On Singles 1968-1971 you hear the Rolling Stones take full possession of their demonic powers. It’s almost as though they waited until the Beatles started falling apart before settling down to serious business: “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Brown Sugar,” “Child of the Moon,” “Honky Tonk Women,” “Sympathy for the Devil.” Not bad for a three-year run.
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Like the previous two Singles boxes, 1963-1965 and 1965-1967, this is a deluxe collector package to make Stones fetishists’ cold blood run hot. It’s not for casual listening. Each single gets replicated as an individual CD, complete with original sleeves and B sides — nine discs in all. The artwork is a gas gas gas, especially for “Street Fighting Man” (cops clubbing protesters), “Brown Sugar” (Mick Jagger yawning next to Keith Richards’ skintight polka-dot trousers) and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” (Brian Jones lifting a glass of red wine to your health, though not his). The bonus DVD has two prime Sixties videos plus the Ed Sullivan Show clip for “Time Is on My Side.” Sad to say, it also has the Neptunes’ “remix video” for “Sympathy for the Devil,” which nobody will ever sit through.
Obviously, it’s a fuss to cue up a CD to play just two tracks, and most songs here are already on the essential three-disc package Singles Collection: The London Years. But this is the Stones’ musical peak, with B sides other Sixties bands would have killed the Kennedys for. “Child of the Moon” is wistful psychedelic balladry, an accidental epitaph for Jones. “No Expectations” is the one of the saddest tunes Jagger has ever sung, acoustic blues with Jones playing his bleak slide guitar. “Sway” is scary as shit, despite the fact that nobody understands even half the words. “Bitch” gets nasty; “Wild Horses” gets sweet. Just one question: Where can we score those big googly red shades Richards wears on the sleeve of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”?
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