By happy coincidence I recently purchased new stereo speakers. Could there possibly be a better way to air them out than with the new release of a great live Stones album? The good news is, the new recording is excellent: it is clearer than previous releases, with a...
By happy coincidence I recently purchased new stereo speakers. Could there possibly be a better way to air them out than with the new release of a great live Stones album? The good news is, the new recording is excellent: it is clearer than previous releases, with a heavier bass sound and a slightly higher emphasis on crowd noise. (I always got a kick out of the crazed woman yelling at Jagger to sing, "Paint it Black, you devil.") The bad news is, some of these live renditions haven''t aged so well.
Jagger was always a better singer than he was a lyricist, although some of his lyrics over the years were quite good. (To his credit, he never claimed to be a great lyricist: note that there has never been a Rolling Stones album which printed the song lyrics.) Nevertheless, some of his lyrics were pretty bad, and nowhere is this more evident than the execrable, "Stray Cat Blues." For some reason, the Stones decided to slow this one down on the live album, so that it comes across almost as a mournful blues song. Which is okay, except for the fact that the lyrics are about a thirteen year old scratching his back, whose mother probably isn''t aware that she can, "bite like that." Not exactly the kind of thing an eighty year-old former sharecropper would sing about, and worse, it brings to mind some later horrors, such as those by the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd or David Lee Roth.
The new release cleans up some of the distortion in the early part of "Live With Me," but this was never a great live version to begin with. It sounds forced for some reason, and why they eschewed the piano on there--which was on the studio version and available to them in concert--I''ll never understand. "Little Queenie" is played waaay to slow, as if maybe they hadn''t practiced it enough, and I must confess that I was never really overwhelmed by the versions here of "Jumpin'' Jack Flash," and "Honky Tonk Women."
But the rest of the album, most notably, "Carol," "Sympathy for the Devil," and "Midnight Rambler," is what makes this album not only worth owning, but makes it a MUST own for anyone who has ever even remotely considered themselves to be a fan of hard rock.
Chuck Berry is on record as saying that this version of "Carol," is the best he''s ever heard, and boy, is he ever right. The guitars are absolutely blistering, Watts is furious, and the bass booms. Even Jagger, who often sounds a little lackluster on their live recordings, contributes mightily. There is a sublime moment near the end of the song, when, instead of coming in with a guitar lick after Jagger''s lyric--as he''d done throughout the rest of the song--Richards simply plays rhythm. It somehow reminds the listener of how powerful this all is, and in my little opinion, may be the high point in the history of rock and roll.
"Sympathy for the Devil," is also magnificent. There is no piano in this version and none needed. The guitar work of Richards and Mick Taylor is enough: it starts immediately and their interplay is ferocious. In the meantime, Watts is going bananas on the drums.
And of course there is "Midnight Rambler" which is perhaps the most famous song to have come off of this album. To begin with, it is an excellent hard-rock riff, again with the ferocious guitars, but the difference here is that the Stones reached a point with this song where they are as tight as they''ve ever been. Everything meshes perfectly and during the break in the middle you can actually hear that the screaming, howling, maddened audience has essentially reached a state of delirium.
This excellent release gives the listener an opportunity to share in if not in fact to relive it. Rock and roll at its best. "Hot DAMN!" somebody screams.