The Rolling Stones - "Exile On Main St" 2x LP 18o Gram Vinyl Edition
Original Release - 1972
Anniversary Release - 2010
Producer - Jimmy Miller
Recorded - Chateau Nellcote, France
Mixed - Sunset Sound, Hollywood California
18 Tracks to Redeem Your Soul
Everyone knows the story. By 1972 The Stones were literally exiles. Leaving the UK to evade heavy taxation they set up shop in the south of France to record what would come to be known as "Exile On Main St". This album is not only known as the greatest album in the Stones catalogue, but one of the greatest in the history of rock & roll.
Chateau Nellcote was the home to the majority of the fractured recording sessions. Often taking place in the muggy basement, these drug fueled recording sessions often lasted all night.
During 1971-1972 the exiled band mates were literally on the run. On the run from the oppressive taxation in their home country, on the run from the police in France, and on the run from their own personal demons they imported to Nellcote.
The whoring, boozing, drugs and general debauchery is evident throughout the album, especially side A. The famous down beat from Charlie Watts starts "Rocks Off" with a bang. What follows is 66 minutes of blues soaked rock & roll that plays more as a soul revival than album. With Keith Richards at the creative helm, side A flies by with heartfelt beats, Delta blues style guitars, and a soulful bass line from Wyman. "Tumbling Dice" takes center stage as a mid tempo ode to life in the fast lane: "Always in a hurry, I never stop to worry, Don't you see the time flashin' by. Honey, got no money, I'm all sixes, sevens, and nines".
Side B opens with the bluesy classic "Sweet Virginia". This may be as delicate as The Stones get, but interestingly enough it makes for just as thrilling a listening experience as their uptempo classics. With "Sweet Virginia" you get the sense that this band is a fighting band, they may have been on the ropes, but they will not give in. Mick Jagger's ragged vocals and harmonica add substance to this track, but its the bass line and honkey tonk piano that brings this track to life. Near the end you get the sense that you have been up all night, maybe all month. Strung out and determined you still have miles to go before you sleep.
With "Torn & Frayed" we have Al Perkins on steel guitar (nice touch) and Mick Taylor on bass. A classic Stones rocker, "Torn & Frayed" displays The Stones and their love for American music, especially the Delta Blues. You don't have to look far to see the influence of American blues masters, as it is evident on every track. This is a true "bucket of blood" album. Strap yourself in and prepare for a ride.
There are few albums where the studio shines as an instrument. With "Exile On Main St" you can hear the room, and it adds such texture to the experience, especially the percussion on "Black Angel". This is brought to life by the vinyl remaster which (thankfully) enhanced the recording without washing away the character and imperfections that make this album perfect.
Side C opens with the Keith Richards song "Happy". Written and cut during some of "Exile's" most turbulent sessions. By this time Richard's heroin use was affecting the entire band, but out of this conflict emerged a sweaty, push and pull rock album for the ages.
"Shine a Light" the best track on side D and a contender for best track on the album has Billy Preston tickling the ivories (yes, that Billy Preston) and Mick Taylor on bass. This track brings the album full circle, though "Soul Survivor" closes the album, this is the emotional conclusion to "Exile On Main St".
If we are to trust the lyrics of "American Pie", that rock & roll can indeed save our soul, one must start with "Exile On Main St". Though this an "imperfect" album, made by "imperfect people" it is out of the ashes that this album rises to lay legitimate claim to the title of greatest rock album of all time.
This Anniversary edition vinyl is pressed on 180 Gram black vinyl and comes in a replica of the original vinyl release. There are no bonus tracks on the vinyl edition, but Stark The Vinyl Shark has acquired the bonus tracks which include "Plundered My Soul", "I'm Not Signifying", and alternate takes of "Soul Survivor" and "Loving Cup". An interesting look back at hidden gems from one of the most infamous recording sessions in the modern rock era. The vinyl sounds great, if not slightly compressed (what did you expect) and will serve as a fine play copy until I can track down a original.