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New tracks from the Rolling Stones!

January 30, 2020

My first ever commission!

Article appears in the February 2020 edition of Record Collector magazine  (Pink Floyd on cover)

What I wrote is as follows:

“Fans of the Stones, Dylan and the Beach Boys have become accustomed to a New Year bonus as their record companies attempt to extend the copyright of unreleased material by making it publicly available online. However nobody expected a YouTube channel called 69RSTRAX to make 115 previously unreleased 1969-vintage Rolling Stones live and studio tracks available on December 31st. By the time that wrote about the tracks on January 1st they had been taken down.

Alert Stones fans who managed to hear these tracks were intrigued by song versions that had never even been bootlegged before, let alone officially released.  Frustratingly the songs had been rendered unlistenable by the addition of an electronic spoiler, a high-pitched whine. Enter the world’s best fan-run website, Within hours the Notch Filter facility on Audacity had removed the spoiler and the tracks were being freely shared by fans all over the world

Live tracks come from the Stones ground-breaking 1969 US visit. It was their first tour with Mick Taylor replacing Brian Jones, and it was subsequently documented by the live LP Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out. Entire sets come from Oakland (9th of November, first show), Champaign, Illinois (15th), New York (27th and 28th) and West Palm Beach, Florida (30th). There are also individual tracks from Phoenix, Arizona (7th), Inglewood (8th), Oakland (9th, 2nd show) and Fort Collins (11th) plus a partial set from the infamous Altamont Festival (December 6th). Overall the effect is underwhelming. The Stones played pretty much the same set every night, some nights better than others – Champaign is good, West Palm is not. Sound quality is bootleg or worse, apart from the New York Shows which sound like professionally mixed soundboards, unsurprising since the bulk of Ya-Ya’s was drawn from these dates. The November 27th set sounds phenomenal with the band on peak form.The absence of a Baltimore recording is surprising: a multi-track must exist as the Love In Vain on Ya-Ya’s comes from this gig. The Altamont recording here disappoints – this first ‘official’ release is incomplete, runs slow and sounds worse than most recent bootlegs although the version of Gimme Shelter sounds unexpectedly good.

If the live tracks tell us little new, the studio tracks are the complete opposite – previously unreleased and in some cases unheralded by Stones experts.  There are seventeen tracks all in excellent quality, although one is a very obvious McGuffin being a rehearsal of Gimme Shelter recorded in Woodstock during preparation for the 1978 US tour and featuring Taylor’s successor Ronnie Wood on guitar. There is a Love In Vain that is bluesier than we have heard before. The Glimmer Twins swap vocals with Mick singing You Got The Silver and Keith singing lead on Gimme Shelter. Fascinating instrumental versions of Midnight Rambler, Country Honk and Let It Bleed allow for a more detailed examination of the instrumental balance, the latter having more prominent slide licks from (probably) Ry Cooder. Stray Cat Blues and Sister Morphine are earlier takes, again with more prominent slide.

Wild Horses is radically reworked through the addition of a glass harmonica and a full string section. In contrast to the elegant arrangements provided by Paul Buckmaster on contemporary tracks Sway and Moonlight Mile the strings here seem cloying and detract from the desolate beauty of the song. Honky Tonk Women  features Jagger singing the alternate ‘boulevards of Paris” words whilst Sympathy For The Devil features the earlier lyric of “I shouted out ‘Who killed a Kennedy?’. The longest track is 22.25 of Mick Jagger and the London Bach Choir finalising the choral vocals on You Can’t Always Get What You Want with a lot of laughter and false starts. Eventually they nail both introduction and coda, despite Jagger trying to persuade the Choir that ‘want’ contains two syllables.

There are many questions raised by the studio tracks. Stones authority John Perry is intrigued by the acoustic version of Ruby Tuesday. “Why, nearly three years on, would they re-record it with more conventional instrumentation? Brian Jones’ subtle, layered recorder parts are gone and the track is carried by a piano (probably Nicky Hopkins) and an immaculate performance from Charlie Watts, whose drum-sound makes me think it’s from Olympic. The session does not show up in any extant track logs; if the April ’69 date is correct it could be an out-take from the Let It Bleed sessions or even Jamming With Edward. Perhaps it’s an attempt to demonstrate they don’t need Brian Jones.” Other theories are that the track was recorded for Jean-Luc Godard’s movie One Plus One or that it was a rehearsal for the Stones Rock’n’Roll Circus.

The coming months will doubtless see a variety of illegal releases of this material. The studio tracks here would have enlivened last year’s official re-release of Let It Bleed which contained no new material. Maybe these studio tracks were presented to the Stones as a possible bonus CD and rejected, either on artistic grounds or because the Stones continue to be unhappy about the financial aspects of their deal with US record company ABKCO. Another theory is that these tracks are from the Stones own archives, assembled for possible use on the soundtrack of Brett Morgen’s 2012 documentary ‘Crossfire Hurricane’. Whatever the source, the result is that instead of paying for these fascinating tracks we are forced to grab them for free. LSE-graduate Mick Jagger would not approve.”




From → Music

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