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Bridges to Babylon Play

Voodoo Lounge confirmed that the Stones could age gracefully, but it never sounded modern; it sounded classicist. With its successor, Bridges to Babylon, Mick Jagger was determined to bring the Rolling Stones into the '90s, albeit tentatively, and hired hip collaborators like the Dust Brothers (Beck, Beastie Boys) and Danny Saber (Black Grape) to give the veteran group an edge on their explorations of drum loops and samples. Of course, the Stones are the Stones, and no production is going to erase that, but the group is smart enough -- or Keith Richards is stubborn enough -- to work within its limitations and to have producer Don Was act as executive producer. As a result, Bridges to Babylon sounds like the Stones without sounding tired. The band is tight and energetic, and there's just enough flair to the sultry "Anybody Seen My Baby?," the menacing "Gunface," and the low-key, sleazy "Might as Well Get Juiced" to make them sound contemporary. But the real key to the success of Bridges to Babylon is the solid, craftsmanlike songwriting. While there aren't any stunners on the album, nothing is bad, with rockers like "Flip the Switch" and "Low Down" sounding as convincing as ballads like "Already Over Me." And, as always, Keith contributes three winners -- including the reggae workout "You Don't Have to Mean It" and the slow-burning "How Can I Stop" -- that cap off another fine latter-day Stones record. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Closer Than Close, Vol. 1: The Toronto 1997 Rehearsals Play

When it comes to the Rolling Stones, bootleggers consider anything and everything fair game -- and that includes rehearsals. Over the years, bootleggers haven't hesitated to tape the Stones' rehearsals and put them out on CD; this bootleg, for example, finds the Stones rehearsing in a Toronto studio on September 15, 1997, for an extensive tour. Those who aren't obsessive Stones collectors might wonder, "Why would I want to spend money to hear a band rehearse?" But then, anyone who needs to ask that question isn't the sort of listener that a bootleg label like Rattlesnake is going after. With this CD, Rattlesnake is catering to the more obsessive Stones collectors, and people who fit that description will find Closer Than Close, Vol. 1 interesting. Most of the songs are old favorites from the Stones' classic era. Although Mick Jagger and friends embrace a few 1990s recordings (including "Anybody Seen My Baby?" from Bridges to Babylon), their main focus is well-known hits from the 1960s ("Let's Spend the Night Together," "Ruby Tuesday") and 1970s ("Bitch," "It's Only Rock and Roll," "Miss You," "Star Star," "Fool to Cry"). The sound quality is excellent, and while few surprises occur, die-hard Stones fans will find their performances to be solid and pleasing. That said, Closer Than Close, Vol. 1 is far from essential. Like so many of the Stones bootlegs that surfaced in the 1990s, Closer Than Close, Vol. 1 is only recommended to hardcore collectors. ~ Alex Henderson, Rovi

