When I was younger, I was never a big fan of the Rolling Stones.

I didn't dislike them. I just thought they were an above average rock band. While working in radio, we would occasionally run a Beatles/Rolling Stones weekend and I could never see how the music of the two bands could even be compared.

Then I got older and wiser. I grew to understand the influence of the Stones on music, the talent of each member and the rawness of their sound. Most of all, I started to love their music, not just from the 60s or 70s or 80s, but from throughout their career. They really are one of the most consistent groups of the rock era.

Which brings us to their new career-spanning compilation, Grrr! It's only the second time that their music from the Decca/London Records era of the 60s has been released in the same package as their time with their own label, giving a superb overview of their fifty year career.

The problem is that such a long and successful career requires a lengthy album to be even close to comprehensive, made even worse in the Stonesf case by their different sets of popular tracks in the U.K. and the U.S. For the Stones, their solution was to release three different sets, a 2-CD, a 3-CD and a 4-CD. In concept, that should have led to their biggest tracks on the smallest set, a mix of the same hits with some minor ones on the second and everything on the first two sets along with important album tracks on the third.

Unfortunately, that's not what we got. The 2-CD set does include many of their big hits but concentrated more on the U.K. charts, leaving some top twenty U.S. hits out like Time is On My Side and Heartbreaker (available only on the 3 and 4-CD sets) and Motherfs Little Helper (only on the 4-CD set). Any could have replaced 1978's Respectable, 1997's Anybody Seen My Baby? and 2002's Don't Stop which appear on all three sets.

Then there are those top 20 hits in the U.S. and U.K. that didn't make the cut for any of the configurations:

Tell Me (1964 / #24 U.S.), Ain't Too Proud to Beg (1974 / #17 U.S.), Respectable (1978 / #23 U.K.), Hang Fire (1982 / #20 U.S.), Going to a Go-Go (1982 / #25 U.S. / #26 U.K.), One Hit (to the Body) (1986 / #28 U.S. / #80 U.K.), Rock and a Hard Place (1989 / #23 U.S. / #63 U.K.), Out of Tears (1994 / #60 U.S. / #36 U.K.), Like a Rolling Stone (1995 / #109 U.S. / #12 U.K.)

I have trouble recommending any set but the 80 track Super Deluxe, especially since that is the only way to get songs like Play With Fire, I'm Free, Mother's Little Helper, Lady Jane, Midnight Rambler (!), Bitch and Shefs So Cold, but the exorbitant price for the set ($145.99 at Amazon) puts it out of reach for all but the most ardent fan. Even the 50 track set is a major improvement over the base album with Heart of Stone, Time is On My Side, Shefs a Rainbow and Under My Thumb; however, there is a $20 difference at Amazon between the 2 and 3-CD sets with only the addition of 10 tracks.

Which leaves me excited by the prospects of the release but very disappointed and perplexed by the way it was assembled and released. Perhaps we'll have to wait for their 60th anniversary for a new set so that they can get it right.