Archive for May, 2010

“Exile” Reissue On Day Two: Listening To The Stones Peak

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on May 20, 2010 by johnbuckley100

Some thoughts, after having lived with the deluxe set (including the DVD and the booklet):

  1. Anthony DeCurtis has put together an elliptical, very well crafted set of notes on the creation of Exile On Main Street.  One point Jagger makes, and which Anthony wisely develops, is that by having Nicky Hopkins, Bobby Keys, and Jim Price on premises, rather than calling in a piano player or charting horns as needed, their very proximity insured their organic use.  With all the mythology around Nellcote, with Keith talking about “living above the factory,” perhaps the biggest impact on the music from that working arrangement is that the Stones’ optimized sound, which sprang to life in that basement, came from something so simple as the availability not just of heroin and hangers on, but killer instrumentalists who could add such a great dimension to the sound.
  2. Now that the Stones have released excerpts from Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones” — on the DVD, we have “Happy” and “All Down The Line” — what, exactly, is the reason this movie can’t now find its way into an HD DVD release?
  3. The credits, both on the original and on the deluxe re-release, don’t seem to tell the whole story.  David Gates’ Rolling Stone piece states that Jimmy Miller needed to play drums on a key passage of “Tumbling Dice” — no credit here.  Aren’t those steel drums at the end of the original “Loving Cup”?  No credit, if that’s the case… There are more mysteries.
  4. The narrative about Exile has pretty much centered around Keith.  It was his house, the riffs the songs are wrapped around have his DNA, and his is the larger-than-life eminence over all.  And yet it must be said, Jagger never sang better than on this album.  If you look at the credits, the photos, Jagger is everywhere.  Sure, maybe he was tending to the pregnant Bianca in Paris some of the time, and yes, while Keith nodded out, the Stones could not really come out to play.  But Jagger’s impact on this record is extraordinary and every bit the counterpart to his Glimmer Twin.  Never really thought about that til now, but listening to the gloriously remastered CD several times in succession, the standout presence is Mick.
  5. Has there ever been an album where the drums sounded better?  Think of Charlie’s entrance on just these songs: “Rocks Off,” “Tumbling Dice,” and “Loving Cup.”  Kickin’ the stall all night.  In the booklet, he says that the basement created a great sound for the drums.
  6. The combination of Nicky Hopkins and Mick Taylor — both incredibly lyrical musicians, virtuosi, clearly gentler souls than some of the rougher blokes around, but musically no pushovers — are the ingredients that make the confection work.  There have been thousands of words written about the Stones’ Golden Age centering on portentous world events, the death of the ’60s, revolution in the air, etc.  Methinks it can be traced to two elements. Nicky and Mick.
  7. Although live, the Stones still had the three great tours ahead of them (’72 America, ’73 Hawaii, Australia, Nicaraguan Earthquake benefit, ’73 Europe tour with Billy Preston, not Nicky), there is a late August feel to Exile. The leaves are just about to turn, but damn, the sunsets are beautiful, the light clear, the days crisp and clear. By the time Andy Johns mixed the tapes in Sunset Studio, the Stones had nowhere to go but down.  There were some good moments — a song or three on Goats Head Soup, a brief rebirth with Some Girls and Emotional Rescue. But the saddest thing about listening to Exile On Main Street is the knowledge that when the Stones came up out of the Nellcote basement, The Greatest Rock’n’Roll Band In The World had peaked.

Our Immense Gratitude That “Exile” Songs Weren’t Lost

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on May 20, 2010 by johnbuckley100

Leica M9, Nokton 50mm f/1.1, wide open.

The New Songs On “Exile In Main Street”

Posted in Music with tags on May 18, 2010 by johnbuckley100

There are a few great myths in rock.  Dylan goes off to lick his wounds and ends up with The Basement Tapes, which become an object of bootleg and legend, so much so that not long after the bootlegs circulate, Don Delillo writes Great Jones Street. In that novel, maybe the best ever written about a rock star, Bucky Wonderlick holes up on the eponymous downtown rat hole street (that was then, back in the late ’60s when everything that wasn’t paisley was actually quite grey), guarding his album from the world.

Or,  The Beatles redeem themselves with the extraordinary swan song Abby Road after having bickered on camera during the making of the more or less ordinary Let It Be, finding an elegiac way to take leave.

And then there is Exile On Main Street.

