The Rolling Stones

GRRR!

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Graced with cover art of a grotesque gorilla sporting the Stones' trademark leering lips, GRRR! doesn't quite have the classy veneer usually associated with a 50th anniversary collection. Frankly, that's a good sign for the Rolling Stones: they're celebrating their half-century together but refusing to take themselves too seriously, even when they're assembling a mammoth retrospective that's available in three different incarnations. Each chronicles the Stones' story beginning with their first single, a cover of Chuck Berry's "Come On," to a pair of good new recordings (a loose-limbed rocker called "Doom and Gloom" and the poppier "One More Shot"). Neither the standard triple-disc version, a budget two-disc version, or the super deluxe four-disc set -- which has the added bonus of a disc of the band's Chess Records-heavy demos for IBC in 1963, a significant enticement to make the investment (there's also a bonus 7" EP of a 1964 BBC session) -- has all of the singles or significant songs the Stones have released over the course of five decades, but both do an excellent job of providing a thorough overview of a monumental career. Of these, three-CD set offers fewer surprises, marching steadily through the years and serving up the songs you know by heart, supplemented by just enough of the best latter-day material to make a convincing argument that the Stones retained their power. As it has more room to roam, the four-disc Super Deluxe is quirkier and offers a better illustration of the band's range, digging deeper into the band's late-'60s psychedelia ("Dandelion," "Child of the Moon"), emphasizing country-rock ("You Got the Silver," "Salt of the Earth"), disco ("Dance, Pt. 1"), and does a tremendous job in editing the band's third act so their enduring craftsmanship shines through. Again, it's easy to name great songs that are missing, but what's here is sublime, some of the best rock & roll ever made, and the best overall Stones comp to date.

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