The Rolling Stones – Exile On Main St. (Deluxe Edition Bonus Disc)

Exile On Main St. (Deluxe Edition Bonus Disc) (2010)

A-

1. Pass The Wine (Sophia Loren) 2. Plundered My Soul 3. I’m Not Signifying 4. Following The River 5. Dancing In The Light 6. So Divine (Aladdin Story) 7. Loving Cup – Alternate Take 8. Soul Survivor – Alternate Take 9. Good Time Women 10. Title 5

 

And here come the reissues. About damn time the Stones started opening up the vaults, the contents of which, let me assure you, are vast beyond your wildest imagination. Our first taste of those buried treasures came in the form of a re-mastered reissue of Exile, which was packaged with a 10-song disc of bonus goodies – outtakes and alternate versions of both the heavily bootlegged and never-before-heard variety. Pretty exciting, no? After all these years, Mick doing something that the fans have wanted for a very long time? Amazing!

Well, not exactly. See, Mick approached the first six songs on here not as “outtakes from the classic album Exile On Main St.” but rather as “Tattoo You Two: The Sequel, featuring music that was recorded before Tattoo You but is somehow still a sequel.” In other words, he did the most sacrilegious thing possible: went back to those deliciously grimy outtakes, cleaned them up, added guitar overdubs, and, on five of the ten tracks, new lyrics and new vocals. Yeah, he added new vocals to material that had been recorded forty years previously. Obviously, the result is going to sound just a little off. Don’t get me wrong, Mick’s voice has held up great into his 60s. Though it’s taken on a bit of a more heavily nasal tone, and he’s recently taken to distracting over-enunciation much of the time, the fact that he can still hit all the notes—probably more often than ever—and still basically sound like himself is pretty impressive. But no matter how good he sounds for his age, he was never, ever going to be able to match the pure, raw passion and power of his singing on “Rocks Off,” “Let It Loose” and various other Exile classics. Even when his singing was rough and inaudible, the sound he achieved on that album was a big part of what made it so special (along with roughly 17,896 other parts). On the other hand, hearing his aged voice sing atop backing tracks recorded decades earlier comes across as glorified karaoke. Yeah, it might sound “cleaner” and “more professional,” but it doesn’t sound like Exile. Exile is fucking dirty.

All right, now that I got my rant out of the way, I will say that Mick only totally ruins one song with his over-singing and corny new lyrics (the piano ballad “Following The River”), and the rest is kind of awesome. Most of this stuff has been heavily bootlegged over the years in various forms, and it’s really nice to have them out in the world at last. One song is even totally new, at least to my knowledge: the single “Plundered My Soul.” And man, if you told me a few years ago I’d be hearing a brand new Stones song this fucking good released in 2010, I’d have told you you’re crazy. Never mind that it was recorded in 1972. Well, only some of it was, actually – the original cut was an instrumental track with just rhythm guitar, drums, bass and piano; Mick’s lyrics and vocals are brand new, along with the authentically Exile-ish chick backup vocals and the lead guitar, played by none other than Little Mick himself (who isn’t so little anymore, if you catch my drift. Let’s just say he likes doughnuts a lot). Yup, the long awaited Stones-Taylor reunion finally took place, and the fusion sounds about as good as it ever did (except for, you know, the singing. But Mick does a great job on this particular song). Other highlights include, but are not limited to, the strutting New Orleans-y blues “I’m Not Signifying,” which I’d heard on bootlegs only as a bare bones run through but here is a big, good-time production (it even retains its original vocals!), and the slinky “So Divine,” which is not only based on a “Paint It Black”-esque riff, but features a melodic, near-poppy chorus that wouldn’t have been out of place on Aftermath.

The final four tracks on the disc aspire less for “completed song” status like its predecessors and give off more of the slapdash “outtake” vibe one might expect from this kind of release. For instance, “Soul Survivor” with hilarious Keith guide vocals (“You know I just can’t fuck it! I just can’t suck it!”) or primordial, straightforward rock version of “Tumbling Dice” called “Good Time Women.” And, like about half of Exile, several of these tunes weren’t in fact recorded during those legendary sessions in Nellcote and instead originated from sessions in L.A. and London dating back to 1969. Therefore, this here bonus disc serves as a fairly accurate representation of how, in reality, Exile was pieced together over a long period of time rather than emerging solely from a few debaucherous weeks in the South of France. Approaching the reissue this way may give Mick less material to work with for the inevitable Let It Bleed and Sticky Fingers reissues, but I’m happy, since the slow 1969 version of “Loving Cup,” finally got to see the light of day. This stumbling, woozy take is one of the greatest Stones performances of all time, and even though they used an inferior vocal take to the one I’m used to from bootlegs (shit, it’s still Mick and Keith screaming into a mic together… who’s complaining?), it still sounds mighty fine. After all these years, what a beautiful buzz, indeed.