Wednesday, 8 June 2016

"Let It Bleed" by THE ROLLING STONES (2002 Abcko 'Hybrid SACD/DSD CD' Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"…Sometimes You Get What You Need…"

In the truly fantastic and illuminating 2013 movie "20 Feet From Stardom" - one of the great unsung heroes of backing singers MERRY CLAYTON recalls with a giggle being dragged into a Studio by The Rolling Stones in her mink coat at some ungodly hour in the morning and told to scream "RAPE! MURDER! IT'S JUST A SHOT AWAY..." into a microphone at the top of her formidable lungs whilst heavily pregnant and with her hair-curlers still in. The film isolates her vocal track where she went up an extra octave to get the effect they needed - and you can hear her blowing the room out with her sheer power. Mick Jagger - who is also interviewed in the film along with Springsteen and many other rock beneficiaries - recalls it too and smiles wryly - Merry was damn good. In fact perhaps Clayton stood out as much as he did.

But whatever has passed into musical history since - nowadays both are quite rightly proud of the fabulous song "Gimme Shelter" that opens 1969's "Let It Bleed" by The Rolling Stones - what many lifetime fans feel is one of their finest hairy-assed reprobate hours. Merry Clayton would go on to have a short but sadly unnoticed Solo career of her own on Ode/A & M Records - even naming her debut album "Gimme Shelter" after her most famous moment with the grinning English boy (see separate review).

Back to this CD reissue... When the Decca label side of the Stones catalogue first came out on CD in 1986 on London - it was not the greatest moment for the new format. This 2002 reissue acknowledges this and advises that after 'long and painful' searches through tape vaults on both sides of the Atlantic - both time and technology had caught up enough to warrant a proper stab at it again - and man what a result.

Released August 2002 on Abkco 90042 (Barcode 018771900429) - "Let It Bleed" by THE ROLLING STONES is a straightforward transfer of the album (42:21 minutes):

1. Gimme Shelter
2. Love In Vain
3. Midnight Rambler
4. Live With Me
5. Let It Bleed
6. Midnight Rambler [Side 2]
7. You Got The Silver
8. Monkey Man
9. You Can't Always Get What You Want
Tracks 1 to 9 are the album "Let It Bleed" - released November 1969 in the USA on London NP 4 (Mono) and NPS 4 (Stereo) and December 1969 in the UK on Decca LK 5025 (Mono) and SKL 5025 (Stereo). Only the Stereo mix is used.

Made by Sony and Phillips - the SACD/DSD Hybrid Disc actually has two layers - the first contains the normal CD playback - but the other layer has a SACD remaster which will automatically come on if your machine has SACD playback facilities (it doesn't require a special machine to play this disc). The three-way foldout card digipak unfortunately doesn't reproduce the inner sleeve or the sticker and poster that came with rare originals of the album. It does however take the figurines off the cake and dot them across the digipak and CD. But the real sweet tooth is the sound. Given a careful transfer/remaster/mastering job by Steve Rosenthal, Teri Landi and Bob Ludwig - the sonic transformation of Jimmy Miller's original production are awesome.

Right from the opening moments of "Gimme Shelter" with its atmospheric guitars and NICKY HOPKINS piano playing - you know you're in the presence of something special. Things get even better with the largely acoustic cover of Robert Johnson's "Love In Vain" featuring RY COODER on Mandolin to great effect .The lead in car-horns and fiddle playing of BYRON BERLINE on their countrified piss take of "Honky Tonk Women" (called "Country Honk") sounds suitably ramshackle. Bill Wyman's Bass and Charlie Watt's Drums kick in with power on "Live With Me" as does the piano playing of LEON RUSSELL. The two acidic Side 1 finishers "Live With Me" (with MICK TAYLOR) and "Let It Bleed" (with IAN STEWART) have that fantastic British Rock 'n' Roll swagger that only the Faces seemed to be able to get near with any conviction.

Side 2 opens with the killer "Midnight Rambler" - a concert pleaser to this day. I love the wickedly sly "You Got The Silver" with Keith giving it bottleneck slide and half-stoned half-jealous vocals. Reputedly about the actress Anita Pallenberg immersed in the filming of "Performance" with Mick Jagger - the song also turned up in the futuristic classic "Zabriskie Point" - a notorious bomb at the box office in 1970. There can't be many Stones who don't think "Monkey Man" one of their great, unheralded Rocking masterpieces - a snotty little number perfectly placed before the glorious symphony of "You Cant Always Get What You Want". What can you say about this album finisher - how many times has its opening magic been used in movies to elicit emotion - and worked! To this day the 7" single edit of it on the B-side of "Honky Tonk Women" can only be found on the 3rd Stones Singles Box 1968-1971 (see separate review). As Al Kooper bashes the keys and Doris Troy, Nanette Newman, Madeline Bell and The London Bach Choir sing the song out - I'll admit to blubbing little Glimmer Twin tears...absolute f***ing genius.

"This Record Should Be Played Loud" it stated on the inner bag of the original vinyl LP.

Whether you go for the 2002 SACD/CD Hybrid issue or Japan's SHM-CD from 2010 (with all the repro artwork and 2002 remaster) - I'd apply the same code to this blindingly good remaster...CRANK IT!

PS: A young Delia Smith baked the cake on the cover...swear to God...

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