This past fall the Rolling Stones celebrated their 50th anniversary by going all out – a series of concert dates in the UK and the New York area and the release of yet another greatest hits collection, this time a three cd set titled GRRR. I knew I wouldn’t be seeing the band live, but I’ll admit I was interested in the hits collection, even if I had all those songs on the band’s various albums and previous best of’s I own (and I have more than a few). However, I lost my initial interest when I read about the lack of decent liner notes and packaging that the multiple versions of GRRR came with. Even the super deluxe edition, which tacked on two bonus cds and a hardcover book got poor reviews. Not for the music, of course – you’d be hard pressed to find a dud track included on any version of GRRR. But the hardcover book was a serious exercise in excess, with one picture per page, and once again, no liner notes of significance. I figured I would just download the two new tracks, Doom and Gloom and One More Shot and move right along.
However, one day in December I was perusing one of the audiophile websites I go to (I like to know what albums are being reissued and remastered – I’m still a bit of a music collector) and discovered that in Europe, there was a version of GRRR being released that I thought WOULD be worth adding to my collection.
Find out what and why after the jump!
GRRR in Blu
In Europe, GRRR was being released as a hi-resolution Blu-ray disc, which promised to have the best audio for the collection you could possible find. This to me meant having a chance to listen to these classic Rolling Stones songs I’ve known for years with new ears. And while the Stones never produced their brand of rock n roll the way that Beatles did, with layers of production, when their 1960’s catalogue was released on the hi-res SACD format back in the early 2000’s, it sounded as though, on every song, the band was in the room with you. So, with my birthday in early January, the Queen was kind enough to order the GRRR Blu-ray disc for our (hopefully) mutual listening pleasure.
After a few weeks delay coming over from Europe (I blame the holidays), my copy of GRRR arrived in a Blu-ray style case which I quickly ripped the plastic off of. Opening the disc, I readily flipped through the enclosed booklet. Suffice to say, it stinks. Big time. It includes, get ready, six pictures. SIX. No liner notes, and only rudimentary credits, listing song writing credits. If you don’t already know which album or era a song comes from, you are SOL. This was a bigger let down then you’d think, since I tend to love looking through notes when I’m listening to an album. The two new tracks did have the players listed, so it would have been nice to at least have that included on all the tracks, especially if any novice Stones fans elected to pick up this version of GRRR.
Not to be let down by the shoddy packaging job, I put the Blu-ray disc into the player and turned up the volume. Honestly, I was shocked when the menu came up. It is hands down the worst Blu-ray or DVD or restaurant menu I have ever seen in my life. There’s no song listing – only a track number, so you must have the package with you if you want to know where to find a specific song. Absolutely atrocious. Meanwhile, flipping through the various hi-res stereo options (there’s three of them) is also unwieldy and take a minute or two to figure out. Now I fully understood that the GRRR Blu-ray was not going to feature any sort of video, and it shouldn’t – this is an audio experience. But really, the folks that put this together couldn’t have listed the freakin’ song titles when they’re playing??? Poor execution all around.
Or is it?
When it comes down to it, anyone who is buying GRRR on Blu-ray is in it for the music. They want to hear these classic Rolling Stones songs in the best quality available; everything else is a bonus. And without any doubt in my mind, listening to GRRR in this format is the best way to hear these songs, apart from listening to the studio masters. Everything is crystal clear, including those 60’s classics (the ABCKO years, as the diehards call them). Meanwhile, everything post-60’s sounds phenomenal as well, including the two new tracks.
While the liner notes may not offer much in the way of information, Wikipedia does. So on first listen, I lay back on the couch and read up on each song as it played. I had no idea there was an audible ghost vocal on Angie, did you? On the GRRR Blu-ray, it’s right there and very, very cool to hear. I’m also hearing things in favourites like Undercover Of The Night I’d never heard before.
I’ve been listening to the Rolling Stones for more than half my life, so I know much of their catalogue very, very well. For casual fans who aren’t collectors or audiophiles, getting the digital or cd versions of GRRR is good enough; it’s an excellent entry point for the World’s Greatest Rock N Roll Band. However, for long time fans who love these songs, but want to know or hear more, listening to GRRR on Blu-ray is an essential exploration of the band’s music. Those with expert ears or high-end equipment may find things to complain about (some audiophiles feel that the post-60’s material is too loud), but overall I am hugely happy to have 50 fantastic Stones song in this format, where I can put in a disc, start it up and turn it up.
It’s only rock n roll, but….well, you know.