The rightful point of emphasis when discussing the career of the Rolling Stones is the music. Their songs span over five decades, often times as a spot-on representatives of the era in which they were created, and still able to age gracefully into the canon of rock-and-roll classics. It’s why the group can refer to itself without immodesty as “The Greatest Rock-and-Roll Band in the World.”
It follows that the Stones would be no strangers to “best of” compilations, and their catalog is dotted with such, with perhaps 2002’s 40 Licks as the closest to a collection of their greatest. Now, here is Honk. It’s another comprehensive set, but this one targets the 45 years of albums between 1971 and 2016; the date of their most recent studio release, Blue and Lonesome.
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards have long been masters of marketing, somehow managing to slot their work into advertising, developing merchandise in which nearly any conceivable product could flash a Stones logo, dodging expected but quickly dissipating blowback, and still retain the necessary street cred to stay forever cool. Again, the answer is the music, and again, the Stones find a way to present it with enough new blooms to make it worth picking.
Sequencing is the key with Honk. As they have done with past sets, this one is arranged without regard to chronology. Rather, songs from the ‘70s sit alongside nuggets from the past decade. Hits shoulder with album cuts. And, listened in order, the two-disc journey through the years becomes less one of evolution, but of durability and diversity. By the end, it’s hard to imagine very many bands that could align 45 years of material in such a way, and make one believe they could do it for 45 more.
The third disc consists of live tracks, with guests such as Dave Grohl and Florence Welch likely living out the dream of playing with the Stones. It’s a nice addition, and an incentive to add this to the stack of other compilations, even with the amount of songs that have appeared previously elsewhere. Honk is not intended to be definitive, but in its own way makes a defining case for the Rolling Stones as a band whose music can be parsed out and reconfigured time and again for repeatedly pleasing results. \lsdsemihidden