Graded on a Curve:
Mick Jagger,
The Very Best of
Mick Jagger

“I’m feeling as dumb/As a Mick Jagger solo album/I’m such a damned waste/One long lapse of good taste”Lesbian Boy, “Mick Jagger Solo Album”

What do you give the person who has everything? Well, let’s see… of course! Something they don’t want! And who in their right mind actually wants a Mick Jagger solo album? But let me correct that. There really are people out there who want Mick Jagger solo albums—1985’s She’s the Boss went platinum in the U.S., God help us—but for the life of me I can’t figure out WHY they want them; are they, like, you know, PERVERTS or sumpin’?

Don’t get me wrong; it’s not as if 2007’s The Very Best of Mick Jagger is totally unlistenable, although it has more than its fair share of unlistenable moments—it simply strikes me as, well, pointless. If, like me (and this is a big assumption, granted) you believe that the Stones might as well have packed their bags and flown off into permanent tax exile at some indeterminate point in the mid to late seventies, and if like me you believe that everything they’ve done since then has basically been so much superfluous sand pounding, then what could be more supererogatory than a handful of relatively nondescript albums by their too-famous for words frontman, who has (in my view) done nothing but preen like a peacock since (and I’m being exceptionally kind here) 1978’s Some Girls?

I know—I’m being a prick. Because there’s no arguing that The Very Best of Mick Jagger includes a few tunes I’m glad to have around. I must confess to loving the pretty but gritty “Don’t Tear Me Up” for instance. And who doesn’t love the menacing Ry Cooder slide guitar rave-up “Memo From Turner,” even if it does date back to 1970 and the Performance soundtrack and really doesn’t belong on what is, for the most part, a culling of the “finest” tracks from Jagger’s solo outings from 1985 to 2001? (Another version of the tune appears on 1975 Rolling Stones’ compilation Metamorphosis. Avoid it.) As for the countrified love song “Evening Gown” it’s sweet and sad, while the on-the-lowdown blues turn “Checkin’ Up on My Baby”—which Jagger recorded in 1992 with The Red Devils, and which doesn’t appear on a solo album either—demonstrates that old Mick stills know how to shake, rattle, and roll, although why he doesn’t do it more often beyond me.

A couple of other tunes fall into the same “miscellaneous” category as “Memo From Turner” and “Checkin’ Up on My Baby.” The quite likeable “Old Habits Die Hard” (shades of Rod Stewart!) dates back to 2004’s soundtrack to the remake of Alfie, while the historically interesting “Too Many Cooks (Spoil the Soup)”—a funky and horn-driven cover of 100 Proof (Aged in Soul)’s R&B original—goes the whole way back to 1973 and an El Lay studio session produced by John Lennon (and featuring his then-menagerie of ne’er-do-wells). As for the discofied “Charmed Life,” it was recorded at the sessions for 1993’s Wandering Spirit but didn’t make it onto the album. And then there’s the unspeakable “Dancing in the Streets,” which constitutes a twin-fold spiritual and musical nadir for both Old Jaggersides and “collaborator” (with all the negative connotations the word implies) David Bowie, who really should have known better.

As for the cuts that come from his solo albums, most of them are MOR schlock and suffer from all of the studio excesses characteristic of the years in which they were recorded. “Just Another Night” is every bit as vapid as every other vapid song recorded using state-of-the-art studio technology in Our Year of the Lord 1985, while 1987’s annoyingly upbeat “Let’s Work” is objectionable both musically and lyrically. Let’s touch the clouds, sings Mick in a fit of banality—and lest you think I’m picking on one bad line, the entire song is one long string of clichés—that makes me want to trundle off to the unemployment line. Meanwhile, “Lucky in Love” is hobbled by the same infuriatingly insistent drumbeat you heard everywhere in 1985, and boasts some impeccably bland guitar work to boot. As for 1993’s “Put Me in the Trash,” it sounds like a 1993-era Stones track, which kinda makes you wonder why Mick even bothered. And “Don’t Call Me Up” is an undisputed example of songwriting at its most generic.

2001’s “God Gave Me Everything” is a driving guitar rocker—and no wonder, seeing as how it was cowritten by Lenny Kravitz—but it’s nothing special, while “Sweet Thing” is just “Miss You” recycled, right down to the disco beat and Mick’s falsetto. As for the Jagger-Bono duet that is “Joy” it sounds like a just-okay U2 track, but just what Mick’s doing on it is a mystery I can’t summon up the enthusiasm to solve.

The Very Best of Mick Jagger is less a best-of compilation than a nausoleum—a rather dated and undistinguished collection of songs most all of which could have been recorded by almost anybody. Mick Jagger may be uniquely talented, but there is nothing unique about most of the songs on this album. Listening to Jagger try to justify all of those expensive studio fees is kinda like watching a horse attempt the limbo. It may be true what they say about a rolling stone gathering no moss. But The Very Best of Mick Jagger is proof positive that sooner or later said Stone will roll into a ditch.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
C-

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  • dan_oz

    Not so much the best of, more like the least worst of.

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