March 22, 2010

Rolling Stones Releasing Remastered Exile With Never-Even-Bootlegged Outtakes (!), So Why Am I Pissed Off?

On May 18, the Rolling Stones will release a remastered version of Exile on Main Street, aka The Greatest Rock And Roll Album of All Time*, with a second CD of ten previously unreleased outtakes from the "Exile era" (1969-72), and some video goodies. Several of the outtakes are completely new even to the obsessive collector, so why am I annoyed instead of being deliriously happy?

*: Don't waste your time - :>) .

Here's why:

The band has gone back and added guitars, vocals, and percussion to some of the nearly 40-year-old tracks, and Mick Jagger has written and sung brand new lyrics for an instrumental.

This is utter bullshit. (And I cannot believe that some Stones fans (judging by posts at the It's Only Rock & Roll discussion board) are cool with it, or taking a wait-and-listen attitude (which actually may not be a bad idea, but it would ruin my rant, so no go); though not everyone).

Some type of funny business was hinted at in the press release (my emphasis):
The unearthed tracks ... have undergone a unique evolution, while staying true to the essence of the 1972 album.
In the words of Lee Elia, my fuckin' ass.

Jesus!! WTF? The Stones finally decide to open its vault a wee bit -- none of the many previous re-releases (save the 40th anniversary edition of Get Yer Yas-Yas Out) have anything extra on them -- and they still found a way to fuck it up.

Jagger was roughly 26-28 years old when the band recorded the songs that eventually ended up on Exile. And the entire band was at the peak of their creativity. Assuming Mick worked on "enhancing" these old tracks last year, he was 64 or 65 years old -- with the last truly great song he wrote nothing more than a distant memory. His voice and mindset cannot possibly the same.

Almost all of the songs on 1981's Tattoo You were culled from various studio sessions dating back to 1972. The Stones either completely re-recorded the songs or worked with the old tapes. This is something different. These 10 tracks are not being presented as a brand new Stones album. They are being sold with the already-existing album in a manner that has been done a lot over the last decade or two, releasing demos or in-progress versions of songs either on the official album or considered for inclusion but dropped. It's a way of giving fans a deeper look at what the band was creating at that time (and an easy way to get them to spend money on another copy of something they already own).

It's not a perfect analogy, but ... what if Martin Scorcese released a new DVD of Taxi Driver, with some clips of a modern-day Robert De Niro acting out some scenes that were cut from the classic film. Sure, De Niro was 32 then, and is 66 now, but that shouldn't affect anyone's enjoyment of a totally-cool, behind-the-scenes experience, right?

The new Exile will be sold in three formats: (a) the remastered 18-track CD; (b) a deluxe edition, with the 10 bonus tracks; and (c) a super deluxe set that also includes a vinyl edition of the album, a documentary 30-minute* DVD with footage from Cocksucker Blues, Ladies and Gentlemen..., and Stones In Exile (a new film that includes footage from the recording sessions), as well as a 50-page collector's book with photos (for roughly $150).

*: A total 30 minutes? Wow!

(End Part I)


FenFan said...

*see the original Star Wars trilogy - is George Lucas involved in any way?

Douglas said...

I knew this post was coming.

laura k said...

This release is huge news in our house, and not only for Allan. The very beginnings of our relationship was forged through mutual Exile worship (and Keith), a love we both harboured long before we met. How many copies of this do we own, in how many versions? (Some autographed!)

And now this... Complicated!

laura k said...

PS Someone has a birthday coming up.

allan said...

Really? ... That's funny.

Other stuff I was writing about the actual outtakes was getting quite long, so I put this up for now.

allan said...

Over the weekend, I saw the mega box priced at $200. WTF!!!!

Today, I saw Amazon has it at $149. That's somewhat better, but as I will note in Part II, the truly new stuff I'd be getting for that $149 is slim, indeed.

Zenslinger said...

I don't think the movie analogy holds up too well, for obvious reasons. Voices change a lot, but not as much or as definitively as faces do (that is, you can imitate your younger self's singing in the studio probably better than another person could.) But it's still a very weird decision for them to make.

Star Wars is one comparable situation. Another is fixing mistakes and such in so-called "live" albums. A lot of Genesis fans thought it was weird when Peter Gabriel rerecorded all his vocals for the release of a 1975 show. That band and a lot of others tend to be perfectionists about those kinds of recordings. Some fans don't like it, but good bootlegs are out there as well, so it doesn't really matter for people who tap into that. Here, you have early songs you can't get anywhere else, and you have to listen to them retrofitted whether you like it or not.

Why not release them undoctored and the versions they worked on? Maybe because the former would sound better?

allan said...

Zen: I know the analogy is not great.

Another example was Frank Zappa re-recording the bass and drum tracks to two old albums (We're Only In It For The Money, Cruisin' With Reuben & The Jets) in 1984 for their release on CD. (And maybe he did more than bass/drums. He says the original tapes were damaged.)

Zenslinger said...

The Genesis situation I referred to involved him rerecording the vocals in, like, 1999.

Speaking of 1999, Prince has occasionally threatened to rerecord his whole catalog as a way to take ownership of the masters. I know this has been done in country and soul, but can't imagine they would sound good.

