Tuesday, 9 June 2015

"Sticky Fingers: Deluxe Edition" by THE ROLLING STONES (June 2015 Polydor 2CD Reissue - Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...




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"...English Blood Runs Hot..." 

There can’t be too many Rolling Stones fans out there in the big wide world that won’t look at the sleeve of "Sticky Fingers" and grin like a schoolboy watching the English Ladies Hockey Team practice their down strokes. And I suppose if us aging reprobates are to suffer yet another reissue of that absolute Classic Rock Album – then this June 2015 two-disc rehash is a great way to massage our hip-replacements - because frankly it’s a bit of belter. In fact fans of the 'Mick Taylor Era' of The Rolling Stones are going to flip for Disc 2. Once more unto the bleach...

First things first – Disc 1 is not a new version in any way – it’s the remaster done by Stephen Marcussen at Marcussen Mastering in 2009 and runs to exactly the same playing time – 46:25 minutes. Disc 2 presents us with 10 Previously Unreleased Bonus Tracks mixed by BOB IRWIN and mastered by STEPHEN MARCUSSEN – five album outtakes and five live cuts from the last date on their UK Tour – Sunday, 14 March 1971 at The Roundhouse in London.

The 8-page basic inlay that accompanied the 4 May 2009 reissue has been upgraded to 24-pages for this 2CD Deluxe Edition (there is a single disc version that keeps the 8-page inlay). The Andy Warhol torso and underpants photo that was hidden under the original ‘zipper’ sleeve is reproduced on Page 3 - with Pages 4 to 7 giving us new black and white portrait photos of each member of the band (all were once considered for the inner artwork). The photo that did grace the inner insert for the original April 1971 LP is reproduced on the left hand flap as you open the gatefold card digipak – but rather tastefully - an outtake I’ve never seen before from the same photo session is on the right flap. Instead of Mick yawning and Keith grinning in side profile – it has Keith and Mick staring forward pensively with the other three doing the same in the rear (Bill Wyman, Mick Taylor and Charlie Watts). You can see why they chose the one that finally came out – its just more funny and a better snap (but what a lovely touch). Beneath each see-through CD tray (yellow lips logo on Disc 1 and green on Disc 2) are pictures of tape boxes. The booklet also has shots of their initial recording sessions at the famed Muscle Shoals Studios in Alabama (there’s even a bill for $1009 for the recording of "Wild Horses"), black and whites of the Stargroves Estate in Hampshire where further recording took place, the artwork for the "Brown Sugar" UK 7" single picture sleeve, a repro of the UK Tour 1971 poster, colour shots from the Roundhouse gig in London and even photos of the album launch in France with Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records. Finally there are detailed credits for both discs.

UK released 8 June 2015 (9 June 2015 in the USA) – this reissue of "Sticky Fingers" by THE ROLLING STONES comes in a dizzying TEN FORMATS - including Single and Double Vinyl variants, differing Downloads versions and even a Spanish Cover Version with its famously unique 'Fingers in A Tin Of Treacle' artwork. This review is for the 2CD Deluxe Edition on Polydor/Rolling Stones 376 483-6 (Barcode 602537648368). Here are the details...

Disc 1 (46:25 minutes)
1. Brown Sugar
2. Sway
3. Wild Horses
4. Can’t You Hear Me Knocking
5. You Gotta Move
6. Bitch [Side 2]
7. I Got The Blues
8. Sister Morphine
9. Dead Flowers
10. Moonlight Mile
Tracks 1 to 10 are the album "Sticky Fingers" - released 23 April 1971 in the UK and USA on Rolling Stones Records COC 59100

Disc 2 (54:02 minutes):
1. Brown Sugar (with Eric Clapton) – 4:05 minutes
2. Wild Horses (Acoustic) – 5:47 minutes
3. Can’t You Hear Me Knocking (Alternate Version) – 3:24 minutes
4. Bitch (Extended Version) – 5:53 minutes
5. Dead Flowers (Alternate Version) – 4:18 minutes
6. Live With Me – 4:22 minutes
7. Stray Cat Blues – 3:48 minutes
8. Love In Vain – 6:42 minutes
9. Midnight Rambler – 11:27 minutes
10. Honky Tonk Women – 4:14 minutes
Tracks 1 to 5 are Outtakes from the original sessions produced by Jimmy Miller. "Brown Sugar" is credited as (with Eric Clapton) when in fact it also has Al Kooper on Guitar (Ian Stewart on Piano and Bobby Keys on Saxophone too). Tracks 6 to 10 are highlights from a show at The Roundhouse in London on Sunday, 14 March 1971 (there is a CD3 only on the Super Deluxe Edition 12" x 12" Box Set which is called "Get Yer Leeds Lungs Out" and was recorded 1971 at Leeds University). The live band for the London show included Bobby Keys on Saxophone, Jim Price on Trumpet and Nicky Hopkins on Piano. All songs are Jagger/Richards originals except "Stray Cat Blues" which is a Robert Johnson cover version.

