March 30, 2010

Exile On Main Street - The Outtakes & The Price

Part ISo what are these previously unreleased outtakes? Mick Jagger says he defined the "Exile-era" as from when the first song that ended up on Exile was recorded -- Loving Cup, in 1969 -- to the final recording and mixing sessions in Los Angeles in March 1972.

Here is the latest (and presumably final) list of the bonus tracks and some notes:

01 Loving Cup [alternate take] (5:25)
Three early versions circulate; aka Gimme A Drink or Gimme A Little Drink. The earliest version is from the Let It Bleed sessions (April-July 1969) and it has a much different piano intro. The Stones debuted the song at the Brian Jones memorial concert in Hyde Park, on July 5, 1969. Another version and the Exile version were recorded in December 1971 during the Exile overdubbing sessions, with a different vocal and longer playing time. The Exile version is 4:25. Maybe we are getting the December 1971 outtake.

02 Pass The Wine (4:54)
"Sophia Loren" was the working title when it was recorded at Villa Nellcôte. Nico Zentgraf describes it as a "long, slow rocker with piano and brass". New guitar has been added. It has been reported that Mick Taylor, who left the Stones 36 years ago, met with Jagger and adding "new guitar licks" to one of the songs. (Note: This is probably not the 1968 outtake Blood Red Wine, though that is also a slow song.)

03 I'm Not Signifying (4:54)
aka I'm Not Lyin'. An outtake circulates (4:00). Most likely recorded in Los Angeles, but there is a possibility it was recorded in France. All this talk of LA puts the lie to the wonderful myth of Exile being banged out in a drugged haze down in Keith's grungy, humid-as-a-swamp French basement. The evidence is scant, but it seems like parts of as few as 5-8 of Exile's 18 songs (and probably next to none of Jagger's vocals) were laid down in France. Exile is Exile no matter where it was recorded, but I really want to believe more of it was created in that basement.

04 Dancing In The Light (4:21)
Instrumental; first recorded during an early Sticky Fingers session (March-May 1970). A circulating version can be heard here, but that is only 2:48 and cuts off abruptly.

05 So Divine [aka Aladdin Story] (4:31)
aka Aladdin Stomp. Instrumental recorded at sessions for both Let It Bleed (February-March 1969) and Sticky Fingers (June-July 1970 and October 1970). The October 1970 version has saxophone. A circulating version clocking in at 5:30 is here. New guitar parts were added for this release.

06 Soul Survivor [alternate take] (3:58)
New to collectors! Early take with Keith singing different lyrics (guide vocal), most likely from Nellcôte. Exile version is 3:49.

07 Following the River (4:52)
New to collectors! Nothing with this title is on any recording sessions info. Originally an instrumental, Jagger wrote and sang new lyrics to it for this release. Why is this bad? There is a time gap of nearly 40 years, plus Jagger gave a reason back in 1995: "I never would write that song [Brown Sugar] now. I would probably censor myself. I'd think, Oh God, I can't. I've got to stop. I can't just write raw like that."
08 Plundered My Soul (3:59)
New to collectors! Nothing with this title is on any recording sessions info. Described as "soul/gospel-ish". It will be released on April 17 as an actual 7" single, with the remastered version of All Down The Line on the B-side (jeez, they couldn't even bother to throw on an ADTL outtake, of which there are several).

09 Good Time Women [alternate take] (3:21)
Very early version of Tumbling Dice, with completely different lyrics. It was recorded at two Sticky Fingers sessions (March-May 1970 and October 1970). This take is probably from the latter.

10 Title 5 (1:47)
No idea what this might be. Some early guesses were that it was "Exile On Main Street Blues", which Jagger recorded on piano at the very end of the Exile overdubbing sessions. He sang lyrics that referred to the songs on the upcoming album, and it was used as a radio promo. The full-length promo, with snips from the actual album, can be heard here.

It looks like five of the ten tracks could be brand new. Maybe more, if there are alternate takes of songs that have already been bootlegged before. The total running time of these 10 tracks? 48:02. ... CDs can hold 80 minutes of music. Why isn't there another 30 minutes of toons on this thing? [There is a similar problem with the DVD. More on this below.]

Alternate takes exist of Shake Your Hips, Sweet Virginia, and Stop Breaking Down. There is an early version of Shine A light and an instrumental version of Sweet Black Angel. Why not release those in superior sound quality? Or include several takes of one particular song, like All Down The Line, so we can listen to its development?

There are also other possible outtakes, such as Potted Shrimp (3:59), You're Goin' Down (2:53, and no Keith!), Hillside Blues (10:27; aka I Don't Know The Reason Why), and Travellin' Man (one of my faves, joined in progress and still a lengthy 5:59; video is not of the song but from May 1972 tour rehearsals). I also like Highway Child (5:00), but it's from 1968.
According to recent interviews with Jagger and Richards, and producer Don Was, there are hundreds of hours of stuff in the vaults that no one knows about. Was said he was mindful of fans who have oodles of bootlegs and wanted to make sure they got some surprises, too. But the four or five above seems like the bare minimum. What else could have been included?

Maybe the very first recording of Happy? Keith says it came out of an afternoon jam at Nellcôte: "I put down some guitar and vocal, Bobby [Keys] was on baritone sax and [producer] Jimmy [Miller] was on drums. We listened to it, and I said, I can put another guitar there and a bass. By the time the [rest of the] Stones arrived, we'd cut it."

Or maybe the full "Just Wanna See His Face"? As Keith told Roy Carr: "We just chopped the most interesting part out of it (2:52 on Exile) and threw away the rest." (I'm assuming Richards doesn't mean they literally destroyed the rest of the recording.)

