Monday, 23 January 2017
The Rolling Stones: Live/Solo/Compilation Albums Part Two 1975-1988
(ABCKO/Decca, June 1975)
UK Version: Out Of Time/Don't Lie To Me/Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind/Each and Every Day Of The Year/Heart Of Stone/I'd Much Rather Be With The Boys/Walkin' Thru The Sleepy City//We're Wastin' Time/Try A Little Harder/I Don't Know Why/If You Let Me/Jiving Sister Fanny/Downtown Suzie/Family/Memo From Turner/I'm Going Down
The US edition omits 'Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind' and 'We're Wastin' Time'
"Why when the children grow up and leave do they still remember their nursery rhymes?"
A measure of just how strong the Stones' 19650s had been, this unsanctioned and unwanted collection of outtakes by old label Decca couldn't have come at a worst time. Compiled by the 'enemy', old manager Allen Klein, it was released to combat a run of bootlegs of similar material and 'replaced' one Bill Wyman had already spent quite some time compiling (effectively this album minus the run of demo sessions). Released in the gap between low points 'It's Only Rock 'n' Roll' and 'Black and Blue' this set of demos and abandoned studio takes suddenly seemed so full of life and imaginative, in comparison to the cul-de-sac the Stones had (thankfully temporarily) found themselves in. Most of the songs on the album dated back to 1964 and 1965 and half aren't strictly Stones recordings at all but demo sessions starring either Mick or Mick and Keith alone with session men (with a pre-fame Jimmy Page on lead guitar). Most of the songs they never returned to again (the exceptions being the charming first try at a country-style 'Heart Of Stone' and a noisier 'Out Of Time') and none of the covers charted (Chris Farlowe's 'Time' aside), making this a highly valuable set of compositions a little deeper and little more epic than the average Stones recordings of the day. More than anything else the set reveals what a great vocalist Mick was even on a day when he was a Stone alone in an alien studio and only needed to lay down a basic vocal - he never gave less than his all, at least in this era and 'Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind' and 'Each and Every Day' in particular are amongst his best work. However the demo songs that make up almost all the first side are still eclipsed by the glorious full-on Stones rant of 'Don't Lie To Me', an R and B cover that most definitely deserved a release on period album 'Out Of Our Heads'.
Side two is patchier but still has its moments, gathering together a run of songs from 1966 to the end of the band's time with the label in 1969. Of these the best songs are a charming 'Aftermath' style folk ballad 'If You Let Me' (though it actually dates from the 'Button ' sessions), Mick's solo song from the 'Performance' song 'Memo From Turner', the glorious 'Let It Bleed' band jam 'Jiving Sister Fannie' that's far more fun than anything that made that record and the astonishing cover of Stevie Wonder's 'I Don't Know Why', which in terms of backing sounds like a gloriously joyous track. However it's the song the band were making in July 1969 when the phone rang to tell them that Brian had died and Mick's haunted, ghostly vocal is anything but joyous, the shrieks and howls of pain anything but acting. No wonder they left it in the vaults, but it's one of their most important covers. The rest of the side can't match it, but is still more important than most similar outtake sets odds and ends, most notably a guesting Stills guitar part on 'I'm Goin' Down'. The Stones may have been appalled by it, but actually 'Metamorphosis' was a welcome reminder of just how important and consistent a band the Stones had once been and came along at just the right time, with even their abandoned songs a level above most groups'. The title is a clever one too, with many of these songs in an abandoned half-state of completion, although the front cover (apparently adapted from Franz Kafka's description of 'Metamophosis') is typically Decca-ugly, with the band as a bunch of insects wearing human heads as masks. Oh well, perhaps we should be grateful that Decca didn't go with their original idea of an outtakes set named 'Necrophilia' - goodness only knows what sleeve we'd have got to go with that!
