Super Heavy Stones

Assessing the Rolling Stones' 2011

Super Heavy Stones

Dinosaurs as large and ancient as the Rolling Stones aren't built for speed, of course, but as an institution that didn't even daydream of playing together, the boys had a very, very good year. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Charlie Watts, and Bill Wyman revving up Chuck Berry's “Around and Around” for Ed Sullivan in 1964 on a new DVD – über alles?

6 Ed Sullivan Shows starring the Rolling Stones, a pricey new 2-DVD set, gathers not only the 17 songs the UK quintet cut 1964-1969 for the king of television variety shows, all six programs are preserved in their entirety including commercials.

Having the wiry young band zip through “Time is On My Side,” Solomon Burke's “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love,” “(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction,” and instrumental classic “2120 South Michigan Avenue” (under the closing credits) like well-groomed pussycats waiting for the milk to go unguarded punctuates other live music segments – Dusty Springfield's thrilling “I Only Want to Be With You” – as well as hungry comedians (Rodney Dangerfield, Robert Klein) and commercials that'll flip your wig. Mad Men for reals.

Mick & Keith on stools acoustic for “As Tears Go By” streams pure gold, but by the time the hits become too studious for live recreation (“Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadows”), the latter bohemian is already looking a bit peaked compared to his early dazzle and tap. At the point that he and the rest (except for Bill come to think of it) are badly lip-syncing “Gimme Shelter,” the bad boys of rock & roll are obviously out of the cage.

Self-gifting emails with a local filmmaker last week yielded the nugget that the deluxe Blu-ray version of this fall's hot new Some Girls Live in Texas '78 concert film comes with the four-alarm Fort Worth show on CD. Onscreen, the performance is all Mick, but the audio ramrods the whole band at one of its rip-roaring peaks, greased lightning with Ronnie Wood's straight-razor solos. Doug Kershaw's fiddling guest spot on “Far Away Eyes” saws as raw as a wailing “Love in Vain.” Consider the disc second only to 1970's Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out as a commercially-released live Stones document.

Holiday errands allowed the bonus disc from the new Some Girls reissue to loop for a week in my car stereo. Where last year's ballyhooed Exile on Main Street St. redux coughed up a disc of outtakes, Some Girls' excesses cobble together a far superior LP of their own. Exile's real bounty remains in the reams of unreleased instrumentals from those sessions, but the run-off from Some Girls yields a cache of blues and country ditties excised from the LP's punk-fueled track list.

Long bootlegged lead-off “Claudine,” unreleased for fear of legal reprisals from its subject Claudine Longet, who shot and killed U.S. ski champion Spider Sabich in 1976, plus “Do You Think I Really Care,” and Hank Williams cover “You Win Again” all honky-tonk to one degree or another on the piano work of sainted sixth Stone Ian Stewart. Contemporary vocal fixes (“No Spare Parts”) can't mar vintage Keith vox on country cover “We Had It All,” nor can blues throwaways like “So Young,” which appeared as a b-side for a Voodoo Lounge single in the 1990s, tamp down John Fogerty's handclaps and the chunky punkness of “Tallahassie Lassie,” and/or the pure Stones snark of “I Love You Too Much.”

Boogie 4 Stu: A Tribute to Ian Stewart rippled a 2011 CD sleeper in pianist Ben Waters' Stonesian mix, including a track that reunited – via digital tape, anyway – the remaining four Stones (Jagger, Richard, Wood, and Watts) with Bill Wyman, Dylan cover “Watching the River Flow.” The bassist, who retired from the Greatest Rock & Roll Band in the World prior to Voodoo Lounge, had his own archival gathering of sorts recently with the 5-CD Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings Collector's Edition Box Set.

Four albums from the pub band Wyman fronted 1998-2001, the mini-LP slipcase set grooves and bops as flashy as he who landed more groupies than Jagger – which is to say not at all – but guests including Eric Clapton, Peter Frampton, Mick Taylor, Gary Brooker (Procol Harum), Paul Carrack, and especially the vocal work from British R&B singer/pianist Georgie Fame keeps the group effort from straying too far into vaudeville. In fact, Wyman's singing on the doubled-disc Double Bill album are among the more interesting through lines here.

Finally, over the break, I caught up to that which kept Mick Jagger busy this year: Super Heavy, his super group with Damian Marley, Joss Stone, and Eurythmics production wizard Dave Stewart. Ingeniously deployed on this radio MTV soundsystem of Jamaican bomp, Jagger's powerhouse choruses cue up his best vocal work in a decade. Given over to his own ballads (the aptly-titled “Never Gonna Change”), Jagger stagnates, but team play on “Unbelievable” yields singing that measures up to “Too Much Blood” from 1983 Stones LP Undercover.

If Jagger put an ounce of Super Heavy into the Rolling Stones finally getting it together next year to mark the band's golden anniversary, 2012 might have something going for it.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Rolling Stones, Ed Sullivan, Some Girls, Ben Waters, Bill Wyman, Claudine Longet, Spider Sabich, Eric Clapton, Georgie Fame, Dave Stewart, Damien Marley, Joss Stone

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