- Audio CD (October 25, 1990)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Format: Import
- Label: Abkco
- ASIN: B000003BEJ
- Average Customer Review: 32 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #228,929 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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So the Stones take off a few months to write, get arrested, the usual, and their U.S. label tosses together the 1967 version of December's Children, complete with tackily precious "psychedelic" artwork. And it's great, however clumsily sequenced and cursed with a lousy version of "My Girl" it may be. Non-single tracks withheld from the American editions of Aftermath and Between the Buttons stand as highlights even alongside "Let's Spend the Night Together," and the offhand nastiness of "Back Street Girl" and "Sittin' on a Fence" short-circuit the sleeve's floral motif. --Rickey Wright
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But today I understand the forces that dictated its release and content, and I appreciate the content, and the fact that there's a lot more great than disappointing about it. Equally important, there are a lot of little touches to the record that were fairly daring for its time.
FLOWERS' release did mark recognition of a new phase in the Rolling Stones' career in the United States -- following a pattern that first appeared in England with their debut album, and continued with the AFTERMATH album's cover, and both the US and UK versions of BETWEEN THE BUTTONS, the Rolling Stones' name appears NOWHERE in the cover-art of the jacket, just the title and artwork (with the members' images) adorning the front cover. And going even further than its predecessors, the group's name doesn't appear anywhere on the back cover, either. Indeed, the only external indicator of the group's name was on the spine of the jacket. This boldness didn't seem to hurt sales, the album reaching No. 3 on the US charts, and receiving a Gold Record Award for sales of more than 500,000 -- and those facts are a reminder to those looking on from 50 years later just how popular the Rolling Stones were in 1967, this despite the fact that the band was sidelined from any concert work.
Putting FLOWERS in perspective requires some knowledge of what was going on with the Rolling Stones at the time. It had been five months since the release of their last album of new material, BETWEEN THE BUTTONS (which, in the US, contained "Ruby Tuesday" and "Let's Spend The Night Together") in early 1967. The band had started work on what was to be their next album immediately after, but this was interrupted first by the initial round of drug busts involving Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Brian Jones in February of 1967, and then a three-week European tour in late March and April. Work on a new album continued, but then in May came another, much more serious drug arrest for Brian Jones.
All of these matters made it pretty clear that the Stones were going to be sidelined from any possibility of a US tour in 1967, as well as from functioning as a whole group, at least some of the time, in the studio. That was serious enough as an overall issue, but it was critically important to keep them in front of the public in the United States, where there were vast legions of fans (the group's singles had all been smashes, and their albums had routinely occupied the top two or three slots of the US charts since mid-1965) and tons of money to be made from them, even in the group's absence.
So it was decided by their management and record label to feed the market with a long-player custom-designed for the US market. (The band had already seen some success -- albeit with mixed feelings by the members -- from the label devising albums exclusively for the US market, with 12x5 and DECEMBER'S CHILDREN, BIG HITS (HIGH TIDE & GREEN GRASS), and the December 1966 issue of GOT LIVE IF YOU WANT IT). Also factoring into the decision to pursue such a move was the fact that one of their recent hit singles, "Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, Standing In The Shadow" -- from late the previous year -- had yet to appear on a long-player anywhere. The need to exploit that record on an album provided more than enough excuse for the record company.
At the same time, however, it was still too soon, following the March 1966 US release of their first hits compilation, BIG HITS (HIGH TIDE AND GREEN GRASS), to do another actual "hits" collection. Instead we got FLOWERS, selected from among the best of the available material -- "Ruby Tuesday" and "Let's Spend The Night Together," as their most recent hits, were called into service again (despite having been used on the US version of BETWEEN THE BUTTONS) and tripled up with "Have You Seen Your Mother Baby," and added in were the two songs bumped from the UK version of BETWEEN THE BUTTONS for that US release, "Back Street Girl" and "Please Go Home" (both excellent songs, incidentally, the former a misogynistic ballad and the latter a frantic Bo Diddley-style workout) resurrected here; added to them was the 1966 US hit single "Mother's Little Helper," which had not yet been on an American album. And along with those was a bunch of Jagger-Richards songs that had mostly surfaced in England, either in the hands of the Stones themselves or others ("Out of Time," "Take It Or Leave it," "Ride On Baby," :Sitting On A Fence"), plus one previously unissued cover ("My Girl"). Oh, there was all of that plus "Lady Jane," a song that had been on the US AFTERMATH album but had also later taken on a second life when it charted as a single in its own right as the B-side of "Mother's Little Helper."
So if FLOWERS, from that description, sounds like a mess, or at least a hodge-podge of different material, that's because it is.
But never forget that this is a Rolling Stones collection from their prime early years, and that there's still a huge amount of music here that is worth hearing, multiple times, and some parts of it are unique to this album. The combination holds up astonishingly well as a snapshot of the Rolling Stones transitioning through pop-rock into baroque rock, folk-rock, and some early psychedelic garage rock (the Chocolate Watch Band could have had a ball with "Please Go Home" -- not that the Stones didn't); and while none of those genres occupied their attention for very long, the band proved most adept at experimenting with all of it. You have to love the way that Keith Richards and Brian Jones attack their acoustic guitars on songs like "Sitting On A Fence" and "Ride On Baby," both unique to this record, and some of the electric playing here is nicely flashy as well. All things considered, FLOWERS remains a diverting half-an-hour or so of listening that, taken on its own terms, is just fine even if it isn't remotely as definitive as any of the group's official albums, and that's especially true for those of us who have fond memories of the Rolling Stones as they were in the mid-1960s. It's a great showcase for Keith Richards' and Brian Jones' playing (the latter on all kinds of instruments), and I find myself going back to it pretty regularly. And it could hardly have been resented by the band's American audience, which propelled it to number 3 on the charts, a placement comparable to all of their preceding albums.
Yes, they did greater work before and after, but FLOWERS still has a place on my listening shelf.