Thursday, December 8, 2011


Sweet!  Not only do we get one of the truly excellent Stones albums, but for once the disc of previously unreleased stuff is ...  exactly what you hoped it would be, a whole bunch of pretty darn good new songs, some cool covers, and only one of them having appeared (in an alternate version) before.  12 full, actual Rolling Stones songs from 1977-78, and any one of them could have gone on the original album and seemed a good choice.  Score!

Some Girls stands alone in the Stones cannon, with no other work sounding like it, and no disc connecting so thematically.  Jagger was in charge, Richards was still struggling with the Toronto bust and his junkie life, Ron Wood was brand-new, and everybody had something to prove.  Jagger came armed with a group of songs reflecting the mid-70's mess that was New York City, as down and dirty as the place would ever get, barely holding off economic collapse and moral chaos.  Able to understand both the dance club hedonism of disco and Studio 54, and the polar opposite of punk (weren't the early Stones prototypes?), the band gave it back to both styles.  Miss You is a funky joy, while the triple-guitar threat of Lies, Shattered, and Respectable showed the Stones were totally contemporary.

I don't think I'm overstating the quality of the bonus cuts here.  Each one has some obvious quality that could have been explored into a finished track for the album.  I don't mean they are demos; these are finished or nearly-finished cuts, missing a better mix or a solo or a lyric, something to take them up that final notch.  Sugar Blue, the harmonica star of Miss You even shows up on two cuts, indicating they were strong contenders.  One is an unheard Keith number, a cover of a Waylon Jennings number, We Had It All, which in the end didn't fit with the parody-country of Far Away Eyes.  Country was obviously in the air during the sessions, with Mick singing Hank Williams' You Win Again here too.  What's missing from all these cuts is the gritty, claustrophobic feel of the album proper.

One of the criticisms of the bonus cuts on Exile On Main Street was the significant overdubbing and producing done by Don Was, to get the bare tracks up to release-level.  Here, there are reportedly lots of new additions, including new vocals, guitar parts, etc., but Was and Jagger (for the most part) have done a much better job matching the new parts with the old.  I'd still like to hear the unadorned numbers, to make my own decision, but hey, the artist should be the one to control these things while living.  Well recommended.

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