Wednesday, 30 May 2018
The Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers (1971)
Released April 1971
Recorded at Muscle Shoals, Alabama and Olympic and Trident Studios, London
This review is for the version which includes the original album, the extras and Roundhouse live cuts, and the "Live At Leeds University" gig.
THE ORIGINAL ALBUM
Needs no real introduction. From the risque rock of "Brown Sugar", with its iconic riff, and the punchy horns of "Bitch", through the blues rock of "Sway", the pure blues of "You Gotta Move" and "I Got The Blues" to the sheer, unparalleled beauty of "Wild Horses", the morbid "Sister Morphine", the prelude to some of "Exile" that is "Moonlight Mile" and the enjoyable country rock of "Dead Flowers" - it is an absolute delight. The "two tracks in one" of "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" with its vocal introduction and extended instrumental outro, featuring some Santana-style guitar, is always a high point. Remastered impressively, giving truly excellent sound quality, you can't go wrong with this slice of leery early seventies Stones. Everyone is on top form, instrumentally and vocally. A very, very strong case for being their best ever album. Of course, the monumental "Exile On Main St" had not appeared as yet.
THE STUDIO EXTRAS
"Brown Sugar" with Eric Clapton on it is very enjoyable, Clapton's whining guitar adding something extra. While not out-doing the original it is certainly interesting. The acoustic take of "Wild Horses" has a stripped down beauty. Lovely acoustic guitar on it, particularly at the three minute mark. The sound is crystal clear. Up there with the original. "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" is largely the first part of the original without the extended percussion outro. Some nice rumbling bass on it, some riffy guitar action around 1.40 and Charlie's rough and ready drums. It has its appeal but I prefer the original. Just when you want it to continue the groove it unfortunately stops.
"Bitch" is extended and has a different vocal delivery from Jagger, slightly. More rambling than the original and had this been the original I wold have preferred it, if you get my drift, but as I know the original so well I have to stick with it. Nice guitar interplay around 2.25. Again at 4.23. The extended bit is basically the horn riff given a longer fade out, with a great bass line right at the end, a bit like a live gig extension. Enjoyable.
"Dead Flowers" has the bass to the fore and a Byrds-ish jangly guitar at the beginning. The steel guitar is laid on a bit thicker. Worth it for the bass and the rough and ready feel. Rock guitar pushes its way into the country feel a bit, for the better, particularly at the end. I think I prefer this cut to the original. Feels like a first take live in the studio cut. Jagger's vocal is a little lazier too. Seems somehow lower down in the mix.
LIVE FROM THE ROUNDHOUSE
A great "live" feel on these cuts. Great sound quality without losing anything or sanitising it. Down and dirty, uncut and live.
A punchy, bass-rumbling opener in "Live With Me" that rocks like the a canine's nether equipment. The Stones were really on fire live in 1971. "The Brussels Affair" from 1973 probably betters the 1971 material, but only just. For me, the live stuff from 71-73 beats "Get Your Ya-Ya's", but that's just my personal taste. most people prefer "Ya-Ya's". No doubting that The Stones were cooking in this period though. "Stray Cat Blues" is urgent, lazily dirty and bluesy. It really doesn't get much better than this. In 1971 they could still get away with this song. "Love In Vain" continues the blues, of course. Great guitar and vocal. My God, Mick Taylor was good.
"Midnight Rambler" is as you would expect. Very clear sound though. Laid back and almost a bit jazzy as opposed to bluesy at the beginning, then the riff and harmonica takes over. "Honky Tonk Woman" winds things up after the band introductions. I can never tire of hearing this. A great rendition of an often-played song here. Still a (relatively) new song to play live and the enthusiasm shows.
LIVE FROM LEEDS UNIVERSITY
Originally recorded in mono for BBC radio broadcast, the show from the short UK tour in Spring 1971, would appear to have been excellently remastered, in stereo. Kicking off with a heavy, menacing "Jumpin" Jack Flash", we get excellent versions of "Live With Me", "Dead Flowers", "Stray Cat Blues" and, as with The Roundhouse cuts, the sound quality is good, but the live feel has not been lost. You feel as if you are there. Nice to hear "Little Queenie" and, of course, the old "Brown Sugar" 'B' Side "Let It Rock". The sound is slightly better on "Roundhouse" but no real matter, just good to get this gig remastered and official, at last.
Funnily enough, "Leeds" was from 13th March 1971. "Roundhouse" was the next day, the 14th March, yet the band sound tighter on the second gig. That one of those vagaries of touring I guess. Some nights are better than others.