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Rolling Stones: On Air

Doug Collette By

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The Rolling Stones have a well-established history of archive releases, collectively titled 'From the Vault,' with which the band has done yeoman's work to document the later years of their history. On Air is not one of those titles, but in its Deluxe Edition, nevertheless constitutes an extensive examination of the original quintet's meticulous and spirited devotion to its roots.

Incorporating rock and roll, blues, r&b and country music, thirty-two (!) tracks on two CD's taken from a handful of different sources at BBC television proceed in quick succession to capture the evolution of style the Stones maintain to this day. From Chuck Berry's "Carol" to Willie Dixon's "I Just Want to Make Love to You" and Muddy Waters' "I Can't Be Satisfied" and on to country star Hank Snow's "I'm Moving On"), by way of a John Lennon cover in the form of "I Wanna Be Your Man, " the Stones were ambitiously forging a sound of their own and, in doing so, being as honest about their influences as they were loyal to them.

Apart from the group-composed instrumental "2120 South Michigan Avenue," the 1963-1965 time period covered by On Air only features four group originals, the most prominent of which is "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction." Vocalist Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards forged their songwriting team without founding member Brian Jones, who nevertheless remained indispensable in the group's middle years of recording and here is an integral member of a unit, more or less ragged in appearance as pictured in the CD booklet's photos, but increasingly professional as a band.

Listed last (but certainly not least) in the credits, Rolling Stones roadie and unofficial member Ian Stewart plays on "Down The Road Apiece" and Solomon Burke's "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love," his Johnnie Johnson-derived piano adding authenticity to the music and, by extension, credibility to a band whose presence, even lacking their later somewhat overly broad personae, often elicited a mixed response from the public. An extensive and well-researched essay by Richard Havers, who's regularly chronicled the other Rolling Stones archive releases over the years, depicts this dynamic in the context of the broad sequence of events On Air represents.

Its musical contents an exhumation from the entangled business affairs conducted between the Stones and manager Allen Klein, the mostly full, clear sound recordings in this package benefit from what the liner notes describe as a 'de-mix' process conducted at Abbey Road Studios. So, with the audio quality consistently more akin to that of a mix taken from the environs of a club rather than the tinny likes of TV speakers, On Air is not just an essential snapshot of this iconic group's history, but a vivid period piece on its own terms.

Track Listing: CD 1: Come On; (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction; Roll Over Beethoven; The Spider And The Fly; Cops And Robbers; It’s All Over Now; Route 66; Memphis, Tennessee; Down The Road Apiece; The Last Time; Cry To Me; Mercy, Mercy; Oh! Baby (We Got A Good Thing Goin’); Around And Around; Hi Heel Sneakers; Fannie Mael You Better Move On; Mona. CD 2: I Wanna Be Your Man; Carol; I’m Moving On; If You Need Me; Walking The Dog; Confessin’ The Blues; Everybody Needs Somebody To Love; Little By Little; Ain’t That Loving You Baby; Beautiful Delilah; Crackin’ Up; I Can’t Be Satisfied; I Just Want to Make Love To You; 2120 South Michigan Avenue.

Personnel: Mick Jagger: vocals, harmonica; Keith Richards: guitars, backing vocals; Ian Stewart: piano; Brian Jones: vocals, harmonica; Bill Wyman: bass; Charlie Watts: drums.

Title: On Air | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Polydor Records


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