This EP which was released in 1964 came as a bit of a surprise to me because I was totally unaware that they had released an EP prior to the release of their debut album in the middle of that year. The EP was recorded at two separate sessions in August and November 1963 to basically test the waters of their growing popularity and to see if a full length album would sell. The Stones had released two singles with their version of The Beatles' I Wanna Be Your Man cracking the U.K Top 20.
What is striking about this EP is the raw unfashioned sound of the Stones, striking in it's devotion to Chicago R&B. Even though that style of music was booming in London around 1962/63 I'm not sure there was any other band at that point in time in the U.K that was creating such an explosive and unique interpretation of the blues. Within in 12 months on record you would have The Pretty Things and The Yardbirds who displayed a similar brashness with their approach. The Animals who also hit the charts in 1963 had a more jazz oriented approach to the blues and didn't really have the ragged edges of the Stones. I've written previously that for me the best R&B band anywhere in the world at that time was The Hawks out of Canada who later went on to become The Band, no one did a slow burning blues better than the Hawks circa 1961-1963.
Bye Bye Johnny which Chuck Berry recorded as a sequel to the classic Johnny B Goode is a song that the Stones take hold of and put every ounce of rhythm and pulse into the song, it's got drive and it's the first sign of the importance of the rhythm section of Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman and you can probably include Keith Richards in their as well. Richards had those Chuck Berry riffs locked in by mid 1963 but he adds such a youthful dynamic to his playing, he gives the song a real pulse. Brian Jones supplies some nice licks in the middle, I can never quite hear his contribution Richards was such a dominant rhythm player and the rhythm was so important to their early material you often forgot that Jones was also playing. Jagger who wasn't a pure blues singer had a knack when it came to quicker songs, every syllable just rolls into the next one and it just adds to the urgency of their blues interpretations.
Their cover of the Arthur Alexander chestnut You Better Move On is a surprise it's well crafted, faithful to the original and Jagger does a good job on the vocals. Sometimes their versions of soul songs could be a little hit and miss, some of those songs responded well to a more loose R&B style backing but other didn't because Jagger didn't have the expressiveness in his vocals. Their cover of the Barrett Strong classic Money has that loose garage style sound, with blaring harmonica and the meshing of Jones' and Richards' guitars, Charlie also somewhat uncharacteristically gives the drums a solid pounding, the song is very raw and perhaps may have done with some polishing but it's a good example of their early approach. On these songs I love the endings where Charlie with rapid fire fills brings everything to a crashing finale! Poison Ivy has a really powerful sound once again the guitar work of Jones and Richards is a highlight, it's also a worth document of how closely they worked together on their guitar parts in the early phases of their career. This was actually supposed to be released as the follow up to Come On but if my memory serves me correct it had already been released as a single by a group called The Paramounts who later became Procul Harum.
When the EP was released in January 1964 it topped the U.K EP charts and gave Decca the evidence it needed to send the band back into the studio for a full length album. The initial session for the EP was recorded at Decca's West Hampstead studio the other traks were recorded at De Lane studios in Kingsway.