THE ALBUM:
Right from the opening riffs of "Brown Sugar" (slightly distorted it has to be said) - you know you're in the presence of a different beast. This (2009) thing rocks - the guitars and rhythm section filling your speakers with incredible energy. I can hear the 'loudness wars' naysayers already - sure these things are loud and sure they're hissy in places too - but at least I feel like I'm in the presence of the real master tape. The power and clarity of instruments on say "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" and "Dead Flowers" is astounding. Ry Cooder's Slide Guitar and Jack Nitzsche's Piano on "Sister Morphine" is so good too, Paul Buckmaster's gorgeous Strings on "Moonlight Mile" and Keith's beautiful acoustic playing on "Wild Horses" - all fabulous. But if I was to isolate one track that shows massive improvement on this SHM - it's the Side 2 nugget "I Got The Blues". Everything about it rocks - Keith Richards and Mick Taylor on guitars, Bobby Keys and Jim Price on Horns, Jimmy Miller's Percussion and especially the Billy Preston Organ solo - it sounds truly fabulous. There's just that little more pep in the step of every track on this format - and somehow that amazing Cooder Slide on "Sister Morphine" seems more in your face (but in a good way), the sexy Saxophones on "Bitch" - the guitars on their fantastic bluesy cover of the Mississippi Fred McDowell/Gary Davis dead-and-dying tune "You Gotta Move". There are many who hated the 2009 remaster saying it was too loud or something like that. I think this is crap of the highest order. I bought the Japanese Platinum SHM-CD version with a flat transfer (which is what many of these detractors wanted) and it 'was' awful. It's a matter of Audio taste I know - but I frankly get weary of Audiophile types telling me what I'm hearing is lousy when my ears tell me different.

I had expected Disc 2 to be a disappointment – five lesser versions with a bunch of live stuff that should have stayed in the can – neither let the side down thank God. To hear “Brown Sugar” in ‘any’ variant is a blast - yet you can so hear why Jagger toned down the “get down on your knees...” lyrics and how the twin slide guitar work of Clapton and Kooper is good but still feels too ramshackle. Bobby Keys comes blasting in with that Saxophone solo pretty much intact but the finished album cut is sharper and their decision to go with a cleaner more concise version was the right one. It’s odd ‘not’ to hear the opening acoustic strums of “Wild Horses” be accompanied by that second guitar – this time we get a sort of unplugged original – and what a gorgeous song it is too. Lyrically there’s not much that’s different except that you can you hear the words more clearly on this Alternate. We then get a weird reversal – the finished album masterpiece “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” gets cut down from 7:16 minutes to 3:24 minutes and is really the band ‘feeling’ for something. In fact on the amazing near 12-minute live version of “Midnight Rambler” where Keith and Mick solo like crazy – you can hear the finished licks and solos creep in because it was March 1971 – after they’d recorded this early attempt. 

But then comes an absolute jewel – the extended “Bitch” where Bobby Keys (Saxophone) and Jim Price (Trumpet) add so much to the song. It’s absolutely fantastic and I actually shouted “More” at the Marantz as it finished – not wanting this bad sucker to end. After such excitement the Alternate of “Wild Flowers” isn’t nearly as Country as the finished album version and suffers for it. Fans will be disappointed that the five live cuts don’t actually feature a single “Sticky Fingers” track but that’s not to say that they’re inferior fare – far from it. This is the 1971 band cooking (with Mick Taylor) on 1969 “Let It Bleed” material like “Live With Me” and “Love In Vain”. There is already a huge step forward in the overall sound and impact – a band finding their Rock feet. The Robert Johnson cover of ”Stray Cat Blues” is just fantastic while the huge “Midnight Rambler” sees Mick give it some fabulous harmonica fills inbetween those Bluesy guitar moments (“Spotlight on Keith’s arse...” he say before they launch into the jam). After introductions of the band – Mick tells the crowd to “open your lungs on this one” as The Stones go into a stunning version of “Honky Tonk Women”. Very tasty stuff...

I don’t know if I’d plum up the dosh for the Super Deluxe Version – but I have to say that this 2CD Deluxe Edition is a triumph.

In the Jake Gyllenhaal/Dustin Hoffman/Susan Sarandon movie “Moonlight Mile” from 2002 – Jake’s character is in a bar, goes over to a jukebox and puts on the movie’s title track. It starts to play and then as the stunning Paul Buckmaster strings kick in – Jagger sings - “I’m riding down your Moonlight Mile...” And I remember watching it - and not for the first time did a chill go up my arms – reminding me of how much I loved this band and in particular this album that I played to death as a teen in Dublin.

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are more Zimmer-Frame Twins these days than Glimmer Twins – but that doesn’t stop this 2CD reissue from being magical to me. Lick your lips folks...because here we go again...

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