Friday, July 12, 2013

The Rolling Stones - Love You Live

In 1977, the Stones released an updated live album to show the inclusion of guitarist Ron Wood in a concert setting. Compiled from 1975 US shows, 1976 European shows and - what made the album so memorable - performances from the El Mocambo club in Toronto. Unfortunately, these songs, which were meant to harken back to the band's old Crawdaddy Club days, are heavily overdubbed, so they are not exactly a live representation (though I've heard that the Stones have done that with all of their live albums - someone even quipped that their live records took more time in the studio than their "studio" records!).

Regardless, this is a good set, though I don't think that Mick is at his best for some reason - not "singing" as much as vocalizing and sometimes dropping out, no doubt due to his onstage gyrations. "Honky Tonk Women" is a terrific starter which then leads into a medley of "If You Can't Rock Me" and "Get Off of My Cloud" that frankly rambles a bit. Keith gets his moment in the spotlight with "Happy" and this is a fine take with an extended slide solo at the end.

The funky "Hot Stuff" is given a good run-through, but this was never a fave song of mine. The surprise addition of "Star Star" ("Star Fucker") was a huge plus for this album, as it is a rocker as well as being lewd and rude! "Tumbling Dice" has some swell Billy Preston keys and good guitar work on it but Mick's staccato, faux-reggae pronunciation on the chorus is a bit distracting. Their unfortunate disco fascination is evident in the forgettable "Fingerprint File" but they redeem themselves with a loose, raggedy take on "You Gotta Move", although I miss Mick Taylor's sweet slide work from the album version. Never one of my fave Stones' songs, "You Can't Always Get What You Want" is just ok here as a slow jam. I think they did it best on Rock'n'Roll Circus though here you get to hear Jagger practice his French as he asks the crowd to sing along.

Side Three of the vinyl version was the El Mocambo performances, starting with a tough and rockin'  "Mannish Boy" followed by a fairly obscure Bo Diddley tune, "Crackin' Up", done reggae style, as was their wont around this time in their career. They joke around with some band introductions and then head back to the beginnings  of the band with "Little Red Rooster" with Wood taking over Brian Jones' slide part without the reverence that Jones had for Howlin' Wolf's original. Still pretty cool and the subtle organ in the background actually works here. The last song from this club is another blast from the past, a rollickin' "Around and Around", with (I assume) Ian Stewart on the piano, giving us the closest glimpse of their early days as an r'n'b/r'n'r band as would be possible at this time. Pretty freakin' great!

Back to the stadiums for the last side of the 2-LP set and a return to their present with one of the first songs that Wood recorded with them, the infectious "It's Only Rock'n'Roll", given a good treatment here. One of my all-time fave Stones' songs, "Brown Sugar", is positively frantic here, which makes it lose some of its cool swagger and Bobby Keys was apparently not with them on this tour as there is a guitar solo where the sax should be! One of the best songs of all time, "Jumpin' Jack Flash" also is a bit rushed and Jagger adds more marbles to his mouth as he sings this one, again losing some of its charm - but then, they were never able to pull off the magic of the studio version live - not that they should have duplicated that, but still...A song they once swore they would never play live again (until they realized how silly that was), "Sympathy for the Devil" finishes the proceedings and they actually do a good job with it.

So, overall, pretty cool, though not as good as Ya-Yas, which is probably to be expected. But enough strong points to certainly be worth owning.