A Bigger Bang Play

Eight years separate 2005's A Bigger Bang, the Rolling Stones' 24th album of original material, from its 1997 predecessor, Bridges to Babylon, the longest stretch of time between Stones albums in history, but unlike the three-year gap between 1986's Dirty Work and 1989's Steel Wheels, the band never really went away. They toured steadily, not just behind Bridges but behind the career-spanning 2002 compilation Forty Licks, and the steady activity paid off nicely, as the 2004 concert souvenir album Live Licks proved. The tight, sleek, muscular band showcased there was a surprise -- they played with a strength and swagger they hadn't had in years -- but a bigger surprise is that A Bigger Bang finds that reinvigorated band carrying its latter-day renaissance into the studio, turning in a sinewy, confident, satisfying album that's the band's best in years. Of course, every Stones album since their highly touted, self-conscious 1989 comeback, Steel Wheels, has been designed to get this kind of positive press, to get reviewers to haul out the cliché that this is their "best record since Exile on Main St." (Mick Jagger is so conscious of this, he deliberately compared Bigger Bang to Exile in all pre-release publicity and press, even if the scope and feel of Bang is very different from that 1972 classic), so it's hard not to take any praise with a grain of salt, but there is a big difference between this album and 1994's Voodoo Lounge. That album was deliberately classicist, touching on all of the signatures of classic mid-period, late-'60s/early-'70s Stones -- reviving the folk, country, and straight blues that balanced their trademark rockers -- and while it was often successful, it very much sounded like the Stones trying to be the Stones. What distinguishes A Bigger Bang is that it captures the Stones simply being the Stones, playing without guest stars, not trying to have a hit, not trying to adopt the production style of the day, not doing anything but lying back and playing.
Far from sounding like a lazy affair, the album rocks really hard, tearing out of the gate with "Rough Justice," the toughest, sleaziest, and flat-out best song Jagger and Richards have come up with in years. It's not a red herring, either -- "She Saw Me Coming," "Look What the Cat Dragged In," and the terrific "Oh No Not You Again," which finds Mick spitting out lyrics with venom and zeal, are equally as hard and exciting, but the album isn't simply a collection of rockers. The band delves into straight blues with "Back of My Hand," turns toward pop with "Let Me Down Slow," rides a disco groove reminiscent of "Emotional Rescue" on "Rain Fall Down," and has a number of ballads, highlighted by "Streets of Love" and Keith's late-night barroom anthem "This Place Is Empty," that benefit greatly from the stripped-down, uncluttered production by Don Was and the Glimmer Twins. Throughout the album, the interplay of the band is at the forefront, which is one of the reasons the record is so consistent: even the songs that drift toward the generic are redeemed by the sound of the greatest rock & roll band ever playing at a latter-day peak. And, make no mistake about it, the Stones sound better as a band than they have in years: there's an ease and assurance to their performances that are a joy to hear, whether they're settling into a soulful groove or rocking harder than any group of 60-year-olds should. But A Bigger Bang doesn't succeed simply because the Stones are great musicians, it also works because this is a strong set of Jagger-Richards originals -- naturally, the songs don't rival their standards from the '60s and '70s, but the best songs here more than hold their own with the best of their post-Exile work, and there are more good songs here than on any Stones album since Some Girls.
This may not be a startling comeback along the lines of Bob Dylan's Love and Theft, but that's fine, because over the last three decades the Stones haven't been about surprises: they've been about reliability. The problem is, they haven't always lived up to their promises, or when they did deliver the goods, it was sporadic and unpredictable. And that's what's unexpected about A Bigger Bang: they finally hold up their end of the bargain, delivering a strong, engaging, cohesive Rolling Stones album that finds everybody in prime form. Keith is loose and limber, Charlie is tight and controlled, Ronnie lays down some thrilling, greasy slide guitar, and Mick is having a grand time, making dirty jokes, baiting neo-cons, and sounding more committed to the Stones than he has in years. Best of all, this is a record where the band acknowledges its age and doesn't make a big deal about it: they're not in denial, trying to act like a younger band, they've simply accepted what they do best and go about doing it as if it's no big deal. But that's what makes A Bigger Bang a big deal: it's the Stones back in fighting form for the first time in years, and they have both the strength and the stamina to make the excellent latter-day effort everybody's been waiting for all these years. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Headin' for an Overload Play

This double-disc bootleg would be the greatest live Rolling Stones release ever if it were trimmed down to a single disc. There are four songs that are repeated on each disc in exactly the same versions ("Brown Sugar," "Angie," "Midnight Rambler," and "Street Fighting Man"), due to the fact that these performances were originally broadcast on two different King Biscuit Flower Hour radio shows back in 1974. Also, at the end of disc two, there is a completely asinine and unnecessary ten-minute Dudley Moore/Peter Cooke interview with Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts that should have been left in the vaults. But enough bad points; the fact of the matter is that the sound quality is superbly remastered from the master tapes, and would be untouchable if there weren't so many repeats. The definitive version of "Midnight Rambler" can be found here, scarier and more dangerous than either the studio or the Get Your Ya-Ya's Out! versions (complete with some deep vocal growls courtesy of Jagger). Also included are fabulous renditions of the thrashy "Rip This Joint" and the uncontainable blues energy of "All Down the Line" (listed incorrectly on disc two as "Jumpin' Jack Flash"). You'll also get inspired versions of the grim "Gimme Shelter" and "Dancing With Mr. D.," an invigorating "Jumpin' Jack Flash," and the dirty funk of "Heartbreaker." Headin' for an Overload was issued as a limited edition of 3,000 and contains a mini tour book, poster, postcards, and a two-sided duplicate of a Mick Jagger interview from Rolling Stone magazine. It's kind of a double-edged sword because you'll be paying for a double-disc set that's really just a single, but you'll be getting the ultimate Stones concert experience. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi

