The Rolling Stones

5 X 5

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In his book, The Rolling Stones: An Illustrated History, British rock critic Roy Carr wrote that "along with the Beatles' Long Tall Sally four-tracker, 5 X 5 is unquestionably the first and last great EP." That might have been an overstatement, but in the waning days of the EP format in the U.K. -- within three years or so, they'd start to become rare events on release schedules -- this August 1964 release was certainly a standout. In those days, it was still not uncommon for British EP releases to contain material not on 45s or LPs -- as had been the case with the Beatles' Long Tall Sally -- and the five tracks on 5 X 5, all recorded in Chess Studios during the Rolling Stones' first American tour, would not appear at the time in any other format in Britain. The performances are first-rate representations of the Stones as a great cover-heavy, R&B-heavy band, at a time when they had yet to write their first big original hit, encompassing early soul (Wilson Pickett's "If You Need Me"), slow Chicago blues ("Confessin' the Blues"), rock & roll (Chuck Berry's "Around and Around"), a decent if slightly underdeveloped Bo Diddley-styled original ("Empty Heart"), and a great groovin' original blues-rock jam ("2120 South Michigan Avenue"). For American listeners, however, the EP was kind of a moot point: all five of the tracks appeared on the 1964 U.S. LP 12 X 5, which was infinitely easier to obtain Stateside (although it's likely that few Americans at the time even knew of 5 X 5's existence).

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