Last night there was an early Stones TV performance on PBS. Screaming teen girls and all. So young, they were still very good ("Time is on my Side" is the only tune I watched which I recognized). They were so fresh-faced, but Keith Richards still managed to look completely fucking evil. Wyman looked a little creepy, too.

laura k said...

I love those early TV appearances. To really see the difference between the Stones and many groups of their day, you have to look at TV performances by some of the standard, good-boy bands, who generally wore matching outfits and were very cheery and restrained. Keith looks evil (as you say) by comparison and Mick looks like a sex machine.

Always interesting to follow the progress of Keith's teeth over time, too. :)

laura k said...

Dumb question perhaps (from the person who says there's no such thing as a dumb question), but is part of the motivation behind this an attempt to produce something no one can get any other way? The same way any stupid "bonus track" was added to a baby-boomer LP when it first went to CD?

Although I steadfastly declare Exile the greatest rock album ever made, and although I decry things like colorization and people singing duets with dead folks, I am not as horrified by this as you are, A.

I guess that's because I already have Exile, its most perfect and beautiful and wild self. I don't care about versions, mixes, extra, re-recordings, what have you. These extra, modern vocals don't detract from my Exile in any way.

[Why do I imagine he's packing his bags right now? ]

laura k said...

[Why do I imagine he's packing his bags right now? ]

And if so, the autographed Exile is mine! ;)

allan said...

As long as I have the originals, Prince can do whatever the fuck he wants. New fans can d/l the originals and I can d/l whatever is new.

I was getting Youtube links of various unreleased songs and watched some '72 clips from L&G. Fucking great, of course, plus a TON of interaction between Mick and Keith, something that had become ultra-rare by/during the 1981 tour.

In clips from the 1969 tour (and 68's R&R Circus), Jagger just fuckin' oozes sex all over the place. ... That smooth youthfulness in his face would be gone by 72.


Plus in combing YouTube, I found a version of Let It Loose I have never heard before! Could be from Nellcote!

allan said...

When I first heard of the touching up, I was furious and was all set to bang out an obscenity-soaked post. But I held back.

It seems as though the only songs they fucked with are ones that were totally unknown. Which sucks because we don't have any pre-2010 versions to prefer -- though I bet those leak out sooner or later, anyway. But then we also do not have anything else to compare them to. But then we may wonder what new stuff was done.

If it was just beefing up an underlying guitar part or throwing in some extra background singing, it might not be so bad. But anything they put on there is going to be noticeable, right? If it a only a little brush stroke here or there, why bother in the first place?

It seems simple to me: either the songs from that period are worth releasing as they were done then or they are not.

Q: So does that mean if this an Exile song you have never heard before has been enhanced somehow, you would rather it stay hidden in the vaults?

A: Errr, ummm, ahhh (exhales) .......

Benjamin said...

So how does it sound?

(Isn't that the question that matters?)

laura k said...

(Isn't that the question that matters?)

It's a question that matters a lot, but it's not the only question that matters.

laura k said...

Authenticity matters. Someone could release a heavily edited version of [fill in your favourite classic novel here] and it might read ok, and maybe even the editor had a good understanding of what the now-dead author wanted to express, but no way, no how, that is going to ok. An interesting experiment, perhaps, but not the book you love.

Even though this is technically the same person doing the editing, 65 y/o Jagger is not 26 y/o Jagger, so it's not the same person.

allan said...

How does what sound? This set is not out until mid-May.

Unknown said...

This is a much bigger problem in movies than in music, IMHO; we'll never get to see the real versions of Touch of Evil, L'Atalante, Greed, or any number of other masterpieces. At least this is Jagger who's doing it, and not some A&R guy or something. Still, anyone who's made the mistake of buying a post 1990 Rolling Stones album can't be too enthused about the prospect of this version of the band fucking around with the good version's material.

SoSock said...

Ah, mid-May, the answer to my question! I'm a Stones fan, especially Goats Head Soup and before, but definitely not as much so as you guys. I do have my old Exile LP still, though I wish it were in better shape. The album itself is in OK condition, but the cover is really worn.
I do, however, have a dear friend who shares your opinion that Exile is the GAME (greatest album made, ever)and I would love to surprise her with this. And it does come out before her birthday. Check mark, cool.

Simon Chapman said...

I've liked the Stones for a long time but could hardly class myself as a fan - I own a 25 year old vinyl copy of Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass) and that's it. But I had the same splenetic reaction when I read about this release of Exile and for the same reason. WTF?! It's just the wrong thing to do. Who actually really wants to hear the Stones do this, as opposed to merely not hating it or being cool with it? No one at all, I'd wager. So why in the blue fuck does Jagger - and I bet it *is* Jagger's ego driving this - think it needs doing? No one else does this.

Zenslinger said...

James, are you not happy with the restoration of Touch of Evil according to Welles's notes? Sure, Welles himself was not around to do it, but it's got to be close.

Anonymous said...

Is the instrumental with new lyrics and singing mentioned above the already released single Plundered My Soul, or a different track on the album? This song obviously has new singing added, hopefully the other unreleased tracks didn't get that treatment too?

allan said...

That one might actually be "Following The River" (based on the info I gathered here).