It's only Rolling Stones - but we love it!

Review by Jack Foley

WHAT can you say about the Rolling Stones that hasn't already been said? The band just keeps going (it recently set out on its latest World Tour), while the albums keep, erm, rolling out.

Love them or loathe them, there is no denying their durability, their willingness to diversify or their talent. And I defy any listener not to be able to name at least one Stones song they have liked over the years.

40 Licks is described as the band's most definitive 'best of' collection to date and takes in everything, from the golden era of the Sixties, to present day, including four new songs from producer Don Was. And I have to confess at this point, I am a big Stones fan.

While some of the newer tracks may not sound as contemporary as some of the rock music doing the rounds at the moment, there is no denying the infectious energy contained within their earlier work; while so many tracks conjure up happy memories of times spent in packed stadiums watching Jagger, Richards, Watts and co putting on a show - as only they can.

CD1 contains the best collection thus far, focusing on the period from the band's formation in 1962, through to 1970 - when some of their finest tracks were put together.

Take, for instance, Street Fighting Man (which has featured on several movie soundtracks, from Scorsese through to State of Grace), or the sublime Gimme Shelter, a track which really was ahead of its time. Two tracks in, and already two classics.

Satisfaction follows, surely the band's signature tune, while the likes of Jumpin Jack Flash, You Can't Always Get What You Want, Under My Thumb, and Not Fade Away are purely delightful - the type you can't help but sing along to.

This is the type of CD which invented the phrase, 'the hits just keep on coming', for they do. Ruby Tuesday, Paint It Black, Let's Spend The Night Together, Sympathy for the Devil (covered, but never bettered), all sound as fresh and as funky as they did when first released, proving that much of the band's earlier work is timeless.

Even the lyrics are great, with a personal favourite being 'she blew my nose and then she blew my brain', taken from the outrageous Honky Tonk Woman.

The first 20 tracks are probably the greatest; yet CD2 unearths many a forgotten treasure as well (or a stadium classic). Taking in the next 32 years of Stones hits (which become fewer and further between the closer we get the Nineties), there is still plenty to admire, from the anthemic likes of Start Me Up, Brown Sugar and You Got Me Rocking, to the slower, more heartfelt ballads like Beast of Burden, Miss You, Angie and Shattered.

Latter day album releases have been just as competently put together, if nowhere near as accessible - with the band;s attempts to sound contemporary occasionally feeling a little strained (that said, their allure and influence clearly remains as strong as ever within the industry, as Dr Dre has recently remixed one of their classics for use on the Austin Powers: Goldmember soundtrack).

1990's Voodoo Lounge marked something of a revival for the band (and was accompanied by another sell-out tour), while some of the tracks remain strong, such as the emotive, Anybody Seen My Baby? - but for those who aren't too keen on the newer stuff, CD2 is rounded out with classics such as Undercover (Of The Night) and the crowd-pleaser, It's Only Rock 'N' Roll (But I Like It).

All things told, this is an essential 'best of', then, for purists, occasional Stones listeners or anyone wanting to find out just why the Rolling Stones are credited as being one of the greatest bands of several generations.

Track listings:

Disc: 1
1. Street Fighting Man
2. Gimme Shelter
3. (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
4. The Last Time
5. Jumpin' Jack Flash
6. You Can't Always Get What You Want
7. 19th Nervous Breakdown
8. Under My Thumb
9. Not Fade Away
10. Have You Seen Your Mother Baby (Standing In The Shadows) ?
11. Sympathy For The Devil
12. Mother's Little Helper
13. She's A Rainbow
14. Get Off Of My Cloud
15. Wild Horses
16. Ruby Tuesday
17. Paint It Black
18. Honky Tonk Woman
19. It's All Over Now
20. Let's Spend The Night Together

Disc: 2
1. Start Me Up
2. Brown Sugar
3. Miss You
4. Beast Of Burden
5. Don't Stop
6. Happy
7. Angie
8. You Got Me Rocking
9. Shattered
10. Fool To Cry
11. Love Is Strong (Album Version)
12. Mixed Emotions
13. Key To Your Love
14. Anybody Seen My Baby? (LP Edit)
15. Stealing My Heart
16. Tumbling Dice
17. Undercover (Of The Night)
18. Emotional Rescue
19. It's Only Rock 'N' Roll (But I Like It)
20. Losin' My Touch