Rolling Stones – Through the Past Darkly (Big Hits Vol. 2) – ABKCO 018771900313 (1963-1969), 38:23 – stereo vinyl – U.S. version ****½:
(Mick Jagger – Vocals, percussion, harmonica; Keith Richards – guitar, bass, vocals; Brian Jones – guitar, harmonica, sitar, piano, organ, mellotron, tambura, recorder; Bill Wyman – bass, keyboards, vocals; Charlie Watts – drums, percussion; Mick Taylor – guitar on “Honky Tonk Women”)
ABKCO is re-releasing in a steady manner early Rolling Stones material in LP format. The Stones second official compilation, Through the Past Darkly, was a follow-up to the earlier High Tide and Green Grass, that was released in 1966. The second compilation served several purposes, when it was released in 1969. It was an avenue to release “Honky Tonk Woman” on an LP; it prepared the U.S. for the Stones upcoming tour at that time, and it provided a memorial for Brian Jones, who had passed away in mid-1969 (after already having left the band ). The album contained a brief memorial to Brian in the inside cover of its unique octagonal cover.
Due to the inclusion of “Honky Tonk Woman” the mega hit, Big Hits Vol.2, took off like a rocket on the records chart, reaching both #2 on both the US and UK sales charts. How could it not with the inclusion of previous singles only versions of “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” “Ruby Tuesday,” “We Love You,” and “Dandelion?” The album’s historical value was supplanted somewhat by later issues of compilations, Hot Rocks (which covered 1964-1971, and More Hot Rocks.)
To sweeten the pot, Big Hits Vol.2, like other recent re-issues from the label is being issued in a super cool clear vinyl, which adds to the panache of this early greatest hits compilation. Hearing new member, Mick Taylor, rip into “Honky Tonk Women” is a precursor to his future contribution to Mick and the Boys.
Through the Past Darkly, cuts some new ground into the band’s influences ranging from the then-present rage “Psychedelia” (“Paint it Black” “She’s a Rainbow”), to early punk attempts (“Mother’s Little Helper”), as well as magnificent rock and roll (“Street Fighting Man” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”), which have remained prime Stones to this day. It’s simply an embarrassment of riches from the iconic rock band for the ages, who refuse to let up even after a half century. Bill Wyman has left, but with the addition of Ron Wood the foursome plus guests continue to reign supreme.
Describing highlights of material of this magnitude that is so well known as these hits seems pointless. I can comment on the quality of the acoustics, which are crisp on the non-vocal portions of these songs. The limitations of recording the vocals at that time do stand out on some tracks when the backing support is upfront. However, on the softer fare like “Ruby Tuesday,” and “She’s A Rainbow” Jagger’s vocals are more than acceptable. . (I cannot comment comparing the 2002 CD/SACD issues as I do not have them. I’d imagine that the SACD issues would be the most critical comparison).
The piano and strings on “She’s a Rainbow” are revelatory. The Beatles’ use of various non-rock instruments are legendary but the Stones at this time had Brian Jones on sitar, organ, mellotron, tambura, and recorder. Hearing the Stones’ early staples in studio version provides an opportunity to appreciate their musicianship in contrast to their better known live shows and recordings when the cranked up volume and audience interaction provide a totally different listening experience. To me the appreciation of the studio version of “Honky Tonk Women” is enhanced by the percussion that is overwhelmed when played live.
Watching the clear vinyl go clockwise (and seemingly backwards) at the same time; the way the clear vinyl was cut is an experience that even a sober viewing verifies.
If you are vinyl Stones junkie, the purchase of Through the Past Darkly – Vol. 2, comes highly recommended at its present price point.
Side One: Paint It Black, Ruby Tuesday, She’s a Rainbow, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Mother’s Little Helper, Let’s Spend the Night Together
Side Two: Honky Tonk Women, Dandelion, 2000 Light Years From Home, Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, Standing in The Shadow, Street Fighting Man