Many collectors, myself included, have a list of the records that we consider Holy Grails. Often, Discogs is the best database for such a collection, especially if looking for a rarity to pop up on the secondhand market. However, there are times when good old crate-digging uncovers that hidden gem. Yes, dear reader, I was fortunate enough to pick up The Rolling Stones EP and Got Live If You Want It (EP) from Matau Records in 2018. Unfortunately, they didn’t have Five By Five and I was to find out that while secondhand copies were plentiful, new copies were far more expensive than they should be, most likely because of not only supply and demand but also the artificial scarcity of them being Record Store Day releases. As longtime readers would note, I want to purchase new pressings, in order to make them my own, create my own memories, and ultimately pass them down to my son. As such it was either pay two to three times the value or hope that one day it would be reissued. Well, the good news is I didn’t have t wait for a reissue.
A couple of weeks ago, my significant other had surprise ordered a different Holy Grail record for me; Elton John’s 17-11-70+. It is rather difficult to get, especially in Australia, and the only copy I had known to be still available was at Sydney Hi-Fi in Mona Vale. I had no intention of picking up any other records, but as all collectors would note, when you get into crate digging mode, your budget goes completely out the window. As I was perusing their shelves, my significant other pointed out the 7-inch reissues they had. I hadn’t thought much of it for I was in album buying mode, but then as I looked I saw Five By Five. Not just one copy, but two copies, at a very reasonable price. I was like a kid in a toy store. As much as I lusted after the Elton John record, this surprising find made my day and I’m still in awe that I now have a copy.
Five By Five was released in 1964 and was The Rolling Stones second official EP. Unlike the raw, yet compelling Self-Titled EP, Five By Five has a much higher production quality, likely as a result of being recorded and release post their debut album, The Rolling Stones, resulting in it being an absolute pleasure to listen to.
As with the Self-Titled EP, the reproduction of the artwork was exquisite with obvious differences that would likely drive purists to the brink of sanity. I’m just happy to have a facsimile that I can call my own. Plus, this time around, unlike the re-issue of the Self-Titled EP and Got Live If You Want It I have to get out my 45-rpm adapter. It’s a small thing, but it enhances the nostalgia element.
If You Need Me is a great song, originally recorded by Soul Music pioneer and legend Solomon Burke. His original is beyond reproach, but The Rolling Stones really adapted it well to their style. A live Rolling Stones recording exists on On Air, but it isn’t nearly as compelling as this studio recording. The Hep Stars also covered If You Need Me nicely and Tom Jones, with his baritone vocal, is not only perfectly suited for this song but I’d argue his is the very best rendition in existence. Nevertheless, If You Need Me is a great opener for this EP and an incredible recording in The Rolling Stones’ back catalogue.
Empty Heart is a collaborative Stones original and you can certainly hear the brilliance that was to come with a tonality that would have arguably fit perfectly on Exile On Main St. had it been recorded during the Main St. sessions.
2120 South Michigan Avenue is another original composition and as an instrumental, it isn’t bad, but it isn’t anything to write home about. At least Jagger wasn’t standing around, providing a solid Harmonica to the mix.
Confessin’ The Blues is a killer Blues tune and the live recording, as heard on On Air, while raw, is musically pure and a valued addition to any Rolling Stones collection.
Around And Around is a Chuck Berry masterpiece, but the Stones covered it perfectly and made it there own. It is the perfect way to close out this EP, ensuring that I’ll play it again and stay within The Rolling Stones’ extensive catalogue. The live recording from Top Gear in 1964, as heard on On Air is great but is quite noisy and distorted. If you’re interested in a stellar live recording, have a listen to the performance on Love You Live from 1977. Of course, whichever way you choose to enjoy Around And Around is up to you, but it is arguably one of the greatest blues-based rock and roll songs ever written and recorded.
Overall, Five By Five is, in my opinion, the greatest EP that The Rolling Stones released. The songs are highly polished for the era and suit the band perfectly. If you don’t have a copy of Five By Five, I strongly suggest you track down one or at the very least add it to your digital library for it is short and sweet but never dull.
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