Sunday, 14 May 2017

"Sticky Fingers" by THE ROLLING STONES (Differences between the 2010 and 2013 Japan-Only SHM-CD Reissues) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"…Got Me In Its Sway…"

When the first four re-reissues of the Stones' Label catalogue arrived in May 2009 with their spangly 'new' remasters - I snapped them up (as I'm sure the Glimmer Twins knew I would). "Goat's Head Soup", "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll", "Black and Blue" and of course the mighty "Sticky Fingers". Four more came in June - "Some Girls", "Emotional Rescue", "Tattoo You" and "Undercover".

The rounded jewel cases seemed cool but the miserable 8-page inlays smacked of the usual fan-disrespecting laziness that seems to be associated with all things Rolling Stones reissue. But that aside - I couldn't believe just how good the Stephen Marcussen and Stewart Whitmore remasters were - hugely improving to my ears the rather restrained UV22 Virgin CDs from 1994 (done by Bob Ludwig). And despite losing all that gorgeous original artwork to a truly dreadful 'underpants' rear sleeve of the CD of "Sticky Fingers" - I was digging the music of my favourite Stones album blasting out of my speakers with a clarity and power that I'd not heard before. That is until the Japanese used that 2009 remaster and put out an SHM-CD with perfect repro artwork the following year - and I knew it had to be mine - again.

There have been other reissues since - so to disperse confusion lets try to clarify what's what and what not to buy. 

This review is for the first version of "Sticky Fingers" on SHM-CD (Super High Materials) released 30 June 2010 on Rolling Stones/Polydor UICY-94571 (Barcode 4988005613943) in Japan only. It's a straightforward transfer of the 10-track album with an exact repro of the famous 1971 Andy Warhol 'Zipper' sleeve artwork (46:27 minutes). But more importantly it uses the 2009 Stephen Marcussen/Stewart Whitmore remaster. A SHM-CD doesn't require a special CD player to play it on (compatible on all) nor does it need audiophile kit to hear the benefits. It's a new form of the format that picks up the nuances of the transfer better (top quality make). I mention the 2009 remaster because there's another.

Fans should note that a 'second' SHM version appeared 30 October 2013 in Japan but this time reissued on two formats (SHM-CD and PLATINUM SHM-CD) 'both' of which use a 'different' remaster. Those issues feature a 2011 'flat transfer' that I hated (dull as dishwater). The SHM-CD version is on Rolling Stones/Polydor UICY-75886 (Barcode 4988005788467) and the PLATINUM SHM-CD version in a beautiful presentation box is on Rolling Stones/Polydor UICY-40001 (Barcode 4988005788368). I've reviewed the Platinum SHM-CD variant separately (use the Barcode to locate it on Amazon). 

But let's get back to the 2010 SHM-CD version with the 2009 Remaster...

1. Brown Sugar
2. Sway
3. Wild Horses
4. Can't You Hear Me Knocking
5. You've Got To 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

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 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".

OK - you could argue that spending over twenty quid on a fancier form of the CD with original repro artwork and a natty plastic outer is a bit of a luxury - especially with the 2009 standard CD costing as little as four round ones in some places. But this is one of my favourite albums of the Seventies and I want the best version of it I can get my hands on.

I'd argue - if you go the few extra pounds of brown sugar for the 2010 SHM-CD out of Japan - you'll love the difference...

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