Still Life (American Concert 1981) is not one of my favorite live albums by The Rolling Stones. The songs are more or less fine but the album has a slickness to it does not serve the Stone’s sound well. The songs may be live but do not add up to a real concert feel. Basically the parts are better than the whole. However, the album was a hit selling 2 million copies and reaching number five on the American charts.
The album begins with an excellent version of “Under My Thumb.” There is solid guitar interplay between Keith Richards and Ron Wood. The problems quickly begin with “Shattered,” “Twenty Flight Rock” and “Let’s Spend The Night Together” which find the group going through the motions. I can’t help but think that money is being placed before artistic integrity.
This live version of the Miracles “Going To A Go-Go” was released as a single and reached number 25. It was an average Rolling Stones Motown cover that paled next to the original. The other single release was a live version of “Time Is On My Side” The song was interesting but been there, heard that.
Two other excellent songs were “Let Me Go” from the Emotional Rescue album which benefited from a faster tempo and a surprisingly effective version of “Just My Imagination.”
Still Life does contain some excellent performances but you will need to seek them out. The album today, remains an afterthought as there are a number of superior Rolling Stones' live albums.
Steel Wheels is everything that Still Life is not. It has crisp production, tight performances, and hangs together well as a concert overview. I consider this album to be the best of the modern Rolling Stones live albums.
The album begins with a four song set that rock about as hard as The Rolling Stones are capable. “Start Me Up” has led off hundreds of Stones concerts and this version quickly shows why. The opening guitar lines are classic and the song rocks throughout. “Sad Sad Sad” is a frenetic version that is superior to the studio release. Chuck Leavell on piano and Bobby Keys on sax drive the song along. “Miss You” is not one of my favorite Stones songs but here it is given a much harder rocking treatment than the studio cut. The duel guitars of Richards and Wood are in top form. “Rock and A Hard Place” is also better than the studio version. This track was only on the CD and was not included on original vinyl release.
“Ruby Tuesday” would almost be a welcome relief. It slows the tempo down a bit and allows the listener to catch his or her breath. The Stones base the song of Chuck Leavell’s piano playing. This is a difficult song to perform with all the tempo and melody changes but the Stones are up to the task with a precise performance.
“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” finds Mick Jagger at his best. He leads the audience in a partial sing-a-long. Jagger needs to be seen live to be appreciated but this performance gives you an idea as just how dynamic he is on stage.
One of my favorite points on the album is Mick Jagger’s introduction to “Factory Girl.” He can’t remember which album it comes from and so asks Bill Wyman who has no idea either. Someone off stage finally yells Beggars Banquet.
“Sympathy For The Devil,” Brown Sugar” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” combine for another rocking section of the album near its end. “Brown Sugar” is rock ‘n’ roll at its finest.
Flash Point ends with two studio tracks. “High Wire” only reached number 57 as a single release and pales compared to what has preceded it. I find these songs out of place and would have preferred they would not have been included.
The Rolling Stones would continue to be a concert presence through the 1990’s and beyond and Flashpoint is an excellent document of a rock ‘n’ roll band that was refusing to grow old.