Some time back, I inserted a Rolling Stones concert disc in my DVD player to educate my 13-year-old granddaughter about what rock and roll was all about. In short order, she proclaimed, “That’s not rock and roll!” Startled, I asked what she meant. “They’re not wearing black,” she replied, “and they’re not screaming.”
Well, if your definition of rock requires speed guitar riffs and Robert Plant imitation vocals, then a huge chunk of the rock canon won’t interest you. For the rest of us, The Rolling Stones have, for decades, pretty much defined what rock and roll is, was, and should be. That being said, it’s hard to imagine many fans feeling the need to own each and every official and bootleg Stones studio or live album issued over the past 50 years, not to mention the stream of DVD and Blu-ray concert discs issued to date.
Speaking of concert discs, here comes some more. This November, Eagle Rock Entertainment is launching their “From the Vaults” series beginning with From the Vault—L.A. Forum—Live in 1975 and From the Vault—Hampton Coliseum—Live in 1981.
Recorded July 12, the L.A. Forum gig came from the tour which introduced Ronnie Wood as the new second guitarist and featured Billy Preston on keyboards. The December 18, 1981 Hampton Coliseum concert represented the tour supporting the release of Tattoo You. As it happened, it was Keith Richards’ birthday and the set was the first ever music concert broadcast on television as a pay-per-view event.
Both concerts are now available on SD Blu-ray, DVD, CD, on vinyl, and digital formats. Both shows were restored and newly remixed by longtime Stones engineer Bob Clearmountain and both are two-and-a-half hours long. That’s a whole lotta Rolling Stones, but for this assignment, the review focuses on the L.A. Forum DVD.
In the main, From the Vault—L.A. Forum—Live in 1975 draws from the Mick Taylor period, much like the 1972 tour where the pre-1968 Stones catalog was largely ignored. This time around, one reason was due to the fact Black and Blue was far from complete and the Stones decided to instead plug their latest compilation, Made in the Shade which included tracks from Sticky Fingers through It’s Only Rock and Roll. In fact, the album was specifically released to coordinate with the tour and be a substitute for their next studio album of new material. For their live shows, the set was expanded to feature a handful of Brian Jones-era flashbacks including the obligatory “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Midnight Rambler,” “Sympathy for the Devil,” and “Street Fighting Man.”
So the L.A. Forum show was full of workmanlike run-throughs of staples like “Honky Tonk Women,” “Brown Sugar,” “Wild Horses,” “Angie,” “Happy,” and “Tumbling Dice.” Not surprisingly, there are few surprises in any of these presentations. That’s not to say that there aren’t magical moments for Stones fans.
For example, “You Gotta Move” has nice raw blues guitar interplay between Richards and Wood. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” has an extended jam with a lengthy sax solo from Trevor Lawrence. One atypical offering, “Fingerprint File,” was the Stones borrowing from early ’70s funk with Bill Wyman demonstrating the bass-slapping he’d later incorporate into “Miss You.” Likewise, Charlie Watts, supported by percussionist Ollie E. Brown, really shines on “Midnight Rambler” with more than his usual share of drum runs and mini solos.
Speaking of atypical, Billy Preston—who was a major contributor to the Black and Blue sessions—has considerable time in the spotlight. He has fun in “If You Can’t Rock Me”/”Get Off of My Cloud” by interspersing piano bits from nursery songs. He gets to plug his latest album by singing lead on his own “That’s Life” and revving up the crowd with his instrumental, “Outta Space.”
However, there are fans who might want to pause before jumpin’ on this disc. Back in 2012, the L.A. show filmed on July 13, one day after the “From the Vaults” concert was taped, was released as part of the “Rolling Stones Archive,” also remixed by Clearmountain. I could be wrong, but I suspect there’s likely very minimal difference between two shows presented only a night apart.
Of course, any evening you spend together with the Stones will likely be a happy one—the question is just how many such nights do you crave? There’s no reason to think the “Archives” will close anytime soon and now the “Vault” is open with more music in the queue. The time seems to have come when you can actually get what you want, and maybe much more than you need.
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