THE ROLLING STONES
Exile on Main Street - Remastered
"Sweet Black Angel"
"So Divine (Aladdin Story)"
Double CD Version: original album plus 10 unreleased tracks.
Double LP Version: the original album only, on 180 Gram vinyl.
Super Deluxe Box Set: comes with two CDs featuring the original album and 10 unreleased tracks, double vinyl in a triple gatefold sleeve, a DVD, a four post-card set, and a 64-page cloth-bound book.
"Exile on Main Street. It was a midnight session," the legendary rock and soul vocalist Venetta Fields once told me. "...It was also a cash date [...] I was leaving the next day for two weeks with Nancy Sinatra in Las Vegas. I had seen a coat that I wanted, and the cash I got for the Rolling Stones session would be for the coat." The full discussion containing this quote illustrates some of my central ish about the supposed "World's Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band:" the lingering specter concerning their appropriation of Negritude, their problematic intersections with black females, and the surreal coming of age in a black (sonic) world that cared little to nothing about the Rolling Stones. Thus the events surrounding their newly reissued -- in three versions, including the super-deluxe box containing vinyl, postcards, a 64-page booklet, and a DVD of film excerpts such as Robert Frank's infamous Cocksucker Blues -- mythic album permits some moments of reflection and reconsideration. Those who have perpetually accused that these ears split hairs about the Stones since I love, know, or admire from afar a cohort of principal players-fans -- Sister Venetta, Stanley Booth, Jennifer Herrema of RTX (if he's to be venerated as the Great Spirit/Unholy Ghost largely on the altar of Exile, then Keith Richards' only heir -- period!), Anita Pallenberg, Donald Cammell, Jake Weber, Little Richard, Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry, Chris O'Dell, Jim Dickinson, Chuck Leavell, (my adolescent hero/prompt to art school) Mr. Frank, Mr. Ertegun...even my sisterfriend Karina Mackenzie who runs a Shine a Light production company across the East River -- would claim I need to do penance. Hence, this review. Yet although my life was changed or seriously impacted by the late Cammell's Jagger-starrer masterpiece Performance (in some aspects the pop/private prequel to Exile) and two tomes about the band during this, their "magic" era (Booth's The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones; Robert Greenfield's account of young Jake Weber's road towards the recording of Exile, when his late father Tommy "The Tumbling Dice" Weber served as a virtual courtier of considerable power at Nellcôte), my initial frame of reference regarding the band has remained most indelible: sitting in the back of my Mum's Audi while she and another rebel sistafriend carried on heatedly about "Brown Sugar" and "Brotha Jesse" and 'nem's boycott. The lips? We thought they was Chaka's.
Other than such dialogues over the decades, the brief childhood moment when we liked "Miss You" in tha 'Hood and got the brilliance of the Jagger-Bowie pairing in the "Dancing in the Street" clip during Live Aid, the Rolling Stones and the sort of obsessive lore that has sustained the reputation of Exile-as-masterpiece all these years were meaningless. Miz Venetta's further claim -- "I never gave it [Exile sessions] another thought until Steve Marriott reminded me that I had sung on the album and that it was a classic. I've only heard it a few times." -- is what we ken. It has been rough to be perpetually so isolated from the mainstream, especially having sown one's rocker oats in the 1990s when Guns 'N' Roses were still gods stalking the land, foppish Stones clone bands ascended and imploded almost daily like the sun, Courtney Love was doing her twisted best to model as a grunge Anita, and one of the premier cult artifacts of the period was the complete Exile cover executed by Neil Hagerty (one half of the greatest band to emerge from my hometown Chocolate City after Chuck Brown's Soul Searchers and Bad Brains: Royal Trux). While the extra tracks of this set yield little in the way of earthquakes, the chance to hear anew the great line of "Rocks Off" -- "...the sunshine bores the daylights outta me..." -- amidst that high horn blare (go, Jim Price!); smile at that curious "Brown Sugar" corrective "Sweet Black Angel" as paean to my first hero (Angela Davis); appreciate the hiney-stirring elements of standard "Tumbling Dice" plus general meta-refraction of country throughout and; above all, glory in the interplay of the gospelized chorus -- featuring three immortals: Venetta, Clydie King, Tammi Lynn -- on the one cut I always dug, "Let It Loose;" carries a dose o' blessin'. And I dutifully hollered at the ultimate witness (who digs "Torn and Frayed," considers "Sweet Virginia" a classic, and purposely decamped from Keith Richards' digs before the move to Villefranche-sur-Mer as he prophesied the murk): "When I played the tracks [off Exile] for him," my Unc Stanley Booth says, "Jerry Wexler told me "Baby, too much coke in the mix"."
There you have it: the 20th century Ur-producer's co-sign to bridge the gap (if you were born after such latter-day Stones excreta as Steel Wheels et al.), and buy this suite of reissues. Unlike some, I love Cocksucker Blues as a fitting sequel to Les Américains, and might jes' spring for the big box to get footage in a more, erm, "modern" format. Meanwhile, I'll be listening to Don Covay (wink). [KCH]
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