With the exception of the expanded versions of Exile On Main Street (UME, 2010), Sticky Fingers (UME, 2011) and Some Girls (UME, 2015), the arguable essentials of their discography, Rolling Stones 99 have confined the archiving of their vault to unreleased concert material on audio and video rather than plumbing the depths for unreleased outtakes, demos and alternate arrangements. So it's little surprise that, while have been SACD releases of Rolling Stones catalog in the past, this Beggars Banquet 50th Anniversary Edition is as much (or more?) about cosmetics and collectability as music.
Both CD and vinyl limited editions come adorned with vintage label graphics, wrapped in the deliberately bland cover art that hides the tawdry initial design, otherwise on full-display in foldout form on the square 8" by 8" package. Various picture sleeve reproductions accompany a mono mix of "Sympathy For the Devil" as well as a Flexi-Disc of a meandering near-nine minutes interview with vocalist Mick Jagger from 1968. And in a marked exception to the otherwise all-Japanese text, the inclusion of lyrics to all the album's songs in English marks a decidedly novel addition: such authorized usage on records or otherwise is rare to say the least.
The preponderance of memorabilia somewhat camouflages Beggars' Banquet reappearance on SACD at a time the compact disc configuration becomes increasingly obsolescent in the market place. The increased clarity and depth of sound offered by 'super audio' certainly might've found a different fate than it did, but regardless, this version sounds different than its previously-released counterpart, if only slightly: while not remixed, the new mastering by Bob Ludwig from the same source used in 2002, an analog to digital DSD transfer, is noticeably brighter.
In addition this latest enhancement opens up additional space that, on "Street Fighting Man," for instances, magnifies the detailed presence of piano and sitar just below the foundation of guitars. These heightened sonics also bring the same realism to the acoustic guitars, as well as the vocals, on what is perhaps Mick Jagger and Keith Richards' greatest composition, "No Expectations." Likewise, it's relatively easy for a listener to feel like he or she is sitting at the foot of Rocky Dijon's congas on "Sympathy For The Devil."
And, in addition to its relative rarity nature and (slight) audio superiority, this 50th Anniversary Edition also prompts hypothesizing about the very nature of Beggars' Banquet as an album. The first Stones album produced by Jimmy Miller, this title holds a special place in the history of the band as it is the final effort completed with the original lineup of vocalist Jagger, guitarist Keith Richards, multi-instrumentalist Brian Jones, bassist Bill Wyman and drummer Charlie Watts. It also initiates what is considered their most prolific era and yet, for all the trumpeting about the record's significance as the band's return to roots following the psychedelic expedition of Their Satanic Majesties Request (London, 1967) it is as erratic as its immediate successors: like Let it Bleed (London, 1969) and Sticky Fingers (Rolling Stones Records, 1971), the ten cuts juxtapose stellar material with the pedestrian.
In a reconfigured track sequence, the disingenuous "Salt of the Earth" might well have been excised altogether, along with the overtly Bob Dylan-derived "Jigsaw Puzzle," perhaps to be replaced with the Stones' comeback (sic) single, "Jumpin' Jack Flash" as well as its spectral B-side "Child of the Moon." Such fan fantasizing illustrates how the seemingly superficial nature of this release ends up being as provocative in its own way as so many other entries in the discography of "the greatest rock and roll band in the world." And, of course, that includes prompting some conjecture about exactly what format will evolve for the iconic group's aforementioned late Sixties studio milestone.
SACD Disc 1: Sympathy For the Devil; No Expectations; Dear Doctor; Parachute Woman; Jigsaw Puzzle; Street Fighting Man; Prodigal Son; Stray Cat Blues; Factory Girl; Salt of the Earth. SACD Disc 2: Sympathy For the Devil (mono mix); Hello, This is Mick Jagger! - LONDON to TOKYO April 17, 1968 (interview). Flexi Disc: Hello, This is Mick Jagger! LONDON to TOKYO April 17, 1968 (interview)
Mick Jagger: lead vocals, backing vocals, harmonica, maracas; Keith Richards:electric guitars, acoustic guitars, bass guitar, backing vocals, co-lead vocals; Brian Jones: acoustic guitar, backing vocals, slide guitar, harmonica, Mellotron, sitar, tambura; Bill Wyman: bass guitar, double bass, backing vocals, maracas, synthesizer; Charlie Watts: drums, backing vocals, claves, tambourine, tabla; Nicky Hopkins: piano; Rocky Dijon: congas; Ric Grech: fiddle; Dave Mason: shehnai, Mellotron; Jimmy Miller: backing vocals; Watts Street Gospel Choir: backing vocals.
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