Monday, June 21, 2010

Rolling Stones 24: Love You Live

Another pattern developed with the Stones at this juncture of their career as superstars. From here on out, it would be a rare occasion where a studio album would be followed by another. Instead, they kept record racks filled with either a hits collection or a souvenir from their latest tour, the scope of which had almost certainly eclipsed its predecessor. The live album approach made sense, since most of their concerts got bootlegged anyway.
Love You Live was only their third official live album, culled mostly from a couple of dates over a long trek. It’s a double album, so they at least try to deliver. So what gives this album such a positive rating? Is it the Andy Warhol cover art, which depicts various Stones biting each other? (Saucy!) Is it the sound of fireworks bookending the performance? Could it be the grandeur of Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare For The Common Man”, used to herald the conquering heroes to the stage? Is it the selection of songs from their entire career to date, from “Get Off My Cloud” to “Fingerprint File”? Is it the meticulous way the tracks were overdubbed in the studio to rob them of their spontaneity? Is it Mick’s twixt-song patter in French, to the delight of the mostly Parisian audiences yelling along? No, what makes it special is side three.
Recorded at Toronto’s El Mocambo club the same week the law finally caught up with Keith, these four tracks present the Stones in an ideal setting: on a tiny stage pounding out old R&B favorites. Even the vocal encouragement of Billy Preston can’t dilute the energy in “Mannish Boy”, “Little Red Rooster”, “Around And Around” or the slightly reggaefied “Crackin’ Up”. It makes one wish they could play more shows like that, and then they could release more live albums like it.
Only 45 years later common sense prevailed, and El Mocambo 1977 presented a full show plus three songs from the night before on two CDs (or four LPs, your choice of black or multicolor vinyl, plus tie-in merch). From newer Black And Blue songs to old blues numbers from the Crawdaddy Club, the band is hot, and Keith is spot-on. Credit is due to Bob Clearmountain’s mix—Billy’s still there but not overpowering—and we find the overall sound superior to the cavernous atmosphere of Love You Live. Even the familiar songs are well-performed, though “Honky Tonk Women” and “Tumbling Dice” are a little slow. Surprises include a faithful “Fool To Cry”, “Let’s Spend The Night Together”, the old chestnut “Worried Life Blues”, a different “Red Rooster” from side three, a terrific “Rip This Joint”, “Melody” (not noted as “inspiration by Billy Preston”, and shame on them), a slightly draggy “Luxury”, and best of all, a preview of “Worried About You” four years before its eventual release on Tattoo You. (One maddening thing about the package—besides being yet another iteration of the tongue logo, there is not a single photo of Bill Wyman to be found.)
Meanwhile, back in 1977 the Stones were undoubtedly a big act, and were worthy of big productions. On that score, Love You Live served its purpose. The times, however, were starting to dictate otherwise.

The Rolling Stones Love You Live (1977)—3
The Rolling Stones
El Mocambo 1977 (2022)—

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