In the Sixties, they shouted and screamed and killed the king and railed at all his servants; in the Seventies, they gave it away on Seventh Avenue; in the Eighties, they did their dirty work, and they’re still around today, celebrating forty years as the World’s Greatest Rock & Roll Band. For their anniversary collection, the Stones pack forty songs onto two CDs, with only a little cheating (“Beast of Burden” and “Miss You” get heavily edited to fit), and they still leave you hungry for more. The selection is daring (“Fool to Cry,” “Happy,” “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby”). The pacing is brilliant, kicking off with the bang-bang-bang punch of “Street Fighting Man,” “Gimme Shelter” and “Satisfaction.” And the four new songs? Their toughest rock in years, especially “Don’t Stop,” a plea for emotional rescue, and Keith Richards’ piano ballad “Losing My Touch,” which he isn’t.
Obviously, not even a forty-song Stones anthology could be complete. Fans of their brief yet tasty psychedelic period will miss “Dandelion,” Eighties mall rats will mourn the fabulous “She’s So Cold,” and the hard-core Side Two-of-Tattoo You cultists (who really exist, believe me) will blow gaskets over the shameful omission of “Waiting on a Friend.” But the music here is full of danger and surprise. Thrill to the Keith vs. Brian Jones guitar battle in the final minute of “It’s All Over Now.” Savor the self-parodic machismo of “Under My Thumb,” where Mick Jagger flounces like a Siamese-cat-whipped gigolo over Bill Wyman’s swishiest bass and Jones’ cocktail-lounge marimba. Those torn and frayed harmonies. That Charlie Watts kick drum. It’s all here.