Souvenir Song Book [no label 1CD]
Compilation of rare bootleg

Titled for the Stones' first published collection of music, from 1964, Souvenir Song Book is a ragtag of odds and sods scratched from a host of other bootlegs, but valuable as a source for material that really has fallen through the cracks. 

It kicks off four extracts from the legendary reel-to-reel home recordings taped while Jagger and Richard still fronted Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys, with Dick Taylor, Allen Etherington and Bob Beckwith making up the numbers. "Little Queenie," "Beautiful Delilah," "Down The Road Apiece" and "I Ain't Got You" are as raw and unpolished as any band whose enthusiasm is still streets ahead of their abilities, but it's a fascinating excavation regardless.

"Leave Me Alone," a smart outtake from sessions in November 1963, is followed by one of the band's earliest bona fide classics, the undeservedly obscure "Goodbye Girl," cut at Chess Studios the following year. The oddly Beatlesque "It Should Be You" and a frighteningly unenthusiastic demo for "That Girl Belongs To Yesterday" capture further examples of Mick and Keith's earliest attempts at songwriting, while there's also a stark snapshot of Jagger and piano, yowling the blues in a manner not dissimilar to the later "Exile On Main Street" title track (not from the album of the same name!).

Jagger and Andrew Oldham's frankly over-anthologized "Da Doo Ron Ron" makes an appearance, before we leap to a psychedelic jam from the late 1960s, an alternate vocal mix of "Gimme Shelter," and on into the 1970s via more or less random out-takes from a variety of sources. The sound quality improves as we go along, but your attention may well start wandering as one instrumental, or barely formed vocal track, follows another. The first half of the disc, though, definitely serves up an experience you'll want to repeat. - Dave Thompson

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June 29, 2007