The Rolling Stones No. 2 Play

The group's second British album actually appeared after their second U.S. LP, mostly owing to the fact that the British rock & roll audience wasn't focused on the long-player as a medium (singles and EPs were the driving force of the business in England then). It uses the same David Bailey cover shot that had graced the U.S.-issued 12 X 5 album two and a half months earlier, but only four songs -- "Under the Boardwalk," "Suzie Q," "Grown Up Wrong," and "Time Is on My Side" -- overlap on the two albums. Rather, Rolling Stones No. 2 offered seven songs that weren't to make it out in America until four months later on The Rolling Stones Now!, and they're all solid numbers: "Off the Hook," "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love," "Down Home Girl," "You Can't Catch Me," "What a Shame," "Pain in My Heart," and "Down the Road Apiece," plus one of the group's best blues covers, their version of Muddy Waters' "I Can't Be Satisfied," which wasn't released in America until 1973 and features some killer slide playing by Brian Jones. The U.K. LP also had the advantage of only being released in mono, so there are no "rechanneled stereo" copies with which to concern oneself. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

Black and Blue Play

The Rolling Stones recorded Black and Blue while auditioning Mick Taylor's replacement, so it's unfair to criticize it, really, for being longer on grooves and jams than songs, especially since that's what's good about it. Yes, the two songs that are undeniable highlights are "Memory Motel" and "Fool to Cry," the album's two ballads and, therefore, the two that had to be written and arranged, not knocked out in the studio; they're also the ones that don't quite make as much sense, though they still work in the context of the record. No, this is all about groove and sound, as the Stones work Ron Wood into their fabric. And the remarkable thing is, apart from "Hand of Fate" and "Crazy Mama," there's little straight-ahead rock & roll here. They play with reggae extensively, funk and disco less so, making both sound like integral parts of the Stones' lifeblood. Apart from the ballads, there might not be many memorable tunes, but there are times that you listen to the Stones just to hear them play, and this is one of them. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Shattered in Europe Play

When someone is considering buying a bootleg, the inevitable question is "OK, how's the sound quality?" Back in the 1960s and 1970s, bootleg LPs had a reputation for having lousy or inferior sound quality. A lot of 1960s and 1970s bootlegs defied that stereotype, but because so many bootlegs from that time were, in fact, plagued by poor sound quality, buyers tend to proceed with caution when they're acquiring a bootleg recording from the LP era. But Rolling Stones addicts needn't worry about inferior sound if they come across a copy of Shattered in Europe, which surfaced in the late '90s but spotlights a July 17, 1982, show at Stadio Paolo (Paolo Stadium in English) in Naples, Italy. The sound quality is excellent, as are most of the Stones' performances. The thing that makes Shattered in Europe appealing is its rawness; instead of going for an ultraslick presentation, the Stones favor a tough, forceful, almost punk-like approach. In the late '70s and early '80s, the punk movement was giving rock & roll a good, healthy kick in the tuchas -- and that fact doesn't seem to be lost on the Stones when they passionately rip into favorites that range from "Let's Spend the Night Together," "Brown Sugar," and "Tumbling Dice" to "Miss You," "Hang Fire," "She's So Cold," and "When the Whip Comes Down." To the Sex Pistols and the Ramones, feeling and emotion were more important than chops or precision; judging from how gritty and gutsy this Naples set tends to be, you wouldn't have gotten an argument from Mick Jagger and Keith Richards in 1982. That isn't to say that the musicianship of the Stones or their saxophonists is lacking on Shattered in Europe, but there is definitely a great deal of roughness on these hard-edged, inspired performances. Shattered in Europe isn't essential or perfect, but all things considered, it is an exciting document of the Stones' European tour of 1982. ~ Alex Henderson, Rovi

