The idea of a best of Mick Jagger solo album is a bit laughable; out of the seventeen songs included on The Very Best of Mick Jagger, only four tracks actually made the top forty singles charts. Out of those, one of them featured another superstar (David Bowie) and a well-publicized cause (Live Aid) to help lift it into the top ten while two others (“Let’s Work” and “Lucky In Love”) barely cracked the top forty at all.
Now consider this with the notion that the idea of a Mick Jagger solo album actually started when tensions between Mick and Keith reached a point to where the Stones were considering a life apart.
Yes, there are tremendous holes throughout the solo albums that he recorded out of spite and those that he recorded out of a need to express what he couldn’t do with the Stones. All of this means that a compilation of highlights from Jagger’s solo releases is actually a pretty good idea and The Very Best of Mick Jagger is actually a pretty good record.
The biggest disappointments are Jagger’s entire 80s output. Back in the day, a record like his first solo effort, She’s The Boss, sounded misguided. Today it sounds both misguided and incredibly dated. Things got even worse by the time of Primitive Cool, a record that actually prompted me to question the entire notion that the Stones were the greatest rock band on Earth.
And in between those two mid-80s relics was “Dancing In The Street,” an off-the-cuff-and-it-shows collaboration between Jagger and Bowie. As the highest chart topper on the set (#1 in the UK and #8 here in America), its inclusion is required even though it’s positively painful to listen to again.
But the rest of the tracks on The Very Best of Mick Jagger are surprisingly enjoyable. When Mick tries to come across as contemporary, he sounds just as embarrassing as you could imagine. But when he lets loose and stops worrying about sounding too much like his main source of income, Mick Jagger’s solo work is worth compiling and worth examining.
There are two wonderful 70s selections, the Performance solo version of “Memo From Turner,” the mismatched-but-decent duet with Peter Tosh “(You Got To Walk And) Don’t Look Back,” as well as the obligatory “I just found this lying around” unreleased cut which happens to be something brewed up with John Lennon. “Too Many Cooks (Spoil The Soup)” is anything but revelatory and, truth be told, there’s not a hint of Lennon to it. At the same time, it’s become the story that Mick’s been focusing on during the publicity run for Best Of.
The other unreleased material, including a collaboration with Lenny Kravitz and a guest appearance by Bono, is quite nice too, with the nod going to a 1993 recording of “Checkin’ Up On My Baby with The Red Devils. Jagger needs to consider doing an album consisting entirely of Chicago-blues numbers as a future solo record because, no matter how trendy he’d like to appear, his voice is (rightfully) affixed to the electric blues paradigm.
The collection pays particular attention to Jagger’s excellent Wandering Spirit release by giving four spaces to that overlooked jem. It remains your first choice for “best Jagger solo album” in terms of overall consistency while Best Of would be your first choice if you simply want to examine the Jagger “oeuvre.”
For whatever reason they’ve given for now releasing a Jagger solo collection, The Very Best Of Mick Jagger stands as a flawed but entertaining glimpse at what rock’s greatest frontman does when he’s trying to step away from the ominous shadow of his day job.