The Rolling Stones may have released more live albums than any other rock artist or group. Nine quickly come to mind and I’m not including DVD concert sets. These albums have presented the good, the bad, and the ugly of The Rolling Stones career.
Got Live If You Want It was the first live (more of less) album by The Rolling Stones. Released in 1966, it was a commercial success reaching number six on the American charts. I think this was the first Rolling Stones album that I ever purchased, although it may have been Their Satanic Majesties Request. I have to admit that I loved it at the time. It was only later that I learned it had been pieced together and some tracks were from the studio with crowd noise dubbed in. Talk about spoiling my high school memories.
Today I find that Got Live If You Want It has many sloppy performances and poor sound quality even for 1966. It is, however, a historical document in that it features Brain Jones as the lead guitarist; there are not many live performances left that can say that.
My favorite tracks were “Not Fade Away” and “Fortune Teller” even though it was one of the faked studio songs. “Under My Thumb” and “The Last Time” are fine. “Get Off Of My Cloud” is off kilter speed wise. The production on “19th Nervous Breakdown” and “Have You Seen Your Mother Baby Standing In The Shadows” is completely muddled and makes both songs almost unlistenable. In the last analysis, however, this is an album of my youth and so I still give it two thumbs up.
Get Yer Ya’s Ya’s Out is simply one of the best live albums ever released, except maybe it is too short. Mick Taylor is now the lead guitarist and he brought tightness to the Stones live sound. Taylor was a creative musician and master technician who could take just about any song and make it brilliant. Just listen to “Street Fighting Man” and you will get a good idea of Taylor’s style and influence.
Some highlights from this album (and there are really no poor performances) are a jet fueled “Carol” from the groups early days, “Live With Me" which features some superb bass playing from Bill Wyman, a real rocking version of “Honky Tonk Women” and one of the best renditions of “Sympathy For The Devil” ever recorded. “Midnight Rambler” makes its live debut and Taylor’s smooth bluesy guitar just propels this song along.
Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out was recorded in 1969 at Madison Square Garden and finds the Rolling Stones at their peak. Even the jacket photo with Charlie Watts, guitars, hat, and donkey is a classic.
1977 finds Ron Wood as the lead guitarist on Love You Live. This album is a very good representation of the Stones mid seventies sound. It is also an album that many people either hate or love. I have to say that I am fine with this release. It may contain a couple of clunkers and odd song choices but overall presents a large number of credible performances.
“If You Can’t Rock Me/Get Off Of My Cloud” is an interesting and well played medley. Keith Richards gives an excellent performance of “Happy,” “Hot Stuff,” and “Star Star” come across better than the studio versions. The final four songs, “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll,” “Brown Sugar,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and an eight minute “Sympathy For The Devil” present The Rolling Stones at their best. Ron Wood will never be Mick Taylor but by this time he had melded well into the group and the Stones were performing at a high level.
One side of the original two record release was recorded at the El Mocombo Club in Toronto. Mick Jagger wanted to record some old rhythm & blues tunes in an intimate setting. My only criticism was Billy Preston’s organ work was better suited for the Stones arena concerts. They should have gone with their basic unit and not added any other instruments. Still, it is nice to hear such songs as “Mannish Boy” and “Little Red Rooster” performed live.
Got Live If You Want It, Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out and Love You Live present The Rolling Stones at three distinct periods in their career and include all of their lead guitarists. While Got Live If You Want It is a thrown together affair and Love You Live could have been abbreviated, still when all is said and done, they provide an excellent documentation of the Rolling Stones evolution on stage with some fine listening along the way.