The Best of Knebworth Fair Play

On August 21, 1976, the Rolling Stones headlined England's Knebworth Fair festival -- an all-day outdoor event that also included appearances by Lynyrd Skynyrd, Todd Rundgren's Utopia, Hot Tuna, 10cc, and the Don Harrison Band. Not surprisingly, the Stones' Knebworth set was bootlegged. In late 1976, the little-known bootlegger RSVP Records released part of their set on the rare LP Knebworth Fair. And in 1996, Midnight Beat assembled this collection of Knebworth performances, which is far from a straight reissue of RSVP's old Knebworth Fair LP. Many of the songs that were on the RSVP album are also on The Best of Knebworth Fair, including "Route 66," "Wild Horses," "Honky Tonk Woman," "Little Red Rooster," "Hot Stuff," and Chuck Berry's "Round and Round." But several songs that are on this CD weren't on that LP, most notably "Street Fighting Man," "Midnight Rambler," and "Tumbling Dice." And some of the songs that were on the LP aren't on this CD, including "Satisfaction," "Let's Spend the Night Together," "Dead Flowers," "Hand of Fate," and "Fool to Cry." Although enjoyable, The Best of Knebworth Fair is far from essential. The sound quality is generally decent, but it isn't great and wouldn't impress an audiophile. The more obsessive collectors will be disappointed to know that Midnight Beat only provides part of the set; completists would have preferred a two-CD set that contains the Stones' Knebworth set in its entirety. Nonetheless, Midnight Beat's choices aren't bad; if some sacrifices had to be made, "Midnight Rambler," "Tumbling Dice," and "Street Fighting Man" are better picks than "Hand of Fate" or "Fool to Cry" (both from the decent but not mindblowing Black and Blue). Again, The Best of Knebworth Fair is imperfect and far from essential, but the collection does have more plusses than minuses. ~ Alex Henderson, Rovi

Aftermath Play

The Rolling Stones finally delivered a set of all-original material with this LP, which also did much to define the group as the bad boys of rock & roll with their sneering attitude toward the world in general and the female sex in particular. The borderline misogyny could get a bit juvenile in tunes like "Stupid Girl." But on the other hand the group began incorporating the influences of psychedelia and Dylan into their material with classics like "Paint It Black," an eerily insistent number one hit graced by some of the best use of sitar (played by Brian Jones) on a rock record. Other classics included the jazzy "Under My Thumb," where Jones added exotic accents with his vibes, and the delicate Elizabethan ballad "Lady Jane," where dulcimer can be heard. Some of the material is fairly ho-hum, to be honest, as Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were still prone to inconsistent songwriting; "Goin' Home," an 11-minute blues jam, was remarkable more for its barrier-crashing length than its content. Look out for an obscure gem, however, in the brooding, meditative "I Am Waiting." ~ Richie Unterberger, Rovi

12 X 5 Play

The evolution from blues to rock accelerated with the Rolling Stones' second American LP. They turned soul into guitar rock for the hits "It's All Over Now" and "Time Is on My Side" (the latter of which was their first American Top Ten single). "2120 South Michigan Avenue" is a great instrumental blues-rock jam; "Around and Around" is one of their best Chuck Berry covers; and "If You Need Me" reflects an increasing contemporary soul influence. On the other hand, the group originals (except for the propulsive "Empty Heart") are weak and derivative, indicating that the band still had a way to go before it could truly challenge the Beatles' throne. ~ Richie Unterberger, Rovi

It's Only Rock 'n' Roll Play

It's uneven, but at times It's Only Rock 'n Roll catches fire. The songs and performances are stronger than those on Goats Head Soup; the tossed-off numbers sound effortless, not careless. Throughout, the Stones wear their title as the "World's Greatest Rock & Roll Band" with a defiant smirk, which makes the bitter cynicism of "If You Can't Rock Me" and the title track all the more striking, and the reggae experimentation of "Luxury," the aching beauty of "Time Waits for No One," and the agreeable filler of "Dance Little Sister" and "Short and Curlies" all the more enjoyable. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Exile on Main St. Play

Greeted with decidedly mixed reviews upon its original release, Exile on Main St. has become generally regarded as the Rolling Stones' finest album. Part of the reason why the record was initially greeted with hesitant reviews is that it takes a while to assimilate. A sprawling, weary double album encompassing rock & roll, blues, soul, and country, Exile doesn't try anything new on the surface, but the substance is new. Taking the bleakness that underpinned Let It Bleed and Sticky Fingers to an extreme, Exile is a weary record, and not just lyrically. Jagger's vocals are buried in the mix, and the music is a series of dark, dense jams, with Keith Richards and Mick Taylor spinning off incredible riffs and solos. And the songs continue the breakthroughs of their three previous albums. No longer does their country sound forced or kitschy -- it's lived-in and complex, just like the group's forays into soul and gospel. While the songs, including the masterpieces "Rocks Off," "Tumbling Dice," "Torn and Frayed," "Happy," "Let It Loose," and "Shine a Light," are all terrific, they blend together, with only certain lyrics and guitar lines emerging from the murk. It's the kind of record that's gripping on the very first listen, but each subsequent listen reveals something new. Few other albums, let alone double albums, have been so rich and masterful as Exile on Main St., and it stands not only as one of the Stones' best records, but sets a remarkably high standard for all of hard rock. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Sticky Fingers Play

