Thursday, June 18, 2015

Can't You Hear Me Rocking: Sticky Fingers Deluxe

Karen: The Rolling Stones have re-issued their classic 1971 album Sticky Fingers in 374 different versions to choose from -well, maybe not that many, more like nine, with varying price points and formats and goodies included. I purchased the Deluxe edition for $14.99, which includes two discs: a remastered version of the original album, and a second disc, with five alternate takes and five live tracks. I'm going to talk about that second disc in this post.

Karen: Here's a list of the tracks:

1. Brown Sugar (Alternate Version with Eric Clapton)
2. Wild Horses (Acoustic Version)
3. Can't You Hear Me Knocking (Alternate Version)
4. Bitch (Extended Version)
5. Dead Flowers (Alternate Version)
6. Live With Me (Live At The Roundhouse, 1971)
7. Stray Cat Blues (Live At The Roundhouse, 1971)
8. Love In Vain (Live At The Roundhouse, 1971)
9. Midnight Rambler (Live At The Roundhouse, 1971)
10. Honky Tonk Women (Live The Roundhouse, 1971)
Karen: The opening track is Brown Sugar and features Eric Clapton on a very prominent slide guitar (listen below). It's an interesting take on the song, and while kind of fun to hear, I'll take the original. But like everything on this disc, since we've heard the originals so many times, hearing anything different is like a breath of fresh air.

Karen: Wild Horses here is acoustic, and every note rings with clarity. It's pretty, in its way, but also very subdued, and maybe too spare. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure this isn't just the recording we know stripped of the electric guitar parts. Can't You Hear Me Knocking is clearly still in work-out stage, with Jagger still using "filler" vocals. I've read about this practice of his before, so it was fun to listen to him singing a strange tongue of his own creation along with the music. The song itself is in its embryonic stages, with the rhythm coming together but no long, Santana-like solo from Mick Taylor in sight. Bitch is another workout song, with the music mostly all together, but Jagger still groping for the words.

Karen: Dead Flowers is a real standout of the alternate takes, as it is a complete track but sounds  very different from the version on the album (listen to it below). This is much more up tempo, rock and roll as opposed to the country twang of the original. Jagger's vocals sound flat, almost disinterested, although some might prefer that over his exaggerated redneck style that he uses on the Stones' country-tinged tunes.

Karen: The live stuff is really the best part of this disc. Obviously the live tracks are not songs from Sticky Fingers but from the time frame that the band was touring the album. Recorded at The Roundhouse in London in 1971, the sound quality is excellent and the band is in great form. Live with Me is raucous and the horn section really blasts it out. Stray Cat Blues and Love in Vain both feature some excellent guitar work. But the last two songs are truly exceptional.

Karen: Most people are probably already familiar with a live version of Midnight Rambler -the one from Get Yer Ya Yas Out, which was also included on the Hot Rocks compilation album, rather than the studio version from Let It Bleed. That version is a fantastic example of the Stones at their most masterful -it is menacing, hypnotic, and theatrical. This version is a terrific counterpoint, as it goes in a completely different direction, shedding the darkness and going for a blistering raver, with Jagger's harp tearing it up. Charlie Watts propels the song with his chugging rhythm and the band is tight! It's a great cut and I'm glad they included it here.

Karen: Wrapping it up is Honky Tonk Women, a big, loud crowd-pleaser, not even ruined by Keith's screeching background vocals (yeah, I went there). Again, a great song done to perfection by a band at the peak of their abilities.

Karen: Now even though I purchased this "package" -an actual physical CD, which, since I got it through Amazon, I also got the MP3s too -I may be making another purchase. You see, I discovered something about the Super Deluxe version, which includes these CDs and a third CD full of more live tunes, plus a DVD, the vinyl album and a bunch of other crap for $152. For $18, I can just get the MP3s of the CDs, so I could get that third disc of 13 tunes of live material recorded at Leeds University in 1971 (known as Get Your Leeds Lungs Out). Dang it, the Stones are as bad as George Lucas when it comes to double dipping customers!


Edo Bosnar said...

Don't mind either of those alternate versions of the songs you posted, but I agree with you that the more familiar versions we're all used to are better.
And those live tracks are sweet. I know it's kind of like cheating, but someone posted the entire set from the SuperDeluxe Edition on YouTube. I was just listening to it. You're right: it is spectacular, and "Midnight Rambler" is easily the best track (I like the other live version, too, but this one is no less awesome.

J.A. Morris said...

Great topic, I'm looking forward to the "new" live music. In the pre-internet days, I remember music journalists heaping praise on the alternate/Clapton version of that song. But when I tracked it down a few years ago, I thought Clapton was just doing his own thing, not really playing with the rest of the band, not adding a lot.

But I probably will pick up the mp3s of this set, for the live tracks, since I already own 'Sticky Fingers'. I think the CD I own was the 3rd of the 9 reissues.