Readers of Tulip Frenzy have borne witness to plenty of prior philosophizing over the meaning of this epic album, most notably here. Now, at long bloody last, we have the remastered version along with the ten new tracks and of course our life is complete.  Or would be if that bastard Don Was hadn’t told Rolling Stone that there were lots more songs they didn’t bring to life for this reissue.  Thanks, Don.

Our most fervent hope at this moment, however, is that with the admiration the Stones are getting from mining their own past to reclaim lost gems, perhaps it will get them to open up the way Bob Dylan has, with a lack of defensiveness about everything that has intervened since their greatest phase — for wont of a better description, the Mick Taylor Era — and they will thus release more of it.  The new Exile songs are a good first step, and so is offering video from Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones and Robert Frank’s film, the title of which we can’t print in a family blog.  More, Mick.  More, Keith.  Quit protecting Ron Wood, and let us hear more from the band… those recordings you made of the ’71, ’72, and ’73 tours.  It won’t devalue your mythos, but in fact may enhance it.

Mick seems intent on creating new myths, however.  We used to think you couldn’t believe a word Mick says, but we’re now inclined to believe about half.  Certainly much of what he and Keith have told journalists about the re-release of Exile has been entertaining.  So now we know, or think we do, that that is the 60+-year old Mick Taylor playing lead on “Plundered My Soul.”  Okay, great.  But Mick’s saying that “none” of the new songs had vocal tracks on them can’t be true.  After all, we hear Keith in fine voice on several of them, and Keith has not been in fine voice since the tail end of the Reagan Administration, if that recently.  Yes, some of Mick’s vocals (“Pass the Wine (Sophia Loren)”) are clearly new.  But we at least choose to believe that other tracks have vocals of proper vintage.

Let’s skip to the chase:  We have previously raved about “Plundered My Soul,” a worthy find, steeped in the era, perhaps too similar to “Tumbling Dice” to have been released the first time ’round.

We think that “Pass The Wine (Sophia Loren)” will be playing on our iPod for years to come — a syncopated soul song that predated the likes of “Fingerprint File” with the added benefit of Nicky Hopkins and Mick Taylor and Price/Keys in fine breath. “I’m Not Signifying” is a mesmerizing blues with — we’re pretty sure — Ian Stewart Nicky Hopkins doing his best to radiate the 88.  Mick Taylor gets off great slide licks throughout, and Mick reminds us of the rightness of Keith’s compliments about his harp playing.

“Dancing In The Light” would easily have found its place on Exile‘s ur Alt.Country second side.

“So Divine (Aladdin Story)” sounds like an outtake from the sessions for “Child of The Moon,” or as has been stated in this space, “I’m Going Down.”  Certainly this was one of the cuts that came out of the earlier Olympic sessions, not a jam emanating beneath the floorboards at Nellcote?

“Good Time Women” shows how “Tumbling Dice” started out as a Chuck Berry strut, and is fascinating for it — worthy in its own right, not just for what it reveals about that song’s elegant scaffolding.

We love how the rough and ready version of “Loving Cup” reveals perhaps our favorite song on the original Exile in an even country-er light.

The best element of the new version of “Soul Survivor” is not Keith’s nonsense lyrics, it’s the way that, without Mick and the chick singers, you can hear the backing tracks in their multidimensional glory.  Thank you, Stones, for letting us hear one of the greatest of your songs in its elemental form.

“All Down The Line” was a song the Stones tried to nail many, many times before finally getting it right in Nellcote, and afterward in Sunset Sound.  This earlier versions strips it to its essence, and we’ll take it.

The only thing that might undercut Don Was’s tease about the “many” more songs in the Exile vault is the presence of “Title 5,” which beyond the novelty of hearing a Stones surf jam — after all, surf was a native American artform, just like soul and country — has little to offer.

All in, with just a handful of listens, we are ecstatic at what the Stones have released this morning.  Did we mention that the remastering of the main 18 songs has that glorious mixture of brightness and an LP’s softer edge, discarding the brittleness of the original CD mastering?

Maybe the new myth is how a band that so thrilled us at age 15 could do it again, more than a few years later.

This Much We Know About The New “Exile On Main Street” Tracks

Posted in Music with tags on May 13, 2010 by johnbuckley100

Just going by what NPR, God bless them, is streaming from next week’s re-release of Exile On Main Street, we have some enjoyable hours ahead of us.  Hearing Keith sing a slowed-down, raw version of “Loving Cup” renders that second-side favorite almost wholly new. We can already tell that we’ll also sequence the countryish “Dancing In The Light” with the songs from the ur-Alt.Country second side. “So Divine” sounds less like it was part of the Exile sessions and more like something captured in a different set of sessions… maybe around the time of Metamorphisis’ “I’m Going Down.” (Whenever that was.)

