Rolling Stones – Exile On Main Street (re-issue, 2010)

Here the Stones embody their blues roots, the old Chess records, those jangly guitar blues. It’s all over this muddy Delta swamp of a record and I love it dearly. Time has proven this to be a total gem of a record. The instruments and vocals seem mixed in together, at times indistinguishable from each other, other times distinct, all of it glorious. Set aside the stories from the recording and drug use at the time, let the messy nature of this beast stand on its own… this is a better record than most people could ever even dream of making.

So, to business. The first disc is the album in its entirety, hosed off a bit but not too much, and it’s sounding great. Those guitars still give me goosebumps. Love the horns, the harmonica, those shuffling yet precise drums… damn. This is a Stones juke joint, plain and simple. I know you’ve heard this album a million times, so I won’t bore you with a track by track analysis. Just know that the remaster sounds pretty damn good.

The second disc, as if the first isn’t enough to make you delirious, has some extra tracks from the period. Pass The Wine (Sophia Loren) has a great soul groove and stands well on its own. But it doesn’t quite match the feel of Exile itself. Plundered My Soul comes closer, but it’s definitely a b-side. I’m Not Signifying is a fantastic piano and harp blues that plods along with a loose shuffle, one of the highlights of this extra disc. Following The River is a lovely piano ballad, but they were right to leave this one off the record as well. Dancing In The Light is a fun, blues-drenched ramble that might have worked on the album. So Divine (Aladdin Story), with its Paint It Black-ish guitar line, chugs along well enough but is another one rightly left as a b-side. It almost sounds like an afterthought. Then we get two alternate takes of album tracks: a slinky, spare and almost tentative Loving Cup, and a shuffling Soul Survivor that doesn’t quite work (those vocals are pretty terrible). Rounding out the disc, Good Time Women is another true Stones blues rocker. Love those playful guitars. And bringing up the rear is Title 5, an instrumental which picks up the pace considerably and plays with amp effects.

All in all, this set is so fucking fantastic, you need to run out and buy it RIGHT NOW. If you were to only own one Stones record, you couldn’t go far wrong with this one. Sure, none of the huge hits are here, but you can listen to Classic Rawk radio for those. This is the Stones at their peak, drenched in blues, flirting with the devil every chance they get, and loving every minute of it.

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