 1966 (and went to number one in the UK), and overdubbed with Mick’s vocals. None other than Jimmy Page played on the session.
3. All Sold Out. I guess I could’ve gone all Tenenbaums and chosen “She Smiled Sweetly” to represent Between the Buttons, or maybe even “Backstreet Girl”. But this one has always struck me as more pure Stones, i.e. less sold out to the spirit of 1967. And buyer beware: the UK version of BTB really is much better than the US one.
4. 2000 Light Years From Home. Speaking of the spirit of the times… The Stones’ psychedelic output may be a little insincere to some ears, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t pretty darn groovy on occasion.
5. Jigsaw Puzzle. The beginning of Stones Mach 2, in which Bill Wyman cranks out a killer bassline, and Keith takes the acoustic guitar to school.
6. Monkey Man. It’s a shame Keith stopped playing much lead after Mick Taylor joined. One of his finest hours. No joke.
7. Jiving Sister Fanny. With a title like that…
8. Sway. Murky bliss from Sticky Fingers, their single greatest album.
9. I Got the Blues. The horns! And it may be the highwater mark of Mick and Keith’s vocal blend.
10. All Down the Line. Someone once said that Exile on Main Street is as much a place as a record, and I think they were on to something. This track is the embodiment of the Law under which countless bands would labor (and continue to labor). Sheer perfection from start to finish.
11. Shine a Light. Buried at the end of side four of Exile, this song’s gotten a real second wind in recent years, thanks in part to Scorcese’s doc of the same name. From a time when they could do no wrong, even/especially when it came to gospel.
12. So Divine (Aladdin Story). One of the gussied-up outtakes included on the recent Exile reissue, it goes on for a full minute too long, but the fact that they left this chorus on the cutting room floor is absurd.
13. Winter. Keith may have been out of commission for most of the Goats Head Soup sessions, but Mick more than made up the slack, this ballad being a case in point. Hard to believe they recorded this in Jamaica.
14. 100 Years Ago. As close as The Stones ever came to sounding like The Band. If The Band had more electric piano and wah-wah guitar, that is. Another major argument for the genius of GHS.
15. Memory Motel. The second closest The Stones ever got to sounding like The Band. Turns out they could do slinky melancholy too.
16. Before They Make Me Run. The outlaw anthem to end all outlaw anthems. You can almost hear Paul Westerberg being born.
17. Hang Fire. The back-up vocals alone make it a worthy addition.
18. Seven Days – Ron Wood. This one doesn’t really count, especially since Bob Dylan wrote it. But as a diehard Faces fanatic, I’ve always thought it was a shame that Mick and Keith didn’t get Ronnie to give more input.
19. We Had It All. The only indispensable discovery from last year’s Some Girls reissue and one of their best covers, period. Before his voice devolved into complete Jack Sparrow-ness, Keith could be really an effective singer.
20. Sad Sad Sad. The production on Steel Wheels may not have aged all that well, but the songwriting (and energy) was top notch.
21. Evening Gown. From Mick’s Wandering Spirit solo album, this one finds his craftsman side in full countrypolitan swing. People forget that The Stones wrote more country-rock classics than pretty much any single country-rock band.
22. Mean Disposition (Voodoo Brew mix). I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: if Don Was had had the chutzpah to step up and cut a few songs, Voodoo Lounge would have been a Stones classic on par with Some Girls. One day the less varnished Voodoo Brew “Keith” mixes–with the brilliant 9-minute keyboard freakout take of “Thru and Thru”–will get an official release and everyone will agree.
23. Blinded By Rainbows (Voodoo Brew mix). Mick may be the only rock star I know of who, when he mentions Jesus in a song, the song gets better, not worse. Almost without exception.
24. Flip the Switch. Keith’s best riff of the last 25 years, and one Mick’s best (and least affected) latter-day vocals, evidence that he can still hit that note between defiance and desperation better than anyone when he needs to.
25. Saint of Me. “St. Paul the great apostle was a cruel and sinful man/Jesus hit him with a blinding light and then he understand” has got to be the last opening line anyone ever expected to hear on a Stones single, especially in 1997. It may have even inspired one of my favorite posts in ages past.
BONUS TRACK: Doom and Gloom. After the surprisingly forgettable A Bigger Bang, one sort of hoped that the guys would spare us any more new material. But this righteous screed (released a few weeks ago) is enough to make one forget their last “protest” tune, the insipid Persian Gulf War-inspired “Highwire”.
EXTRA SPECIAL BONUS TRACK: The version of “The Last Time,” orchestrated by Stones manager Andrew Loog-Oldham, which got The Verve in such hot water with “Bittersweet Symphony”. It’s pretty incredible actually: