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The Rolling Stones: El Mocambo 1977

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The Rolling Stones: El Mocambo 1977
The die-cut design of the double-CD cover for the The Rolling Stones' El Mocambo 1977 mitigates at least to some degree the borderline amateurish cover art. But reversing the pink and blue covers of the twenty-page booklet inside the dual-fold package achieves a greater end than simply altering the simplistic cosmetics; its extraction also reveals a Paul Sexton essay with information more than a little pertinent to the music as well as photos of the Toronto appearance that might better have been utilized on the outside covers.

To his great credit, the aforementioned journalist doesn't trade on his long-time, inside access to the iconic band. Instead, Sexton displays a passionate objectivity in a forthright and matter-of-fact presentation that outlines all the various extra-music factors surrounding the Rolling Stones' appearance at the three-hundred seat Canadian venue. From the appearance of the ex-wife of the country's prime minister to the drug busts of Keith Richards that threatened the very existence of the group, the prose dramatically but unobtrusively sets the stage for a performance that, beginning with the very cacophonous opening of "Honky Tonk Women" that commenced this fiery second night set (here in its entirety, sounds like the group was playing as if its life depending on it.

The stage was clearly a refuge for the Stones. So, it's little wonder the setlist spanned the history of the band. Songs on which the group cut its teeth in similarly intimate venues, like "Mannish Boy," are juxtaposed with "Hand of Fate," a cull from the previous year's checkered studio album, Black and Blue (Rolling Stones Records, 1976). Salty between-song repartee notwithstanding, and having already become the stuff of caricature, Mick Jagger's vocal delivery is nevertheless without undue affectation: no more or less broad regardless of selection(s), the often caricatured but still incisive phrasing here reminds what a great singer he can be (and he's no slouch on harmonica either, judging by "Little Red Rooster," ).

Guitarists Richards and Ronnie Wood are little if any less adrenalized. The pair sound like true kindred spirits of the fretboard on "Tumbling Dice," spitting notes back and forth to whiplash effect, then meshing lines from across the stage during "Star Star:" it's action much more impressive than that which appeared on Flashpoint (Rolling Stones Records, 1991). Meanwhile, at the bottom of this maelstrom, drummer Charlie Watts and bassist Bill Wyman are felt more than heard, yet resoundingly so, in effect redefining what it means to dig into a groove for the syncopated likes of "Hot Stuff."

Crowd-pleasers abound in the form of "Brown Sugar" and "It's Only Rock 'N' Roll (But I Like It)." Still, there's also a palpable sense of this band playing to please itself during "Dance Little Sister" and Chuck Berry's "Around And Around" Throughout all this friction-free interaction, percussionist Ollie Brown and keyboardist Billy Preston are only audible as slight accents to the pulsating sound of the core quintet. Yet that's as it should be. And while long-time accompanist/crew member Ian Stewart is credited with piano, without specific track designation, it may only be safe to assume he contributes to the vintage blues material and perhaps the rushed rendition of "Let's Spend The Night Together."

It's telling that Eddie Kramer (Jimi Hendrix,Led Zeppelin) is one of the engineers the Rolling Stones secured to record these two nights in Canada. And that, in prepping this release to help commemorate the band's sixtieth anniversary, the equally astute Bob Clearmountain was chosen to mix (with Stephen Marcussen to master); only four cuts originally found their way to Love You Live (Rolling Stones Records, 1977) and the three appearing from the first night here would seem to have been included just to fill out the playing time of the second CD. "Worried About You" is the exception, though, perhaps only naturally, given the number would rightfully find its way onto Tattoo You (Rolling Stones Records, 1981): it's a quasi-soul tune with a depth and durability matching its accompaniment as well as its heightened audio quality.

Recordings worth waiting for all these forty-five years years since they happened, the content of El Mocambo 1977 not only belies its superficial appearance, but also reaffirms how the Rolling Stones earnee (d) their presumptuous 1969 self-assignation as 'The Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World.' It's quite conceivable that, in fairly short order, this title will become the go-to choice for both aficionados and curious dilettantes.

Track Listing

TRACKS: CD 1: Honky Tonk Women; All Down The Line; Hand Of Fate; Route 66; Fool To Cry; Crazy Mama; Mannish Boy; Crackin’ Up; Dance Little Sister; Around And Around; Tumbling Dice. CD 2: Hot Stuff; Star Star; Let’s Spend The Night Together; Worried Life Blues; Little Red Rooster; It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll (But I Like It); Rip This Joint; Brown Sugar; Jumpin’ Jack Flash; Melody; Luxury; Worried About You.

Personnel

Mick Jagger: voice / vocals; Keith Richards: guitar, electric; Ronnie Wood: guitar, electric; Bill Wyman: bass, electric; Charlie Watts: drums; Billy Preston: keyboards; Ollie Brown: percussion; The Rolling Stones: band/orchestra.

Additional Instrumentation

Mick Jagger: acoustic guitar, harmonica; Keth Richards: vocals; Ronnie Wood: vocals, Ian Stewart: piano.

Album information

Title: El Mocambo 1977 | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Rolling Stones Records

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