The Stone Roses: The Complete Stone Roses – album review
The Complete Stone Roses (Silvertone)
Has there been a band of the past twenty years whose back catalogue has been as mercilessly fleeced as the The Stone Roses? Their Manc predecessors The Smiths once sang:
Re-issue! Re-package! Re-package!
Re-evaluate the songs
Double-pack with a photograph
Extra Track (and a tacky badge)
Is The Complete Stone Roses a repackage too far? Stuart Timmins gets angry about it for Louder Than War.
And The Roses, or more specifically Silvertone, the label they released the majority of their best stuff on, took those lyrics literally.
Their first album The Stone Roses alone has been rereleased on double vinyl and on CD with an extra track in their first wave of popularity, seen a 10th anniversary edition and multiple format 20th anniversary edition (albeit with the band’s input), not to mention being behind the release of numerous “best of” compilations, boxsets, a remix album and an early demos/lost debut album from their first label. But the worst culprit, possibly because of it’s popularity with more casual, perhaps less pedantic fans than me is The Complete Stone Roses.
I was in the pub the other night after closing time and the landlord turned off the jukebox and put this album on. At 21 tracks long, it represents value for money and the quality of the songs is undeniable. But it’s possibly as far removed from how I’d imagine, as a musician myself, the band would want their music to be heard (as well as not receiving a penny in royalties from it either, but that’s another story). So I’ve taken it upon myself to go through each track and tell you what’s wrong with it.
1. So Young: their debut single, pretty well known now because of this album but at the time only available on the hard to come by, 100 quid a pop original 12″ single or the Silvertone released singles boxset. Perhaps it’s inclusion is justified (at least it’s in its original version unlike other tracks here) but the band had yet to develop it’s signature sound and classic songwriting sensibilities. It’s more post punk than jangle pop and all a bit uncouth. Not essential really and one that the band by all accounts were happy to have forgotten about.
2. Tell Me: the b-side to So Young. Better, though Ian Brown bellows his way through it, yet to discover his trademark hushed delivery. Again, worthy due to it’s relative obscurity but more curio than essential addition to the catalogue.
3. Sally Cinnamon: Their first classic single from 1987, but the version here is the shorter recording, possibly a demo(?) that cropped up on the 1990 re-issue, suggesting it was vetoed by the band in favour of the original release with the instrumental coda/fade out. Because of it’s inclusion here, it’s possibly the better known version, which is a small crime.
4. Here It Comes and
5. All Across The Sands: The b-sides to Sally Cinnamon. All is well here, further evidence that the band were about to hit their stride.
6. Elephant Stone: The first Silvertone single, produced by Peter Hook. The 7″ version is included here for time constraint reasons but unlike others, it was on the original release and therefore, approved by the band. Some interesting differences, incidentally, between the two versions. I’ve never been sure whether they were two different recordings or just different mixes with different overdubs used.
7. Full Fathom Five: Their first foray into reversing songs to make other tracks, in this case Elephant Stone. However, this version (like the one that appeared on the CD single) is exactly that: Elephant Stone backwards. None of the effects, panning, delay, dropping in and out of vocals and instruments that had appeared on the original 12″ only single. Not sure what went wrong (I’ve never read any account of why this version turned up on an official release) but when the debut album and it’s b-sides were remastered for the deluxe special edition in 2009 the original 12″ version was restored, appearing on CD for the first time. Again due to the popularity of this compilation, more people know this version. Just plain wrong! Incidentally, the CD version is rumoured to be Peter Hook’s reversed original mix of Elephant Stone, before John Leckie remixed it for the single.
8. The Hardest Thing In The World: As it should be.
9. Made Of Stone: Perfect and concise as it is, no need for edits or remixes.
10. Going Down: b-side to Made Of Stone. Though next up should be the excellent and neglected Guernica (Made Of Stone in reverse with implied forward/backwards lyrics a la Don’t Stop)
11. She Bangs The Drums: the slightly remixed version, without the hihats intro, released as a single. Ironically, often labelled as the 12″ version despite being almost exactly the same length as the album version, if not shorter.
12. Mersey Paradise and
13. Standing Here: two of their best b-sides ever. Along with Simone (Where Angels Play in reverse. missing here), these four tracks surely made up one of the best ever singles/EPs ever.
