Somewhat late to the archival exploration of their fifty-year plus vault, the Rolling Stones are making up for lost time with titles like this. The Marquee Club Live in 1971
reaffirms the notion the conic British group were never a better band than at this juncture of their career.
Recorded with impeccable sound by long-time Stones collaborator Glyn Johns and artful camera work for American television at the intimate London club a month prior to the release of Sticky Fingers
(Rolling Stones, 1971), it makes perfect sense the new material best showcases the fluidity of the five piece ensemble, here augmented with the horns of trumpeter Jim Price and saxophonist Bobby Keys (who passed away in 2014). In addition, long-time Stones comrade Ian Stewart plays piano as well as Nicky Hopkins who adds his elegant invention to the otherwise earthy proceedings.
"Dead Flowers' doesn't sound so much like a tongue-in-cheek country song here but rather carries the nasty edge of early Stones. "I Got the Blues" is a borderline pedestrian tune, but Mick Jagger's vocal elevates the performance in particular as he's supported in his angst by the stately horns. On the DVD/CD set, each disc includes alternate takes of this number, as well as the aforementioned "Bitch," to greater or lesser revelatory effect of illustrating the plenitude of ideas germinating within the group at this time.
As such, it must've been difficult to cut and edit the performances for the final running order, but in the context of this package, the additional content, like Richard Flowers' studious but passionate essay, plus a take of "Brown Sugar" from the English television series 'Top of the Pops,' (in the modus operandi of the times, with a live lead vocal over a per-recorded backing track: who's the African-American saxophonist?)only adds even more value to this selection 'From the Vault.'
The set overall is quite reminiscent of the Rolling Stones' return to the stage in 1969, as captured on Get Your Ya-Ya's Out
,(London, 1970) and accordingly allows "Live with Me" to open the set with an ever increasing edge as the band moves through the tune. In the close confines of the Marquee, Jagger tones down his stage presence on "Midnight Rambler," accentuating his harmonica playing within the interlocking guitars of Keith Richards and Mick Taylor, thus rendering the number closer to the Chicago blues the group cut their teeth on. Likewise, this romp through Chuck Berry's "Let It Rock" removes any doubt that Taylor, the replacement for the deceased Brian Jones, once a member of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, can exhibit as much intensity as polish on his instrument.
Eschewing much of the image-mongering, not to mention the stage production of ensuing years, The Rolling Stones were never more artistically courageous than during this phase of their career, which explains why they opt for a take on "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," as streamlined as the other selections here, including the ones that immediately follow: the pairing of "Bitch" and "Brown Sugar" is potent enough on its own terms and becomes all the more so in juxtaposition with the 1965 classic, suggesting that, at this juncture of their career, Jagger and Richard were writing material equal to that of their early heyday and breakthrough in the mid-Sixties.
Production manager Chip Monck delivers his introduction of the band sans hyperbole, an understated and matter of fact approach completely in line with the colorful stylized graphics and detailed credits that adorn all the Rolling Stones 'From the Vault' packages. Long before Live at the Marquee Club 1971
is over, however, it's nigh on impossible to resist the temptation to ratchet up the volume, not to create effect, but simply enhance it. The wisdom of various disc and vinyl configurations only further lends itself to that immediacy of the experience, elevates the legacy of the Rolling Stones as well as the wisdom of their archiving campaign.