Martinex1 said...

The Stones are great and have such a large amazing catalog. I saw them live about 16 years ago. Honestly the best concert I have ever attended; I love the band, but had no idea their live show would be so great (especially in that era of their career). I was amazed then how energetic their concert was. In Chicago, they had the main stage and a runway down to the mid/back of the stadium with a smaller center stage set up. For part of the concert they moved and played to the crowd in the back. Everything sounded great and Richards had some nice changes throughout. I've always thought Charlie Watts was underappreciated and it was great to see him live. Even being about 25 years his junior, there was no way I could have kept up with Jagger. He never stopped moving. And they played a long time, with a long encore as well. I thought that "You Can't Always get What You Want" was awesome.

It is amazing what you can get nowadays for under $20. We've come a long way from the initial CD and Album costs (relatively).

Glad to know this is out there. Thanks Karen.

Anonymous said...

Funny how reissues appear as ever more deluxe box sets just as most people have stopped consuming music in a physical form. I wonder how many of the vinyl lps from that set will ever actually be played....

But it doesn't seem like much of a rip if you can get it all in much cheaper formats (or even for free on youtube or whatever). I mean, its not like you're missing out on anything if you don't want to spend $152. I'm not much into the Stones, but I can't see myself spending that much - more, actually, what with shipping or import prices - for an album by anyone. But each to their own.

I guess you could be critical of this as an instance of a backward looking music biz focussed on regularly selling essentially the same back catalogue material, drawing its resources away from developing new artists...?


Karen said...

J.A., I liked hearing Brown Sugar done another way but it did feel a lot like Clapton just off noodling by himself and the rest of the guitars pushed to the back.

Edo, I saw that on You Tube after I put the post together. I suspect it will be pulled soon. I do plan to go ahead and buy the MP3 version so I can get the whole Leeds performance anyway. I'm impressed with the sound quality and also the performances. The Stones have done a very good job with this reissue. I have to say I haven't been as impressed with the recent Led Zeppelin reissues. It feels like Jimmy Page is going to the back of the shed -or maybe the back of his neighbor's shed -to come up with tapes we haven't heard. Just not very exciting.

After years of buying my music digitally I am back to frequently getting CDs and then downloading them, mainly because iTunes has managed to screw up about 60% of the music I have downloaded from them, which is quite a lot. For whatever reason, there's a problem with files skipping or getting corrupted and after nearly two years of trying to get it fixed, I'm at the end of my rope. I'm done with it. I'd rather accumulate the discs and at least have a hard copy around to re-load if need be. Trying to go back and re-download songs from iTunes has been a nightmare. And now I am on an Android device, so there have been file format issues...

Graham said...

I haven't heard this yet. Most of the time when a band releases an expanded edition of an old album, it's interesting to hear the alternate versions of songs you know, but you usually see why they opted for the version on the original album. Still, it's pretty neat to hear different takes. The remastered sound on a lot of these is sort of hit and miss. Sometimes they clean things up too much. If it ain't broke, don't break it.

Karen, I do the same as you when buying new music.......get the CD and then download the songs to my iPod. I still like to have an actual physical product for my money.

Anonymous said...

The version with the Leeds concert is the one I got. Well worth the extra few bucks. As for digital vs cd, my strategy is to buy the CDs and burn them, then let them build up and trade in for credit at the LCS which also sells Used CDs. I then use the credit to pick up a hardcover, usually a Masterworks Variant cover edition.

Ace the Bat Hound

JJ said...

It took me longer than most to appreciate the Stones. Glad I made the effort some years ago to catch both the Steel Wheels and Voodoo Lounge tours. Then, even later, I started to really delve into their classic albums. With posts like these I learn even more. I'm glad music has a place at BAB. -JJ

david_b said...

Sorry, late to the game on this one, took a few RARE days vacation to Ludington MI with my gf's fathers lake cottage. Great weather. My Stones love started just before their 1981 tour, and when I get 'into' a band, I really go all out, personalities, stories, urban legends, you name it. The Stones did not disappoint.

I'm like Karen, I typically rely on CD purchases. I've only had a iPod Classic for 8yrs now (getting ready to upgrade to a newer system..), and I haven't done that many purchases with iTunes. Have saved some money by doing it, but somehow my early purchases of classic sci-fi television episodes (LIS, Galactica) have disappeared. Oh well...

Will plan on some magnitude of purchasing this project, but STILL peeved at the latest tour name.


Whaaaaat the &#&@# kinda name is that..? I thought 'Bigger Bang' was odd enough (when I finally saw them in concert..), but 'Zipcode'..?

Frankly to me, 'Voodoo Lounge' was probably their last 'cool tour name' I can recall.

Zipcode..? sheesh.

What, followed by their rockin' 'Dewey Decimal System' tour coming Summer of 2018..?

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