Friday, May 21, 2010

rolling stones "exile on main st." reissue: cd review

this week saw a major pr blitz as the rolling stones reissued "exile on main st." on tuesday. in addition to the remastered double album, the reissue includes a second disc with 10 "new" songs. i watched mick jagger on the larry king live show tuesday night. aside from the actual interview, the show aired clips from the forthcoming documentary, "the stones in exile" - which premiered at the cannes film festival last month and is set for u.s. release in june.

so what's with all the "exile" hoopla? the album is great - it was number 7 on the rolling stone magazine list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. but is it the best rolling stones album (as if such a subjective call could be made)? while "exile" is the stones at their creative peak, their two previous albums, "let it bleed" and "sticky fingers," are just as good - if not better. even jagger hasn't been the biggest fan of "exile."

while the myth has been built up that "exile" was the product of stuffy basement sessions at keith richard's rented mansion, "ville nellcote," in the south of france (nice) during the stones' self-imposed exile from the english tax laws, the truth is a more prosaic 3 year arc from 1969 t0 1972 (during which the stones released "let it bleed" and "sticky fingers"). "exile" included material recorded in los angeles and england, as well as the nellcote sessions. the myth evokes place, the reality focuses on production.

the new material, a 10 song bonus cd, includes "exile" era instrumental tracks that jagger recently wrote lyrics for and then added the vocal overdubs. the juxtaposition of a 66 year old jagger against the almost 40 year younger version on the original material is apparent. the new vocals, on 4 songs ("plundered my soul," "following the river," "dancing in the light," and "pass the wine") from the second cd, stretch the concept of the "exile" reissue. while the base tracks (instrumentals) are period, the vocals are anachronisms.

i got much more enjoyment from the cleaned up original albums, sharper sound and deeper bass. it's hard not to enjoy the fresh sound of old classics. "exile on main street" was a release that took a while to warm up to (maybe because it was a double album, a lot of material to digest). but the incredible breath of sound, from out and out rock straight across blues, gospel and jams, make it an outstanding (if eclectic) collection of stones material.

"ventilator blues" is probably the most atmospheric, in terms of bringing you down to the steamy days in the basement. but there are so many underrated classics mixed in; "loving cup," "shine a light," "casino boogie," and "rip this joint." and then there are the more familiar cuts, "tumbling dice"and "happy" that punched through the fm airwaves. classic stones from their golden years.

for a die-hard stones fan, this is a must get. for everyone else (namely those that already have the 1994 remastered version), stick with what you've got. and then check out the documentary on the big screen next month.


Slomohusky said...

I have been a little amused by the hype and the Larry King interview some. NPR even had something on the re-reissue. What was that Smiths song about rebranding/repackaging with reissues and stickers :)

Regardless, I like the release. Exile is my personal favorite. I agree with you on Let It Bleed and Sticky Fingers. Yet, I would go back one more to Beggars Banquet and jump ahead six years with Some Girls as favorites as well. Really from Aftermath - Exile, and then Some Girls in '78 you can't find too much better. The best Blues/Honky Tonk/Country Western/Jazz Band ever. Yet, "It's Only Rock and Roll" I guess?

Anonymous said...

I love Exile and bought the album and played the hell out of but never considered it the stones best even though its a great record

Out of Our Heads
Sticky Fingers
Beggars Banquet
Let It Bleed
Hot Rocks Volume one

may all be higher then exile at the time of its release half the critics panned it and in time like Neil YOung's way overated Tonights the Night( which is one of the worst records Young ever did) this record is overated and filled with hype...Sticky Fingers and Mick Taylor brilliant- Stones never were as good on record after Mick Taylor left except for Some Girls and moments here and there on Tatto You etc Exile a great record but not the Stones best its a bandwagon effect.