Pieced together from outtakes and much-labored-over songs, Sticky Fingers has a loose, ramshackle ambience that belies both its origins and the dark undercurrents of the songs. Apart from the classic opener, "Brown Sugar," the long workout "Can't You Hear Me Knocking," and the mean-spirited "Bitch," Sticky Fingers is a slow, bluesy affair, with a few country touches thrown in for good measure. The laid-back tone of the album gives ample room for new lead guitarist Mick Taylor to stretch out, but the key to the album isn't the instrumental interplay -- it's the soulfulness of the songs. With its offhand mixture of decadence, roots music, and outright malevolence, Sticky Fingers set the tone for the rest of the decade for the Stones. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Let It Bleed Play

Mostly recorded without Brian Jones -- who died several months before its release (although he does play on two tracks) and was replaced by Mick Taylor (who also plays on just two songs) -- this extends the rock and blues feel of Beggars Banquet into slightly harder-rocking, more demonically sexual territory. The Stones were never as consistent on album as their main rivals, the Beatles, and Let It Bleed suffers from some rather perfunctory tracks, like "Monkey Man" and a countrified remake of the classic "Honky Tonk Woman" (here titled "Country Honk"). Yet some of the songs are among their very best, especially "Gimme Shelter," with its shimmering guitar lines and apocalyptic lyrics; the harmonica-driven "Midnight Rambler"; the druggy party ambience of the title track; and the stunning "You Can't Always Get What You Want," which was the Stones' "Hey Jude" of sorts, with its epic structure, horns, philosophical lyrics, and swelling choral vocals. "You Got the Silver" (Keith Richards' first lead vocal) and Robert Johnson's "Love in Vain," by contrast, were as close to the roots of acoustic down-home blues as the Stones ever got. ~ Richie Unterberger, Rovi

Beggars Banquet Play

The Stones forsook psychedelic experimentation to return to their blues roots on this celebrated album, which was immediately acclaimed as one of their landmark achievements. A strong acoustic Delta blues flavor colors much of the material, particularly "Salt of the Earth" and "No Expectations," which features some beautiful slide guitar work. Basic rock & roll was not forgotten, however: "Street Fighting Man," a reflection of the political turbulence of 1968, was one of their most innovative singles, and "Sympathy for the Devil," with its fire-dancing guitar licks, leering Jagger vocals, African rhythms, and explicitly satanic lyrics, was an image-defining epic. On "Stray Cat Blues," Jagger and crew began to explore the kind of decadent sexual sleaze that they would take to the point of self-parody by the mid-'70s. At the time, though, the approach was still fresh, and the lyrical bite of most of the material ensured Beggars Banquet's place as one of the top blues-based rock records of all time. ~ Richie Unterberger, Rovi

Emotional Rescue Play

Coasting on the success of Some Girls, the Stones offered more of the same on Emotional Rescue. Comprised of leftovers from the previous album's sessions and hastily written new numbers, Emotional Rescue may consist mainly of filler, but it's expertly written and performed filler. The Stones toss off throwaways like the reggae-fueled, mail-order bride anthem "Send It to Me" or rockers like "Summer Romance" and "Where the Boys Go" with an authority that makes the record a guilty pleasure, even if it's clear that only two songs -- the icy but sexy disco-rock of "Emotional Rescue" and the revamped Chuck Berry rocker "She's So Cold" -- come close to being classic Stones. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Slow Rollers Play

File alongside your copy of the Beatles' Love Songs, similarly compiled for those who like their British Beat with the edges shaven off. Of course, the Rolling Stones never quite equalled Lennon-McCartney's mastery of the art of the super-soppy ballad, and several of the 14 tracks here ("Dear Doctor" is the most pointed example) would certainly have been better saved for a parodies collection. Still, the Decca label vaults yawn wide to unearth what was then the super-rare Italian-language version of "As Tears Go By" ("Con le Mie Lagrime Cosi"), and for many collectors, that was sufficient. Another find for British fans was the American 45 edit of the opening "You Can't Always Get What You Want," but the album's greatest triumph, surely, is to remind people just how many genuinely beautiful love songs the Stones had performed. ~ Dave Thompson, Rovi

