Sit down, you’ve a lot of reading to do .. (all information from pre-release)
Rolling Stones – American Exile (3CD) This lavishly packaged set presents, direct from first generation transfers, the best quality versions to date of several key Rolling Stones performances from the legendary 1972 North American tour. The tour opening show in Vancouver, British Columbia, June 3 is presented here in it’s entirety. This upgraded version was transferred directly from the 1st generation original cassette, and is not sourced from the plethora of online torrents that have circulated recently. 24/96 mastering presents this landmark show in the best quality ever, with unique performances of Torn & Frayed, Ventilator Blues & Loving Cup presented in sharp & bracing sound. Vancouver, clocking in at over 90 minutes was the most extended performance of the tour. Ragged but right, the Stones attack the material from Exile & earlier with fiery intent, resulting in a vibrant & bracing performance that serves as a telling precursor to the mayhem & abandon that was to characterize that summers sweep through North America.
The following days performance(s) in Seattle are represented here, once again in their un-edited entirety, by the evening show. Much better in sound quality than any extant recordings of the afternoon outing, the evening performance presents an even more raucous, if arguably more focused, document of the band firing on all cylinders. On every level this is a superb show, serving as a harbringer of what was to ensue once the Stones Touring Party(s) American odyssey subsequently transited further into their definitive spiritual homeland south of the Mason – Dixon during succeeding weeks.
One off performances of Sweet Black Angel, Dead Flowers & Don’t Lie To Me are included from soundboard sources to present as complete an overview of the tour as can be re-created with the material available, resulting in at least one version of every song known to have been performed (of which a recording exists or is currently available), with the first & third shows of the tour being bookended by the final show at Madison Square Garden July 26. Well known & widely travelled in previous release as Welcome To New York, an important fact to keep to mind is that all subsequent releases of this show have been sourced from various issues of the old TMOQ vinyl. What may be less well known is that only the 2nd issue of the LP offered the true stereo soundboard recording, which is presented here, transferred from the original RS – 546-A/B REI matrixed vinyl, in what must be acknowledged to be the best quality ever, suffering none of the diabolical no-noise & cedar treatments that marred so many reissues of the show, including the abhorrently muffled Swinging Pig version.
Presented in a glossy laminated heavy weight tri-fold digi-pack gatefold cover, accompanied by an eight page booklet laden with appropriate photographs and relevant commentary ( as an example of the care brought to bear in this release the interior sleeve band photo is from the Vancouver show, readily identifiable by Keith’s striped tunic) American Exile accomplishes what it (presumably) set out to achieve; delivering a pull no punches, all out assault to address & reconcile the mediocrity, redundancy & mendacity of too many haphazardly presented previous 1972 Rolling Stones US tour releases, resulting in as essential a Rolling Stones STP document as will likely be released until the band decides to issue one itself.
Rolling Stones – Secrets Travel Fast (1CD) Secrets Travel Fast presents what to date can be considered as the definitive document of the Rolling Stones 1970 European Tour. Sourced from an upgraded version of the French radio broadcast of the band’s September 23, 1970 Palais des Sport , Paris, performance, and enhanced with appropriate bonus tracks, this release delivers a tremendous Rolling Stones listening experience. The bands 1970 tour has been reasonably well documented via audience recordings through the years. All well & good, but what Stones fan wouldn’t hope for something a bit more, umm, dynamic? This crisp & solid soundboard recording delivers precisely that. Certainly the material on offer cannot be faulted; no less than 3(!) Chuck Berry covers serve to define1970’s Continental outing as a return to the bands roots. After the mayhem of 1969’s US tour the group must have relished the opportunity to traverse Olde Europe, scene of plenty of prior riots, though thankfully fewer fatalities than the previous years ill-starred junket.
Opening in Malmo , Sweden on August 30 the band played the tours only performance of Gimme Shelter. Why they saw fit to subsequently drop this from the set list remains a somewhat impenetrable mystery. Thankfully a recording of acceptable quality recently surfaced, 43 years on, and is presented here in best ever, though admittedly not perfect, quality. Owing to this fact the decision was made to append it to the end of the disc, rather than in it’s original running order, so as to not critically impair the sonic integrity of what is otherwise a reasonably high quality recording.
Also added to this disc was the Malmo performance, in it’s original running order, of You Gotta Move, which unfathomably was not played at the Palais des Sport. The quality of this acoustic track allows it to somewhat seamlessly integrate into the flow of the show…
For whatever reason the final two songs of the Palais des Sport show were not broadcast, and the known audience recordings from Paris are so diabolical that even the geniuses behind the old Oil Well label might have had cause to pause prior to inflicting them upon their unwitting victims, uh, I mean customers. In a bid to present a more complete overview of the tour audience recordings of Honky Tonk Women & Street Fighting Man are sourced from a (West) German show from the tour. The final tracks are soundboard recordings from the Stones Saville Theatre performance of December 14, 1969, the bands second to last live performance of the 1960’s. Broadcast by the BBC these tracks reveal a (relative) measure of torpor in the performances, but are valuable none the less as now this release sports no fewer than 4 Chuck Berry covers!!
Presented in a heavy weight glossy tri fold digi pack sleeve adorned with dozens of photo’s from the 1970 tour Secrets Travel Fast presents as extensive an overview of this somewhat over looked era in the bands history as has surfaced to date. Until such time as the band sees fit to release their own document this release can be seen as the essential encapsulation of this crucial transition period in the bands history.
Led Zeppelin – Acetate Masters (1CD) Presented on this release are 8 studio recordings spanning the years 1968 – 1975 sourced directly from Jimmy Pages’ personal reference acetates, cut at various studios in the UK, as well as a mono version of Black Dog sourced from a US promotional only 45. The full power of the band is revealed on these unlimited, un-compressed raw transfers cut prior to final mastering to reveal the quality and characteristics of the mastering and mixes. As is so obvious as to almost warrant not being mentioned, Led Zeppelin was entirely Jimmy’s creation, and it was he & he only who had final say over any aspect of the bands career that he chose to involve himself in. Certainly mundane details regarding tours & promotion might be left to Peter Grant to decide, but in matters of the groups recorded output it was Jimmy alone who had final say over what was to be released. Which is what makes listening to these acetates so fascinating. Revealed here, for the first time ever, are the very recordings that Jimmy utilized to determine whether a particular track or performance met the stratospheric standards he would demand of the band & himself.
Recorded with the highest quality tube powered analog equipment, entered at a 24/96 sampling rate, carefully transferred and subsequently (lightly) de-clicked, the raw power of the original recordings shows through with startling clarity. These transfers are presented both in de-clicked (tracks 1-8, 17) and raw recordings, allowing the listener a choice of playback options.
These acetates are amongst the rarest & most unique Led Zeppelin artifacts to have surfaced in the ensuing 40+ years since they were first cut. Almost certainly they are one of a kind items; Jimmy didn’t feel the need to solicit others opinions regarding recording quality standards. Unquestionably genuine, as opposed to the multitudes of patently bogus acetates regularly appearing on various auction sites and elsewhere, Led Zeppelin enthusiasts are here presented with a singular opportunity to transit back in time to the very moment when decisions were arrived at as to which versions of any given track was to be given the green light for release.
If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)