The Rolling Stones – Love You Live

Love You Live (1977)

B+

1. Intro: Fanfare For The Common Man 2. Honky Tonk Women 3. If You Can’t Rock Me/Get Off My Cloud 4. Happy 5. Hot Stuff 6. Starfucker 7. Tumbling Dice 8. Fingerprint File 9. You Gotta Move 10. You Can’t Always Get What You Want 11. Mannish Boy 12. Crackin’ Up 13. Little Red Rooster 14. Around And Around 15. It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll 16. Brown Sugar 17. Jumpin’ Jack Flash 18. Sympathy For The Devil

 

If you can try—try your very hardest—to imagine a world in which there were not roughly 900 Stones live albums to choose from—several of them high in quality but ultimately all blending together into one interminable dross of rehashed licks and smarmy vocals—then you can perhaps understand the experience of a Stones fan in 1977 who would surely have been highly enthused about the release of Love You Live. After all, the Stones hadn’t released a live album since Ya Ya’s, and though they had planned to put out a document of the ’72 tour—which, if released as planned, would have surely surpassed even Ya Ya’s in the annals of rock live album history—disputes with Allen Klein over the use of pre-1971 material on the album put a kibosh on the whole plot. By 1977, the Stones and Klein had reached an agreement on the use of songs from the 60s, but by that point, the Stones—considering they had replaced one of their guitarists and embarked on several additional tours in the interim five years—figured that the time to release the ’72 live album had long come and gone. And so a would-be classic was lost to the vaults, and in its place we were given Love You Live, a double disc chronicle the ’75-’76 tour era – their laziest, most overindulgent, and perhaps least interesting tour ever (at least until the Vegas years). Hey, no sweat – fanboy that I am, I’ll take the worst Stones tour over pretty much anything else in a second. But the perfunctory feel of the whole thing—or at least ¾ of the whole thing—is inescapable.

Perfunctory is definitely the best word to describe most of Love You Live – the same old arena Stones wading their way through the hits in pretty much the way you would expect them to in the 70s, with minimal surprises. Keith riffing away and sounding great, Mick doing his now well established shtick (which, at this point, involves a hell of a lot of sloppy ass singing and missed notes), and Ronnie trying desperately to fit in. Indeed, undoubtedly fixated on trying to keep his new job, Woody is actually pretty entertaining here. His doesn’t add much of anything new at all to the material, instead approaching it in one of two ways: 1) doing his best imitation of Mick Taylor, or 2) noodling around the edges and letting Keith take the lead. I’d say the latter strategy did wonders for his job security, but it’s hard not to get something of a deflated balloon feeling from Love You Live when directly contrasting it with the supercharged machine that was the ’72-’73 live act.

But Woody can hardly be all to blame. The Stones had become overrun by sidemen by this point – most of all Billy Preston, who had become something of sideshow of his own during the band’s live act, singing tons of backup vocals, lots of over-prominent keyboards, and even routinely performing two of his own songs mid-set. I’ve got nothing against Billy, he was great, but it had gotten to the point where he was significantly affecting the Stones’ musical direction. And they had been doing just fine without that influence, thank you very much. In a live setting, the difference in approach is more than audible – on stage, the Mick Taylor Stones were evil, wanted to stick knives down your throat, and could brew up a fucking hurricane at a moment’s notice. The Stones’ mid-70s live act, on the other hand, had more of a loose, boozy party atmosphere. Which is all fine and good for more groove-based numbers like “Hot Stuff,” but the rock songs come across as a bit… defanged. With a few exceptions – “Starfucker” is red hot, and Keith catches fire on the walloping medley of “If You Can’t Rock Me/Get Off My Cloud,” which for some reason go together quite well.

Oh, but all that only applies to sides 1, 2 and 4. See, in March ’77, the Stones played a couple of shows at the small El Mocambo club in Toronto. It was in that fine Canadian city, about a week before the shows took place, where Keith got busted (for drugs – what else?), which resulted in two years of criminal trials that could have ended in Mr. Riffhard going to jail for several years (he got off with an order to play a charity show for the blind). The shows, however, ruled – they played a bunch of obscure tracks, cool covers and generally kicked ass. It would’ve been nice if they’d just used them as the sole source for Love You Live, but alas, only the four excellent covers that constitute side 3 of the album are culled from those gigs. “Little Red Rooster” can never be quite the same without Brian Jones, but “Around And Around” is just as energetic as it was in the old days. A romp through Muddy’s “Mannish Boy” and a reggae-tinged, well-sung version of Bo Diddley’s “Crackin’ Up” are also hugely entertaining and rocking. The amount of fun the boys are having is obvious and infectious (my favorite quip: “Keith of course is completely straight.” And if I ever start a tribute band, I’m calling it Bums Rush Jagger. Whatever that means). So you gotta hear that stuff. As for the rest, well… it’s got cool Andy Warhol cover art, and I guess it’s still probably the second least disposable proper Stones live album. Which of course isn’t saying all that much. But hey, it’s the Stones. Still relatively young. You’ll like it.