The Rolling Stones – Flowers

Flowers (1967)

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1. Ruby Tuesday 2. Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, Standing In The Shadow? 3. Let’s Spend The Night Together 4. Lady Jane 5. Out Of Time 6. My Girl 7. Back Street Girl 8. Please Go Home 9. Mother’s Little Helper 10. Take It Or Leave It 11. Ride On, Baby 12. Sittin’ On A Fence

 

The second of the not-really-an-album Stones albums improves massively on December’s Children partially by cheating and including a few standout tracks/singles from previous albums, but mostly because Mick and Keith had figured out how to write the crap out of a pop song in the interim two years. Flowers is a US-only compilation of tracks from the Aftermath/Between The Buttons era that had previously been featured on the somewhat altered UK versions of the albums, as well as a couple of non-album singles, outtakes and one godawful previously unreleased cover (the Temptations’ “My Girl,” which you should really hear just for comedic purposes). Which means there’s lots more of that marimba ‘n harpsichord, folk-based baroque ‘n roll that the boys had taken to during this era. It certainly helps the album’s cause that they padded out the running time by including “Ruby Tuesday,” “Let’s Spend The Night Together” and “Lady Jane,” all of which I’m perfectly open to hearing as many times over as possible. But there’s no dearth of strong material here.

This really was an interesting period for the band. Since they were being forced to compete with the whole Kinks/Rubber Soul Brit-folk “we really love pot and Bob Dylan” thing, it was probably their most un-Stones-like era. It took them a descent into psychedelic hell with Satanic Majesties to kick them back to the “sex, blues and riffs” blueprint, but they remained hooky as hell throughout this time. Yeah, tunes like “Out Of Time” and “Sittin’ On A Fence” are fruity and don’t really rock at all, but they’re catchy, goddammit. And occasionally stunning – see the lovely accordion-adorned acoustic ballad “Back Street Girl,” one of the Stones’ many lost would-be classics. It’s not like they’d forgotten how to rock, anyhow; they just chose not to. And when they did choose to, the wheels still moved just fine, thank you very much – check out “Please Go Home,” which combines rockin’ Bo Diddley guitar with soaring mid-60s harmonies to splendid effect.

And the singles were fucking great of course. The zany ball of energy “Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, Standing In The Shadow?” is on here, piling sugary hook on top of sugary hook and never really seeming to get anywhere. It’s just kind of a mess, and I’ve never really been able to get into it near as much as the other singles from this period, non-album or otherwise, like “19th Nervous Breakdown,” which unfortunately doesn’t appear here, or the twangy folk rock dirge “Mother’s Little Helper,” which very fortunately does. It’s by far Mick’s least cringe-worthy foray into social commentary, but then again you’d be hard-pressed to go wrong writing about pill-popping housewives. Just like you’d be hard-pressed to go wrong with 60s Stones – even at their sissiest.



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