Exile On Main St. (Deluxe Edition), CD Review - by J. Blake

Posted on 5/18/2010 by J. Blake

(New York, NY)

The Rolling Stones’ EXILE ON MAIN ST. is an album that has been the subject of much debate over the years. It was released in May of 1972, after a string of three wildly successful studio efforts, and was greeted with lukewarm reviews. Since then it has found its audience and has been raised to masterpiece status; not only being considered among the band’s personal best, but often hailed as one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll albums of all time.

Now, 38 years after its original release, EXILE MAIN ST. gets the “Deluxe Edition” treatment; remastered, 2CDs with 10 previously unreleased recordings. The ‘Super Deluxe Edition’ also includes 1 DVD, 2 vinyl LPs and a 50 page book. Though fans have been chomping at the bit for “Exile” session outtakes and lost gems, many reviewers are calling these recent reissues a disappointment.

Disc one features the album in its entirety, remastered and arguably sounding better and clearer than ever before. With that said, there are certainly purists out there that will say that it was its gritty lack of clarity that made the album sound so great in the first place. So as with any album that has multiple releases, mixes and masterings, it is really going to come done to personal taste. Which release sounds best to you? Ultimately the casual listener may not even notice the differences.

Disc two features ten previously unreleased recordings. An early version of “Tumbling Dice” is presented here as its original incarnation “Good Time Woman”. Early versions of “Loving Cup” and “Soul Survivor” (with Keith Richards on vocals) also find their way on to the bonus disc with seven other rare gems. With the exception of the occasional track that was actually finished and simply never released (like “I’m Not Signifying”), the majority of the material on Disc two consisted of nothing more than primitive instrumental beds before being completed specifically for this reissue. A great amount of care was taken by Jagger, Richards and producer Don Was to make these newly completed tracks feel and sound seamless when compared to the rest of the album. Jagger wrote and recorded new lyrics and (reportedly) Mick Taylor was even brought in for guitar overdubs. Some reviews have called these tracks “a misguided attempt to update an album that needs no updating”. Whether or not the tracks succeed in sounding organic to EXILE ON MAIN ST. is up for debate, but most fans will probably agree that they do manage to capture the feeling of the classic Taylor era.

Aside from the music, a lot of the album’s appeal has always come from its mystique; with stories of it how it was recorded in Keith Richard’s dingy dark basement in the south of France. For better or for worse, this latest re-release pretty much leaves that air of mystery intact. Even with liner notes, photographs and rare documentary footage, this Deluxe Edition does little more than simply skim the surface on what really went down in that dank cellar in the summer of 1971.

The DVD (for those of you that can afford it) consists of short excerpts from several different Rolling Stones film projects. First, fans are treated to a taste of the forthcoming documentary STONES IN EXILE. Though the 11 minute segment is interesting, it unfortunately does not shine a whole lot of new light on the sessions or the band’s creative process. Also included is 11 minutes of footage from the long bootlegged (93 minute) documentary about the band’s 1972 tour, titled COCKSUCKER BLUES and lastly, fans will cherish the disc’s concert footage of the band performing “Happy” and “All Down The Line”, taken from the 1974 concert film titled LADIES AND GENTLEMEN…THE ROLLING STONES.

Ultimately EXILE ON MAIN ST. is moody rock album that pulls heavily from influences that include blues, country and soul. It was recorded during a very fruitful time in the band’s creative history, with a short-lived lineup that many fans consider to be their best. Tracks like “Shake Your Hips”, “Casino Boogie”, “Ventilator Blues” and the cover Robert Johnson’s “Stop Breaking Down” are among the band’s most authentically executed blues efforts. Even the album’s country-driven tracks have an air of legitimacy to them that many or their previous country efforts seem to lack. EXILE ON MAIN ST. is a solid collection of music that captures a mood and a certain artistic maturity that was pivotal to the development of “the greatest rock & roll band in the world”.

Rolling Stones fanatics and specifically lovers of this album will find this new Deluxe Edition (and maybe even the Super Deluxe Edition) to be an absolute necessity for their music library. Casual fans, on the other hand, will probably find that the “extras” presented here may not be worth the extra money. Whichever version of the album you choose to buy, EXILE ON MAIN ST. is a “must have” for any music collection and for those of you that can wait, STONES IN EXILE will be released in its entirety, on DVD, on June 22, 2010.

*If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy: Strange Brew (Book Review)

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Copyright © 2010 - J. Blake. All Rights Reserved

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