Saturday, December 5, 2009


The Rolling Stones are one of my favorite bands of all time. Unlike other bands like The Who, they don't seem very interested in doing cool things with their catalog. Most of the compilation albums (other than 40 Licks) seem thrown-together, their reissues are not exciting (the first wave of reissues with remastered sound was definitely necessary, but they never include bonus tracks or liner notes or anything). I think that's because Mick Jagger tends to run this stuff, and he never seems interested in exploring the band's archives, wheras Pete Townshend can get himself lost for years doing that with The Who's archives. That's what makes the Get Your Ya-Ya's Out expanded edition so cool.

So, what's the deal with this reissue? It is a expanded version of the band's live album that was recorded at Madison Square Garden in 1969, when they were in full swagger (this was during the era that Mick Taylor was in the band). The box set contains five tracks that weren't on the original album, as well as the full sets by opening acts Ike & Tina Turner and B.B. King. And a DVD of performances and backstage footage. There's a "super-deluxe" version that also includes all the music on vinyl as well.

Who is it for? Obviously Rolling Stones freaks will want this: so will B.B. and Tina's fans. But I don't think it would be alienating for new fans. The band played lots of hits, like "Jumpin' Jack Flash," "Sympathy For The Devil" and "Street Fighting Man," and the bonus tracks include "Under My Thumb" and "Satisfaction." The album also features the definitive version of "Minight Rambler." There are also very cool lesser-known songs like "Live With Me," "I'm Free" and a slowed down version of "Stray Cat Blues." It also spotlights some of the band's influences: B.B. King and Ike & Tina, as well as some of the artists who they covered: Chuck Berry's "Carol" and Robert Johnson's "Love In Vain."

One of the reasons that this box came out the way it did is because it is from their ABKCO catalog, which they don't control. But next year, they are supposedly releasing an expanded version of their 1972 classic double album, Exile On Main Street. I found that surprising, as that album is on Rolling Stones Records, the part of the catalog that the band does control. Long a critical favorite, Jagger has expressed surprise in interviews that people make such a big deal over the album, as it didn't yield many radio hits. I imagine that when the Stones took their catalog from Virgin to Universal, one of Universal's demands was an expanded Exile. And next year, I'm sure we'll all be grateful for that. I wonder if it will be the centerpiece of their rumored tour: with so many other "heritage" artists doing full-album performances, and the fact that the Stones have toured so much in the past two decades, and the fact the Mick stays on top of every trend that could possibly affect his bottom line, it wouldn't surprise me. It would probably be easier to just skip making an album (although if they entered the studio with Jack White, as has been rumored, just for a few songs, that would be awesome).

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