Later this month, Rhino Records will release a 10-CD Joni Mitchell box set, consisting of all her studio albums from 1968 to 1979.
I can’t help but wonder who the target audience for that would be.
I mean, if you’re deep into Joni Mitchell, you probably already own those albums. (Or, like me, you have acquired most of them at some point over the years and kept the ones you liked.)
And if you’re not that deep into Joni Mitchell, a 10-CD box set is more than you’re going to spring for at one throw. You’re more likely to try one album at a time, checking out clips on YouTube or Amazon to find the ones you like the sound of best.
So, I don’t get it.
But it is not La Mitchell we are here to skewer tonight; it is the Rolling Stones.
As you have no doubt heard, the Stones plan to release one of those greatest-hits-plus-two-new-tracks compilations next month. (Rumor has it one of the two new songs is actually pretty hot. I haven’t listened to it yet.)
By my count, this will be the 12th officially released Rolling Stones hits compilation, as follows:
Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass)
Through The Past Darkly (Big Hits Vol. 2)
Hot Rocks 1964-1971
More Hot Rocks (Big Hits & Fazed Cookies)
Made in the Shade
Sucking in the Seventies
Singles Collection: The London Years
Jump Back: The Best of The Rolling Stones
That’s a subjective list: It could be longer, since the Stones’ former labels have released numerous repackagings of everything from big hits to obscure outtakes. I’ve only included what I believe to be the most common and best-selling hit-based compilations, based on 25-plus years of nosing around music stores.
(My count also excludes live albums, which could be construed as greatest-hits compilations by casual fans who don’t insist on the original studio versions. As a pop geek, I am not one of those people, but I do give lip service to their existence from time to time.)
By any count, that’s an arseload of repackaging — especially when contrasted with the band’s increased absence from the studio. In the past 20 years, they have released as many greatest-hits packages (three) as new studio records.
So, then: A modest proposal.
I suggest somebody put out a Stones box set — like the Mitchell box set — bringing together their dozen greatest-hits albums, all in one place. Preferably on 200-gram vinyl, for the audiophiles in the crowd.
Nothin’ but hits, folks — some of them several times over.
Such a box set would feature “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” five times, and “Fool To Cry” just as often. Meanwhile, the discerning Eighties chart freak could savor four recurrences of “Undercover Of The Night.”
The public has shown it will buy the hits, again and again. So why not take cynical repackaging to its furthest extent?
Hear all the hits in their classic glory, the same way they were originally selected and sequenced by some record-company geek while Mick and Keef sunned themselves in the Caribbean.
It’s like supersizing your order at McDonald’s. Just as you can have all the familiar, unchallenging fast food you can stuff down your gullet, you can have all the hits you know and love, just as many times as you can stand to hear them. (You’ll also get all those new studio tracks you just end up skipping over anyway ’cause they weren’t hits, kinda like how you open up your Big Mac to take out the pickles.)
I think there’s something to my modest proposal, and I think the Stones are just shameless enough to make it happen.
I might have to go buy a new cartridge for my turntable. Can’t have just any old needle making sweet love to that 200-gram vinyl, after all.