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WHEN YOU were a little kid, you heard "Satisfaction" and "Gimme Shelter" on someone's car radio, and you wanted that record. Your parents had bought you lots of Simon and Garfunkel and let your piano teacher show you twelve-bar blues, but you wanted The Rolling Stones.
By the time you started to part your hair in the middle and wear a hooded sweatshirt under your junior high basketball jacket, you had worn through one copy of Hot Rocks and had the 1972 American tour promo poster on your bedroom door. You got the wimpy kid to call you Mick, and you learned to pout like Charlie Watts as you tapped out the beat to "Jumping Jack Flash" on your plastic pencil case. This was the only music you needed.
It's a very different bunch of Stones who recently scrounged around and came up with the non-greatest hits album, Sucking in the Seventies. The collection, drawn mostly from the Black and BlueSome Girls-Emotional Rescue trilogy, lacks the bad-assed tone that once inspired you to embroider a red lips-and-toungue patch on a down parks, and has only faint traces of the weary, but often witty attitude of the past several years. Sucking is not a comprehensive summary of the Stones in the Seventies; they were better than this on everything from Sticky Fingers to the unjustly criticized Goats Head Soup.
What you have in Sucking is a defiant challenge: "We can throw out the also-ran songs from any three albums, include a couple of live cuts, wrap the whole mess in cellophane, and you'll still buy it."
For even in their declining years, the Stones are one of the most entertaining bands in the business. Musically they have branched out from their earlier rock and roll-rhythm and blues show to include salsa, mock country, and border-line disco. Their guitar sound has suffered a bit under the increasingly lackadaisical supervision of Keith Richards and Ron Wood, and the aged Bill Wyrhan has done little to improve his methodical bass playing. But Watts, now limiting himself to a snare, high-hat, and garbage can top, remains raw and on-the-mark. Jagger's singing has actually improved as he has tried new styles. Slowed down by countless women and residual effects of nearly two decades of group cynicism, the Stones can still rock through four-and-a-half minutes of a 2-4 beat as well as anyone.
THE FIRST SIDE of Sucking is highlighted by two slow-paced tunes which never received much attention the first time they were released. "Everything's Turning to Gold" accompanied "Shattered" as a single in 1978, and presents a relaxed alternative to the frantic, depraved view of life and love presented by the better-known song. "Now that the love juice starts to flow/Everything is turning to gold," Jagger growls, forgetting his cries about "Laughter, joy and loneliness, and sex and sex and sex, and look at me, I'm in tatters--I've been shattered."
"Time Waits for No One" is the second part of a pair, and showcases Watts' sweatless yet perfect drumming. With ample self-deprecation. Jagger clumsily explores the theme of mortality in what turns into a bastardized Shakespearian sonnet. The final couplet of iambic pentameter is repeated several times too many: "Time waits for no one, No favors has He: /Time waits for No One./ And he won't wait for me."
Few people praised Black and Blue when it came out in 1976, and the funk-disco song "Hot Stuff" from that Ip has not improved with age. Along with "Shattered," which opens up the first side, and "Dance, Pt. 2." "Hot Stuff" does however provide a clear picture of the New York the Rolling Stones know. It is a town of confusion and fast, undirected movement, which can suck you in for a lifetime if you don't resist its pull.
The album's two live cuts, one--"Mannish Boy"--merely transferred from the Love You Live collections--and the other, a driving re-make of "When the Whip Comes Down," open the second side. On the former, Jagger tries for a vague Muddy Waters imitation and comes up a bit short, but he receives enthusiastic vocal backing from occasional Stones keyboardist Billy Preston. "When the Whip Comes Down" benefits from a propulsive rhythm guitar and bass line, but whoever played the lead barely distinguishes himself from the tenative style of a high school amateur. Other cuts include "Crazy Mama," a gritty "I-want-to-sleep-with-you-anyway" number and the overplayed "Beast of Burden."
Between projects and worried about maintaining their momentum before a possible tour of the United States this summer, the Stones have dumped Sucking in the Seventies into the suburban record shop bins and are waiting for the virtually guaranteed profits. They really don't lose much stature in the process because everyone who cares knows they stopped producing their best stuff sometime during the reign of Richard Nixon. This is the Stones hanging on, older and less tough, but still worth listening to if you once did Charlie Watts on you plastic pencil case.
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