Two other songs may have been attempted at Nellcôte: Fast Talking Slow Walking (which was also recorded for Goats Head Soup) and Fragile.

One problem with outtakes that are jams or rough works-in-progress is that most listeners will not go back to them again and again, so I understand the idea of focusing on nearly-completed songs for the extra disc. But if the Stones had bothered to use all of the time available on the bonus CD, or even compiled two discs, they could have satisfied (reasonably so, anyway) every subset of fans.
The other problem with this package is its exorbitant price. Even for an obsessed fan, it's too much. Especially since this obsessed fan already has much of this material. Prices at online retailers vary, as do amounts in the US, UK, and Canada, but I'll use the amounts at Amazon in the US:
CD:                               $ 12.99
CD with outtakes: $ 23.69
Vinyl: $ 28.49
2 CDs, Vinyl, DVD, 50-page book): $119.99
I have two Exile CDs, one of which is the 1994 Virgin remaster. I don't care about the 2010 version, partly because it will likely be excessively compressed (see the Loudness War). I could download the outtakes, but I want to actually own them, so I'm in for the 2-CD set at the every least.

I have five vinyl copies of Exile, as well as some dandy first pressing vinyl rips (such as this Canadian pressing and an original UK LP). I don't need another vinyl version. Some descriptions of the box mention four postcards being included. The original LP came with 12 postcards.

Here's where it gets annoying: The DVD is only 50 minutes long: 30 minutes of a new hour-long documentary called Stones In Exile, plus 10 minutes snipped from each from Ladies & Gentlemen and Cocksucker Blues. (This says the entire DVD is only 30 minutes!)

I have several complete copies of both L&G and CB; they are not hard to find for free online. There is word that L&G will be officially released in November (now that is exciting news!). The full hour-long BBC special will be commercially available shortly after its airing (as well as, no doubt, on various torrent sites). The DVD is little more than a commercial for future items to spend your money on. It should have been considered a freebie in this package.

The only thing new for me in the Super Deluxe box is what sounds like a very beautiful hard-cover book of somewhere between 50-92 pages. Am I willing to pay an additional $96.30 to get the book -- and the pretty package everything comes in? I'd really like to own that book, but ...

Wait. I don't live in the US. According to current prices at Amazon Canada, I'd have to pay $152 for the book. ($196.99 vs $34.99). ... Can I get a hearty "Fuck You" from the congregation?

If it was this book, I'd do it. That baby is 248 pages, with 280 photos by Dominique Tarlé, who spent the summer of 1971 at Villa Nellcôte, and 90,000 words by various contributors, including Keith. Only 2,000 copies were printed; one sold for about $1,600 on eBay last month.
The Stones finally dip into their vaults and they decided to do it for a special edition of my favourite rock album. It's beyond-fantastic news, but they are doing such a half-ass job. And what's worse, I cannot figure out why they are doing a half-assed job. The Stones have plenty of material to choose from and there are numerous examples of how creative a band can be with these types of releases. And it's a simple fact that in 2010, bands have to do a little extra to get fans to shell out for reissued albums and not grab what they want from the net. The Stones have not done that with this Exile set.

I want to buy the whole shebang, but they have released what amounts to a so-so collection (to me, at least) at too high a price. And that doesn't even take into account the news that set me off in the first place: tinkering with historical 40-year-old recordings by adding modern overdubs. Maybe the price of the box will drop as the release date gets closer. Maybe I'll buy it in Buffalo (or in New Jersey in November). Right now, I'm thinking I'll download the outtakes and simply wait and perhaps grab a cheap sealed copy off eBay sometime in the future.


Zenslinger said...

Are you a fan, or a collector? I'm a fan. I only buy something like this to the extent that it gives me music I don't already have -- or in better quality. (Obviously, if Prince deigns to ever put out any more of his '80's outtakes, I will buy it even if I already have the songs, partly out of a sense of rightness and partly to have them in the best quality.)

I have spent a little on books and documentary type stuff, some of it bought and some bootlegged. I find it interesting at first (I was so hyper about Peter Gabriel in college that I bought a book about him instead of a ticket to see Laurie Anderson, duh) but in the long run, not all that compelling. A lot of music books, despite nice photographs, I just don't pick up a second time, and that makes it not really worth buying.

But -- you write about this stuff so it might be a lot more interesting for you. I'd just buy the 2-CD version. And may, for my wife.

allan said...

It depends. I guess a fan at this point. A lot (or some) of my completist tendencies have gone away in my old age. If this set had knocked my socks off, I'd spend the $. But it doesn't. And maybe if I had more money on hand, it wouldn't be such an issue.

Like I said, I want to buy this, but I can't justify it. Too much for too little.

Though if every JoS reader donated 50 cents ..... hmmmmm .....

allan said...

It will be Exile Week on Jimmy Fallon's show during the week of May 10. Various musicians will perform songs from the album (including Phish, who played Exile in its entirety at their Halloween concert last year), and Fallon has strongly hinted that Jagger and Richards will also appear, most likely on Friday the 14th, when I think some of the new DVD will be aired.
Why Fallon? The Stones are signed to Universal, which owns NBC, which broadcasts Fallon's show.

laura k said...

I am surprised to read Allan's reply to Zen's question, because Allan is quite obviously a collector. Right now he's a collector without much money, but he is most certainly a collector. I can think of 20 different bits of evidence supporting this off the top of my head, and in 5 minutes, think of 20 more.