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.