The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus Play

The most interesting archival release of the Rolling Stones since More Hot Rocks, 20 years ago, and the first issue of truly unreleased material by the Stones from this period. And the Stones have some competition from the Who, Taj Mahal, and John Lennon on the same release. Filmed and recorded on December 10-11, 1968, at a North London studio, Rock and Roll Circus has been, as much as the Beach Boys' Smile, "the one that got away" for most '60s music enthusiasts. The Jethro Tull sequence is the standard studio track, but the rest -- except for the Stones' "Salt of the Earth" -- is really live. The Who's portion has been out before, courtesy of various documentaries, but Taj Mahal playing some loud electric blues is new and great, the live Lennon rendition of "Yer Blues" is indispensable, and the Stones' set fills in lots of blanks in their history -- "Jumpin' Jack Flash" in one of two live renditions it ever got with Brian Jones in the lineup, "Sympathy for the Devil" in an intense run-through, "Parachute Woman" as a lost live vehicle for the band, "You Can't Always Get What You Want" as a show-stopping rocker even without its extended ending (no Paul Buckmaster choir), and "No Expectations" as their first piece of great live blues since "Little Red Rooster." ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

No Stone Unturned Play

The best of the various Rolling Stones collections issued by British Decca during the early '70s, No Stone Unturned is a marvelous gathering of (primarily) non-album B-sides and EP cuts that would not be entirely superseded until the appearance of the three-CD Singles Collection: The London Years singles collection almost a decade and a half later. Indeed, the only serious criticism of the set should be its brevity -- 12 songs merely scraped the surface of the Stones' unavailable catalog, and the presence of two songs that had only ever been issued in the U.S. ("Sad Day" and "Congratulations") simply rubbed salt into the British collectors' wounds. In the years before ABKCO consolidated the Stones' U.K. and U.S. catalogs, those old American B-sides and album-fillers were impossible to find in Britain, and their piecemeal distribution over sundry compilations was seen as nothing short of opportunistic gouging. That said, No Stone Unturned certainly cherry-picks the best of the Stones' period rarities, from the post-psychedelia of "Child of the Moon," all the way back to the primeval beat-boomery of the instrumental "Stoned" and their grinding take on "Money" -- the song that illustrated for early-'60s observers just how far removed from Beatle-dom the Stones' early influences really were. When the Fab Four sang the same song, after all, they sounded like they were willing to go out and work for their pay. The Stones sounded just as happy to live off somebody else's. ~ Dave Thompson, Rovi

Beautiful Delilah Play

Beautiful Delilah is one of the classics of vinyl bootleg legend. One of the earliest Trade Mark of Quality releases, for many years it ranked among that select handful of ubiquitous discs whose familiarity gave them an almost quasi-legitimate status among collectors and mom'n'pop store owners. Certainly the sound quality was generally good enough to rival any official archive releases of the period (pitifully few though they were), while the nature of the material -- all culled from vintage BBC sessions -- offered an exclusivity which defined all that a good bootleg should be. Between October 1963 and September 1965, the Stones recorded 13 sessions for BBC radio, five for the now legendary Saturday Club, and it is these which comprise the heart of this album. Indeed, two of the sessions, from April and June 1964, are complete. Also included are two tracks (of five) from an October 1963 broadcast, and four (of five) from September 1965, plus a closing "Jumping Jack Flash" taken from Top of the Pops. Only one broadcast, from February 1964, is missing altogether, but this still renders Beautiful Delilah one of the most cohesive studies of the subject yet produced. Too many Stones bootlegs, after all, simply hijack BBC material for their own dubiously documented ends; others mix, match, and hack off intros in the hope of creating new takes from the fakes. Beautiful Delilah serves everything up as it should be served, and if anyone has ever asked how the Rolling Stones sounded at their primal, blues-wailin' peak, this is all the answer they could ever require. They sounded great. ~ Dave Thompson, Rovi

Around & Around Play

Issued in Germany in the mid-'70s, this 12-song LP has a lackluster front cover (but the back shows the band on-stage circa 1965 with a police officer trying to pull a girl off of Mick Jagger, so you know it's cool). There are better compilations covering this period in their music, but the song lineup is pretty much excellent; all hard, early rock & roll and blues, mostly drawn from their early singles and EPs. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi
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