Tuesday, June 9, 2015


For years, the critical thinking has been that the Stones' best album is Exile On Main Street.  Jagger for one never understood this, given that record's lack of big hits.  You know what?  I think he might be right.  Listening again to Sticky Fingers, I'll argue its merits as overall best (but with a nod to Let It Bleed and at least a wink to Beggars Banquet.)  Hits are hits for good reason usually; they are great songs.  You gonna complain about Brown Sugar?  Wild Horses?  And Bitch has sure earned its kudos over the years in concert.

As good as those numbers are, there isn't a dud in the remaining seven tracks, which include some of the all-time favourite Stones' album tracks.  There's Dead Flowers, still getting reworked by alt-country bands today.  The nasty Can't You Hear Me Knocking has those sharp guitar notes emphasizing the title phrase.  The harrowing tale in Sister Morphine took us into the drug hell that was consuming many around and in the band.  I Got The Blues was actually more of a soul song, with its Southern horns and Solomon Burke phrases.  Right down to closer Moonlight Mile, it's a gripping listen, from fun hits to dark majesty.

The Stones camp seems to be learning something about these deluxe sets too.  They are still obviously cash-grabs, with the $200 Super Deluxe box, but this time there's really good content to go with it.  On the 2-CD deluxe edition, you get a great second disc of alternates and live cuts.  Right off the bat, you know it's good, as a very different version of Brown Sugar opens with a slide guitar line.  This is the fabled take with Eric Clapton on it, and it's grand.  However, it's not quite as good as the released version, so it's no surprise it was shelved, even with its star attraction.  It's also the kind of bonus cut we always hope for from the Stones' vault, but never seem to get.

Wild Horses follows, this time as an acoustic track.  It's sounds pretty much like the same take, only before the lead guitar was added, nothing too major, but a good look at how this developed from a campfire-style number to the better-known final take.  Can't You Hear Me Knocking is presented in a very different way, mostly because they hadn't figured the song out yet, even the lyrics still a sketch for Jagger.  The accents aren't there yet, and this shows us how a bare idea was developed by this crack band during the sessions.  The version of Bitch is longer by a full two minutes, and I'll argue it never drags.  Dead Flowers is included at an earlier, faster pace, sounding more like The Grateful Dead doing the song, with Jagger trying out his faux-rural accent, with a little more inflection than the final take.

Then we get five cuts, a half-hour taking from shows at London's Roundhouse at the end of the 1971 tour.  Instead of repeating the album tracks, the five are from earlier albums:  Live With Me, Stray Cat Blues, Love In Vain, Midnight Rambler and Honky Tonk Women.  Super-confident at this point, it's hard to argue against this era as the best for live Stones, with Richards and Mick Taylor locked in, and the horn section of Jim Price and Bobby Keys a brilliant addition (note Jagger's sarcastic introduction, "on saxophone and tequila, Bobby Keys!")  The only sour note is the typically-awful Richards backing vocals on Honky Tonk Women.  I know deluxe sets often disappoint, but this one should give you lots to enjoy.

No comments:

Post a Comment