"Made In The Shade"
(Rolling Stones Records/Atlantic, June 1975)
Brown Sugar/Tumbling Dice/Happy/Dance Little Sister/Wild Horses//Angie/Bitch/It's Only Rock and Roll (But I Like It)/Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)/Rip This Joint
"Baby, Baby, I don't need no jewels in my crown"
A rather unnecessary bare-bones compilation, given that Rolling Stones records only had the rights to the post-Decca stuff, with this album covering just the 'Sticky Fingers' 'Exile On Main Street' 'Goat's Head Soup' and 'It's Only Rock 'n' Roll' years. It was put together simply to give the band something to promote during the 1975 tour when Ronnie Wood joined the band and needed to get up to speed and not really worth buying if you own any of the four original albums, with only 'shades' of hearing all four records complete. Luckily those three albums do cover many of the best Stones recordings, but alas not many of them were released as singles so what we get is the over-rated 'Brown Sugar' and 'It's Only Rock 'n' Roll' alongside flops like 'Doo Doo Doo Doo' and 'Happy'. We don't even have a complete singles collection here either, with 'Ain't Too Proud To Beg' going missing. Few fans would rate 'Dance Little Sister' or 'Rip This Joint' as the band's best album tracks either. What would have been far more interesting would be for Rolling Stones Records to have revisited each album in a double set quoting a side per album, padded out with period B-sides ('Bitch' is here, but 'Let It Rock' isn't). The packaging too is ridiculous: a woman in a deckchair with headphones sunbathing in front of the pyramids: not sure that's the image I got from listening to these records somehow. The pyramids have lasted several thousand centuries as the pinnacle of human engineering; I don't think this album will do the same, somehow. It did, however, sell enough copies to go top twenty in the UK and top ten in the States, which is more a sign of how many people the tour played to than this album's worth and oddly was re-issued in 2005 by Virgin when they bought up the rights to the band's back catalogue, even though they'd already released all the songs individually on CD in the previous few years. At least the Stones carried on their Decca tradition of giving their compilations daft names I suppose...
(Promotone, Recorded July 1975, Released April 2012)
Honky Tonk Women/All Down The Line/If You Can't Rock Me/Get Off My Cloud/Star Star/Gimme Shelter/Ain't Too Proud To Beg/You Gotta Move/You Can 't Always Get What You Want/Happy/Tumbling Dice/Band Intros/It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (But I Like It)/Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)/Fingerprint File/Angie/Wild Horses/That's Life (Billy Preston)/Outer Space (Billy Preston)/Brown Sugar/Midnight Rambler/Rip This Joint/Street Fighting Man/Jumpin' Jack Flash/Sympathy For The Devil
"Rip this joint, gonna rip yours too, some brand new steps and some weight to lose"
On the face of it this doesn't look very appetising: a complete gig from one of the ones mashed up for the official album 'Love You Live' and it's not even the La Macamba club session. An all too visibly fed up Mick Taylor has already handed in his notice - this is one of his last shows - and Keith is so far gone he's managing to stand up only through sheer will power. This is another one of those archive Stones CD and DVD releases that are much more enjoyable to listen to than to watch, where the band are struggling to hide up what they're suffering in sight more than sound. However, this is a fun little gig from a band at the end of a most marvellous run and of all the Stones tours this is the one that got the levels of excess and rockstar posing just right: Mick's got his routine down pat but isn't just going through the motions yet, while the interaction between the band is still strong, Mick and Keith having great fun making poses on stage. The set list is heavy on the classics as usual and bang up to date with one of the very earliest live performances of 'It's Only Rock 'n' Roll' (which already sounds like a parody of itself even in this early stage), but there's also an impressive range of more obscure material too - for more or less the last time. A rocky 'All Down The Line', a hard-hitting 'If You Can't Rock Me', a fun 'Star Star', a bluesy 'You Gotta Move', a moving 'Fingerprint File' and a fierce 'Rip This Joint' don't get played very often and on this evidence you wonder why - all more than hold their own against the classics, with many of the old war horses from the 1960s making room. Billy Preston shines too on his two song cameo, his reward for helping the band out on this tour and giving the Stones a chance to take a breather without letting the momentum of the gig die out with a full-on break. It's the classics though that still shine the best, with the greatest live 'Gimme Shelter' played more as a duel than duet by Keith and Mick Taylor, who seem to be playing out their annoyances with each other on guitar with Mick J uncomfortably trapped in the middle and a slightly slower 'Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)' which swaps menace for the daft harmonies of the original and ends in a voodoo boogie shootout, which sounds like a pretty good deal to me. There's not quite enough here to make this a Stones golden age or anything and the band aren't playing with quite the same telepathic powers as their 1970-1973 live work. But this is still a great band on fine form and hearing it in all its unedited glory is a lot more enjoyable than sitting through 'Love You Live' ever was. This LA Friday sounds like the start of a highly enjoyable weekend.