Monday, November 8, 2010

Rolling Stones 34: Flashpoint

To confirm their position as a major cash cow, the Stones completed their CBS contract with a live album as a souvenir of their recent tours. Of the forty odd songs they played around the world, only twelve are included on Flashpoint. (The CD included two more and various singles had others; unfortunately, “2000 Light Years From Home”, which was pretty cool when they played it at Shea Stadium, was only issued as a B-side.)
As mentioned, the tours were fairly elaborate. Along with inflatable props and tons of scaffolding, the five Stones were accompanied by two keyboard players, backup singers and a full horn section. Despite all the preparation and shows to choose from, like many live albums it was sweetened in the studio during the mixing process.
The hits are here of course, like “Start Me Up” and “Satisfaction”, but there are some surprises, such as “Ruby Tuesday” and “Factory Girl”. “Paint It Black” is predicted by the inclusion of some chatter about the song (right before “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”) lifted from side two of Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!, and Eric Clapton joins on a version of “Little Red Rooster”. For the most part, the songs sound like the records, which was the point of having all those people onstage.
Surprisingly, the band included two brand new studio songs on the album. “Highwire” was a very timely if futile commentary on the Gulf War as it started, while “Sex Drive” is another stupid James Brown takeoff that gave Mick another excuse to put out dance remixes.
Flashpoint was a moderate hit, and about as exciting as Still Life. Even more maddening was the limited red leather-bound edition that included a disc called Collectibles, sporting some of the better recent B-sides and a few remixes. But the most striking aspect of the album is the photo of the band taken at the end of one show: all five are grinning, except for Bill Wyman, whose sad smile and wave foretells his departure from the band. This album represents the last time he would play with the Rolling Stones.
Two decades later, the Stones released one of the tour’s complete shows as part of their official bootleg download series, eventually followed by a physical release. Live At The Tokyo Dome had been a Japanese television broadcast, and the source of “Sympathy For The Devil” on Flashpoint, and provides a slightly better reflection of a so-so tour, with Chuck Leavell’s keyboards and the backup singers high in the mix. Eight years after that, Steel Wheels Live presented the Atlantic City show from two months earlier that spawned “Sad Sad Sad” and “Little Red Rooster” from Flashpoint, with Clapton sticking around for “Boogie Chillen” with special guest John Lee Hooker, as well as Axl and Izzy from Guns N’ Roses on “Salt Of The Earth”. This particular two-CD set came with either a DVD or Blu-ray of the show, or you could get both video versions with a bonus DVD of the Tokyo show, with a CD of five extra songs. Or you could shell out the big bucks for the four-LP version. (With the exception of the guest appearances, the only real setlist differences between Atlantic City and Tokyo are the addition of “Undercover Of The Night”, and “Terrifying” in place of “Almost Hear You Sigh”.)

Rolling Stones Flashpoint (1991)—
Rolling Stones
Live At The Tokyo Dome (2012)—3
Rolling Stones
Steel Wheels Live: Atlantic City New Jersey (2020)—3

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