The New Songs On “Exile In Main Street”

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.

One Response to “The New Songs On “Exile In Main Street””

  1. Great read. Listened to the new release last night. Such fun. And wonderful to feel again the devotional enthusiasm for the Stones from that 15-year-old I knew way back then.

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