Rolling Stones: Live Licks
All About Jazz comrade Doug Collette has already astutely commented on this recording. I have been listening to it since entering Best Buy two weeks ago and, like a lemming marching into the sea, purchased it. I was not holding out very much hope for this recording to be any better than the band's recent live offerings (briefly detailed in The Rolling Stones-Get Yer Ya Yas Out ).
The Rolling Stones have not had anything to say as a trend-setting band since the release of Tattoo You in 1981. With the insanity of chemical dependency (doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result) I have purchased every RS disc that has been released. I went on a bootleg tear, buying all of the 1972, '73, '74, and '75 tour boots (where I did find the best live Stones). But I have been holding out for something with the same dedication and invention of Record 2, Side 1 of the pathetic Love You Live (1977). My biggest criticism for the recent Rolling Stones recordings is that the music had none of the fire of the earlier Stones. Of all of the dinosaur rock bands performing today, only The Who have released recordings with what sounds like the dedication and conviction they had 30 years ago. Thus, as an occasion, I want to address briefly each of the 23 selections on Live Licks , performing a veritable post-mortem on this newest of Stones recordings.
Brown Sugar...the standard concert opener for the '72 and '73 tours. Here, the boys belt it out superbly, Keith banging out those dirty chords with more conviction than in the previous 30 years. Mick and Charlie are on also. Bobby Keys' tenor break was fine. This is a hopeful sign for the record.
Street Fighting Man...ditto Keith's dirty chords. Richards is way out in the mix where he belongs playing that five-string-G-tuned guitar as only he can. Let's get one thing straight, Keith Richards is a terrible guitarist, but immediately identifiable in such a way that his riffing is now a part of our DNA. Mick sounds like he means it'for the thousandth time.
Paint It Black...passable. The Rolling Stones used to be considered deliciously dangerous. This song proved it at the time and still comes off pretty well here, but there is no longer any danger.
You Can't Always Get What You Want...passable. Stoned church music, Keith opens the piece with his best guitar opening in years. Mick and the background singers are superb (even the audience is okay, usually a death knell for live recordings, but fun here). Ron Wood's lead guitar is inspired, and the double time ending is great.
Start Me Up...the last meaningful word from the band. This is a throw-off performance. "Start Me Up" was Keith's mid-'70s answer to "Brown Sugar" and a damn poor one at that.
It's Only Rock and Roll...a different introduction each time it is played live. Ditto the throw-off label. The band fails in the pianissimo coda that once held so much tension. Here the band is going through the motions. But like pizza and sex, even the worst "It's Only Rock and Roll" is still pretty good.
Angie...crisp acoustic guitar played with invention and not merely a carbon of the studio performance. Mick is still pining away for that bitch and sounds like it.
Honky Tonk Women...ditto "Brown Sugar" with Keith throwing us a curve. He adds a stroke to the introduction that spices things up. Sheryl Crow proceeds to fuck a right proper performance of this mainstay.
Happy...a schizophrenic triumph. Finally Keith sings so you can understand him. He comes off with a sardonic Vegas swagger that oddly makes the song work better than any other live version. Ron Wood's slide guitar is pretty good too.
Gimme Shelter...a good live performance, but nothing will ever be as chilling as the studio version on Let It Bleed. The two guitarists weave a magic spell though.
Satisfaction...a fun romp with a golden oldie. Mick is in full form.
Neighbors...live, betrays its rock-a-billy roots. This "Tattoo You" chestnut comes off very well. It is an unexpected pleasure to hear it. Bobby Keys and Ron Wood shine.
Monkey Man...a rare "Let It Bleed" song. Great guitar interplay performing something other than the blues. Ron's slide guitar rules.
Rocks Off... Exile 's tome to hedonism. This live verson raises the song out of the muck of 30 years to present the greatest line in rock music"I was making love last night/to a dancer friend of mine/I couldn't seem to stay in step/she comes every time she pirouettes on me'"
Can't You Hear Me Knocking... Sticky Fingers ' jam song. It is dispatched perfectly here with Keith and Mick singing like it still makes a difference. Bobby Keys, Ronnie, and Mick turn in spirited solos. This song almost makes up for the tragic train wreck about to happen. This is the best song on the album.
That's How Strong My Love Is...a rare R & B failure, but a spectacular one. This performance of the Otis Redding classic proves that The Sands (or Tunica) is this band's next stop.
The Nearness of You...yes, the Hoagie Carmichael song, violated as only he can, by Keith Richards. An Amazon.com reviewer touted this the best song on the disc. Holy Shit, if that is true, we need to run for cover. And just to think, I almost forgave Keith for "Losing My Touch."
Beast of Burden...the second best song on the disc. Somehow, the Stones can always infuse their studio recordings with greater soul live and this is a perfect example. The twin guitars and Mick Jagger's vocals, Keith Richards background vocals reveal this song as the great composition that it is.
When the Whip comes Down...rock and roll.
Rock Me Baby, You Don't Have to Mean It, Worried About You, Everybody Needs somebody to Love...Not even the presence of Solomon Burke could save the end of this show. What fantastic pieces of tripe these songs are.