Just from these snapshots, added to the release we already have of the great “Plundered My Soul,” we’re getting  a sense of the best archaeological dig since the days of Howard Carter.

Reap What Ye Shall Sow

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on May 9, 2010 by johnbuckley100

Leica M9, 21mm Summilux.  Note the sheaf of wheat spreading above the words.

Keith On Exile: “I Was A Very Conservative Junkie”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on May 9, 2010 by johnbuckley100

The Sunday Times (London) buries the lead in Paul Sexton’s otherwise terrific article on the making and re-release of Exile On Main Street.

In it, Keith declares that he was clean, if not necessarily sober, throughout the making of Exile, and only got back on the stuff when the recording was over.  This may be true.  On the other hand, we have Robert Greenfield’s and others’ reports that a) almost as soon as the Stones set up shop in Villefranche, Keith made contact with various dealers, from the guy who sold Jim Morrison his fatal dose, to the Marseilles mobsters who stole all of Keith’s guitars one night for failure to pay for delivered supplies, and we won’t even mention Spanish Tony, b) Gram Parsons was banished, never to be seen by Richards again, because their louche shenanigans kept the album from being made, etc.  It’s possible Keith’s memories are right and everyone else wrong, but we tend to doubt it.

Anyway, nice piece, with a track-by-track analysis of the unreleased songs we’re about to hear.  Does declare that on “Plundered My Soul,” the lead is played by the 2010-era Mick Taylor.  Interesting, if true.

Rejoice: “Together” Has Been Released!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on May 7, 2010 by johnbuckley100

Leica M9, 21mm Summilux, wide open.

Credit Where It’s Due

Posted in Music with tags , on May 7, 2010 by johnbuckley100

I found the wonderful article wherein the New Pornographers’ sound is likened to what might have happened had George Martin produced Cheap Trick.

Money quote:

“Viewed from that perspective, Together couldn’t be more aptly titled, for it’s full of moments when those distinct influences interact in wonderfully odd ways. In “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk”, for example, Newman cautiously lays a melody over a stuttering chord progression before the song’s chamber pop explodes into ‘70s guitar rock, with Case’s ethereal voice lifting the song into the atmosphere before it falls back down into Newman’s meticulous verses. If, perhaps, George Martin would have produced Cheap Trick, the result might very well have sounded like this.”

New Pornographers’ “Together” Shows Crash Years Are Still With Us

Posted in Music with tags , on May 6, 2010 by johnbuckley100

It would have been nice if  “Crash Years,” the recently released single featuring Neko Case and a summary in miniature of the New Pornographers’ sound, had referred to an epoch we were leaving behind.  ‘Course, releasing Together on Tuesday, only to have the markets take a vertiginous plunge two days later does make one think the Crash Years will be with us for a while yet. At least we have The New Pornographers to entertain us; you may as well enjoy the best dance band imaginable as the Titanic begins its tilt.

These Pornographers aren’t so new anymore, given they have releases that just barely stay inside the frame of two decades (Mass Romantic came out in 2000.) They are still capable of astonishing, which they do — they really do — with the gorgeous, glorious “We End Up Together,” which rivals Challengers’ “Fortune” as the best final album song in a long, long while. (There are bonus tracks after “We End Up Together,” but they’re not much of a bonus.)

What’s different about their fifth studio album is: we hear the occasional guitar solo (heretofore, with the exception of Kurt Dahl’s drumming, the spotlight’s been on the singing, not on Todd Fancy, or really any particular musician or instrument, ‘cept the occasional cello, which is widely evident here); Dan Bejar seems to have gone soft on us, or at least likes singing songs that are sappy and don’t invoke either Jackie or snakes; Neko is everywhere (yay!); and Carl Newman is a little bit more of an ensemble player.  We can’t say the melodies are as enticing as Twin Cinema, but this is a strong effort, maybe stronger than Challengers.

Somewhere today we read a description of the New Ps as what would have happened if George Martin produced Cheap Trick.  That’s funny, and we wish we could give the writer credit, but we can’t remember where we saw it.

Who cares if we’re broke again, who cares if crawling from the wreckage of the crash years we just got run over again.  At least we’re together with our friends, singing in the chorus.

Enter Here: The New Pornographers’ House Party Awaits

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on May 6, 2010 by johnbuckley100

Leica M9, Nokton shot into the sun, wide open (f1.1).  Don’t mind the spiders.

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