The riff fired off by Keith Richards that introduced Brown Sugar as well as the album it helped immortalize, Sticky Fingers, was the sound that shot the Rolling Stones into the 1970s. But it was more, too. That wonderfully simple but potently infectious guitar hook signaled the launch of a new era for the Stones commercially as well as artistically. After ending the 1960s with the death of guitarist Brian Jones and the horror of the Altamont festival, the band regrouped, enlisted guitarist Mick Taylor, started their own record label (a rarity in those days) and redefined for the rest of the decade the degrees to which rock stardom could reach.
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Sticky Fingers returns to us this summer as the third '70s-era Stones album to be expanded with bonus peaks behind the curtain as to how the music was fashioned. As with earlier reissues of 1972's Exile of Main Street and 1978's Some Girls, the remastered Sticky Fingers comes to us with a bonus disc of unreleased gems, which is the real reason to check it out.
Not that there was anything wrong with the original album, mind you. It remains a rollercoaster of country regret (Wild Horses), brassy rock and party soul (Bitch), blues reveries (You Gotta Move) and a savage, wiry version of Robert Johnson's I Got the Blues, the record's only non-original tune), drug draped confessions (Sister Morphine) and two bonafide epics: the underappreciated orchestral parting shot Moonlight Mile and the sublime jam adventure Can't You Hear Me Knocking that will forever remain Taylor's defining recorded moment from his tenure with the Stones (even though his extended solo makes the band sound oddly like early Santana).
The material on the bonus disc doesn't diminish any of that, not even an alternate version of Brown Sugar cut with Eric Clapton. But it does illuminate the seemingly organic soulfulness that drove the Stones in the early '70s, especially in a rehearsal-like run through of Can't You Hear Me Knocking without Taylor's solo and a wonderfully loose take on Bitch that is essentially a jam.
The real treat, though, comes from 30 minutes of unreleased concert recordings from a March 1971 show at The Roundhouse in London. With pianist Nicky Hopkins and tenor sax strongman Bobby Keys beefing up the sound, the Stones revisit five late '60s classics first featured in live form on 1970's Get Yer Ya-Yas Out, a record that was literally half-baked (its concert cuts were supposedly heavily modified by studio post-production).
On these excavated takes, led by a typically boisterous Midnight Rambler, the Stones vindicate themselves from the sour coda of the '60s by making the songs part of their wild'70s rebirth.
Walter Tunis | Contributing Music Critic