Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Rolling Stones - Exile on Main Street

Of course, this iconic album has to be in the collection of anyone who digs rock'n'roll, but the expanded 2-CD set adds to its coolness with old, unfinished material now completed and rockin'!

The original record (2 vinyl album set) was not highly received, though as years have gone by, it is now considered one of their best. Everyone knows the story of its conception - the Stones being tax exiles and recording under odd circumstances in France. But they came up with some of their best material here. Horn-driven rockers like the lewd "Rocks Off" and "Rip This Joint" are joined by covers like "Shake Your Hips" and the somewhat more laid-back "Casino Boogie". Of course, there's the classic hit "Tumbling Dice" and then the acoustic section, starting with the fantastic, country-ish sing-along "Sweet Virginia". "Torn and Frayed" (nice pedal steel), "Sweet Black Angel"(quiet ballad), and then "Loving Cup" concludes that section and we rock again with Keith's hit "Happy". The horribly named "Turd on the Run" is actually a fun, churnin' boogie while "Ventilator Blues" is a groovy, slide blues and "I Just Want to See His Face" is a quiet, electric piano number with Mick's lyrics pretty much unintelligible. There's a gospel element to "Let It Loose", "All Down the Line" simply rocks while "Stop Breaking Down" is a swinging blues and the closers, "Shine a Light" is pretty darn gospel-fueled and "Soul Survivor" is basic Stones' rock'n'roll.

The "new" stuff features two "undoctored" outtakes, while the rest have been newly augmented with Jagger's vocals and some new instrumental work, as well. Wikipedia explains it all in detail here. "Pass the Wine" is a standard Stones' groove, with cool horns, female backing vocals, harp (apparently all the harmonica is new) and Jagger's swagger. While Mick Taylor adds new guitar to "Plundered My Soul", I'm not thrilled with Mick's vocals here - as he aged, he got more and more over-the-top in his affectations, something that even Keith noted in his book. "I'm Not Signifying" works better, with its slower blues groove, nice slide work and horns and Nicky Hopkins appears on piano on "Following the River", a slower key-driven (organ, also) ballad, which isn't far off from "Loving Cup", though I could do without the strings. Keith's guitar propels "Dancing in the Light", not unlike it does in "Honky Tonk Women" and in his new guitar work in "So Divine" he re-works the "Paint It Black" lick to good effect. They spliced two takes together for an alternative "Loving Cup" and the additional "Soul Survivor" has Keith's place-holder vocals, that are a bit ragged and sloppy - in a cool way! This and "Good Time Women" (kind of an early "Tumbling Dice") are the two that are unadorned with new overdubs. It all finishes with "Title 5", actually from 1967, but it is a wild'n'wooly instrumental with Keith experimenting with his guitar sound and the band chuggin' around him.

Of course, this is available as a 2-CD set, but the powers-that-be were smart enough to know that most Stones fans will have the original, so the bonus CD is also sold separately. Definitely a cool buy!

(PS - I got this from the library so don't know if a booklet is supposed to come with it.)