|Review: Counting Down The Rolling Stones: Their 100 Finest Songs by Jim Beviglia
||[Nov. 29th, 2015|12:15 pm]
Counting Down The Rolling Stones: Their 100 Finest Songs Hardcover – November 5, 2015|
• Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (November 5, 2015)
• ISBN-10: 1442254467
• ISBN-13: 978-1442254466
Reviewed by Wesley Britton
I can’t avoid admitting that many of my observations regarding Jim Beviglia’s third volume of his Counting Down series are very like what I said about his second book on the 100 best songs of Bruce Springsteen. After all, the formats of these books are pretty much identical and readers are likely to enjoy the same sorts of responses to each.
For example, readers will likely want to match their own Top 100 lists with Beviglia as he rates, from 100 to 1, the songs he considers as the best of The Rolling Stones. Odds are, none of us would make all the same choices. For me, how can Midnight Rambler” come in at a mere 86? “Honky Tonk Women” only 46? Heresy! No mention of the 1994 bluesy single, “Love is Strong”? But when he gets to number twenty and moves up, I have to agree with all his picks, especially as that part of the hit parade is top heavy with songs from the 1960s. Could Number One be anything other than “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”?
For me, the many surprises were songs I either don’t remember or I heard maybe once back in the day. Do you recall “Who’s Driving Your Plane?” from 1973? (Number 81 in Beviglia’s opinion.) Or Number 50, “She Smiled Sweetly” from 1967’s Between the Buttons, an album Beviglia repeatedly notes is an underappreciated mid-60s collection? The Stones, after all, have 50 years of recordings and many didn’t have quite the resonance as their glory years between 1963 and the late ‘70s. Still, Beviglia found nuggets from albums like Bridges to Babylon, Voodoo Lounge, Emotional Rescue, and Undercover. If there’s one album Beviglia clearly didn’t care for, that would be 2005’s A Bigger Bang. Only one track, “Laugh I Nearly Died,” made the Top 100 at Number 40. Other songs from the Stones apparently last studio album were simply listed in the unannotated also-runs of the appendix counting down the songs rated at 101 to 200.
Beviglia, of course, is quite correct to include material from the entire Stones canon, although he admits he’s only including original material and not the many excellent covers the band has recorded over the years. So the rudder from the bottom up are the compositions of Messrs. Jagger and Richards with a mere handful of other collaborators, some credited, most not.
Beyond the obvious inclination to measure our own ideas with Beviglia’s, the real meat of the book is the author’s extremely insightful reasoning for his choices. In addition, even serious Stones fans are likely to learn some history about the composition of the songs, their evolution in the studio, the contexts of their production, and the contributions of all the performers, both the Stones themselves and guest musicians and producers. Biviglia’s research is impressive, although I noted he missed engineer Glyn John’s 2014 Sound Man. That memoir included anecdotes that might have added some insights, such as Keith Richards singing “You Got the Silver” because Johns erased a track he shouldn’t have, Jagger wasn’t around, so Richards filled in. So Keith Richards first lead vocal was the result of an accident.
But Counting Down isn’t intended to be a reference book giving readers the definitive production history of the Stones canon, but rather a critical overview of why so many songs still deserve our appreciation to lesser and greater degrees. Now, Beviglia really has only one place to go. He’s done Dylan, Springsteen, the Stones—who else has 100 songs to rank? Well, The Beatles, of course, especially if you mix in the solo works with the band’s fab career. Who else has that much of a catalogue, at least in rock history? Till then, the Stones are more than worthy of this new exploration, and rock fans who read have a treat to enjoy this year.
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Nov. 26, 2015.
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