14. I Wanna Be Adored: edit, originally appeared in 1989 on the US single so technically approved by the band. But the power in the track lies in the extended build up and chopping the intro riff in half is detrimental too. Granted though, the full length version two thirds of the way through this album wouldn’t have made much sense. Either put it at the start or don’t put it on at all.
15. Waterfall: the 1991 7″ version. Only slightly remixed by Paul Oakenfold, but pointlessly so. No great crime, but more seconds needlessly shaved off a classic song.
16. I Am The Resurrection: Unbelievably shit and dated remix of one of the band’s defining songs, the prime reason for this post and me attempting to stop anyone ever listening/purchasing this album. Hard to know where to begin. For a start, editing this song down for a single or otherwise, is a poor idea. The instrumental break at the mid way point is as key to the song as the bit with the vocals. It might break down halfway through but it’s no afterthought, no needless extended version, no flabby jamming. Even at 8 minutes long it never outstays its welcome. Basically, it’s the perfect encapsulation of everything about the band in one song. But even by lobbing off the second half to release it as a single wouldn’t be so bad if the remix wasn’t so awful. Reni appears to be replaced by a drum machine seconds in, or at least double tracked with one. The production is flat and lifeless and when the bridge comes in there’s a really tacky and thin sub-Charlatans organ played by someone with one finger (the worst part is when it goes back into the verse and it does that cheesy “run your fingers down the keys” thing like he’s Booker T or something). And then after the chorus, when the song breaks down just before it would start up again with the instrumental section, they cut the last chord off dead, akin to a cha-cha-cha style X-Factor ending instead of letting the chord ring out. Dreadful.
17. Where Angels Play: released as the b-side to the belated single I Wanna Be Adored in 1991. Ian Brown always claimed this to be a demo and was never intended for release. He even recorded a new version on his own, but the fact it was remastered along with the tracks from the same period for the 20th anniversary boxset (as well as having a corresponding demo included like the other songs) suggests otherwise, as does the multitracked guitars and vocals. I might be wrong, but it sounds like a lot of work went into it. It was a staple of their live set in 89/90 and was reversed for Simone too.
18. Fools Gold: the 7″/4.15 version, a real classic but it works so much better on the full length 9.53 version.
19. What The World Is Waiting For: The one and only version
20. Something’s Burning: Listed as Something Burning (shoddy!). This is regarded as the 7″ version but there never was one. It was just edited down for this album. The track itself was a slow burning epic (no pun intended) and at half it’s original length it’s over much too soon, missing out large instrumental sections (Reni on xylophone!) that make it great.
21. One Love: Often regarded as a retread of Fools Gold. I disagree, perhaps even prefer this one. Like Fools Gold, it’s the necessary 7″ version, fading out at 3 and a half minutes. But like Something’s Burning, it’s over too soon, too epic to be a radio length single.
22. Special mention goes to the tracks on the “bonus disc”:
I’m Without Shoes: A minute of reversed She Bangs The Drums with forward lyrics. Obvious why it never made the cut compared with the other experimental tracks.
Groove (Black Magic Devil Woman): evidently named by someone in charge at Silvertone, it’s basically the band jamming an unidentified instrumental song in the studio. Slightly interesting, in the same way the Second Coming rehearsal tapes are but ultimately disappointing when tempted by the promise of two unreleased tracks. As a fan, and a completist one at that (at least at the time), I’d have bought this album anyway, but don’t make promises you can’t keep, Silvertone!
So there you go! As I said earlier, not really questioning the quality of songs, more the versions, remixes and recordings used. If it wasn’t just a money making exercise by Silvertone, they could have kept the same tracklisting but used the full length, band approved versions of the songs and made an indispensable double album. Why not put that together yourself?! For the record Silvertone had earlier released a compilation called Turns Into Stone featuring the full length versions of Elephant Stone, Fools Gold and One Love and nearly all of the b-sides from those singles and those off The Stone Roses. It’s almost as essential as that album but it is out of print now, whereas “The Complete” is still available (as is an even shoddier, randomly compiled budget compilation laughably titled “The Collection”).
In my opinion, all you really need by The Stone Roses is the eponymous first album, Second Coming, Turns Into Stone and the Sally Cinnamon EP. If you want a compilation, get The Very Best Of The Stone Roses, tracklisting chosen by the band and the only compilation featuring tracks from both albums. You don’t need The Complete Stone Roses!
All words by Stuart Timmins. This is Stuart’s first piece for Louder Than War.