Ultra Rare Lips Vol. 1 (Crystal Cat CC 687)
Don’t Stop ( Fleet Center, Boston, 3rd Sept, 2002 ) / Street Fighting Man ( Fleet Center, Boston, 3rd Sept, 2002 ) / Angie ( Turner Field, Atlanta, 26th Oct, 2002 ) / Thru And Thru ( Oakland Arena, Oakland, 12 Sept, 2002 ) / Dead Flowers ( The MSG Grand, Las Vegas, 30th Nov, 2002 ) / Monkey Man ( Bell Center, Montreal, 8th Jan, 2003 ) / Live With Me ( United Center, Chicago, 31st Jan, 2003 ) / Rock Me, Baby ( Enmore Th. Sydney, 18th Feb, 2003 ) / Tumbling Dice ( Budokan Hall, Tokyo, 10th March, 2003 ) / When The Whip Comes Down (Tokyo Dome, Tokyo, 16th March, 2003 ) / Miss You ( Palace Grounds, Bangalore, 4th April, 2003 ) / Parachute Woman ( Orpheum Th. Boston, 8th Sept, 2002 ) / Torn & Frayed ( Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, 16th Sept, 2002 ) / Worried About You ( Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, 16th Sept, 2002 ) / Don’t Look Back ( Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, 16th Sept, 2002 ) / Hand Of Fate ( Tower Th. Upper Darby, 22nd Sept 2002 ) / That’s How Strong My Love Is ( Wiltern Th. Los Angeles, 4th Nov, 2002 ) ( 79:36 )
In 2002 / 03 the Rolling Stones managed something that even their staunchest fan would have believed unthinkable. A high grossing tour around the world in recognition of 40 years as a band & to promote a newly minted ‘best of’ – “Forty Licks” that would feature 4 brand new songs ( Not vault releases or covers as Jagger stressed at the time ) recorded by the Stones.
The tour was to take on the usual route of smaller mixed with bigger venues, while this might not appease fans everywhere, especially those who were wondering if this might be the last chance to catch the band, then it gave the Stones a good chance to mix up their playing & entertain themselves.
While the tour was heavily bootlegged Crystal Cat sidelined the full show idea & presented their own ‘best of’ by selecting stand out tracks from around North America, Australia & Asia throughout the tour. 17 tracks dating from the first night in Boston on the 3rd of September ( We’re not counting the audience preview rehearsals. ) right through to Bangalore, India on the 4th of April 2003. The title presumably hints at the first part of a 2 or 3 part selection that would take in the pit stops from around the world. For whatever reason then the following releases never materialized so this release has to stand on it’s own – a selection of both soundboard & audience recorded tracks ( With lessening sound quality towards the end of the disk but isn’t that the way it’s always been?)
The disk begins with one of the newer & stronger tracks from “Forty Licks”, a very tight rendition of “Don’t Stop”. Familial to most even though the album hadn’t been released yet, the rendition, as is to be expected, is pretty workman as the band are more or less as new to it as the audience. “Street Fighting Man” is much looser – The hypnotic, sitar styled guitar in it’s belly is a neat little twist that keeps the attention rapt through this rendition ( Keef’s guitar seems to be a little lower in the mix than it needs to be this time though .. )
“Angie” is a fuller sounding version – a delicate acoustic guitar underpinning the harmony, while the strings & piano sweep across the stage – the only thing that might spoil the mood is the PA noise at 3:18 – literally a bleep over the noise it’s disconcerting to hear the first time but soon enough it’ll be just back ground noise.
The CD’s highlight follows – A tasty Keith vocal on “Thru & Thru” – his whisky soaked voice, heroically gnarled voice the perfect fixture this lonesome blues. The lyrics are perfectly picked out by the mix & the appreciation of Keith’s profanities as he lays his soul out bare is amusing to hear, so he tries it again only to induce more cheering from the crowd.
the following three tracks – Namely “Dead Flowers”, “Monkey Man” & “Live With Me” lift the speed a little more & are all excellently chosen pieces. The first clutching it’s gloating, honky tonk sound aloft like a medal, “Monkey Man”, a bowdlerizing, satanic romp through this elegy to the darker side of living is thrilling. Jagger spits out the lyrics like he wrote them yesterday. For the latter, a bassy stomp around this 70’s classic augmented by Bobby Keys’ breathless sax soloing in the middle of it all while Chuck Leavell’s piano tinkles like shattered glass.
“Tumbling Dice” works very, very well live. The horns are freer, Charlie’s jazzy drumming swings & Chuck’s piano allows itself a little more freedom. This is all supplemented by great, swooshing guitar work by Keith & Ronnie, which, after the initial soloing, continues to throw shapes throughout the rest of the piece which is extended out to a long, almost instrumental coda which, if this was an LP, would be perfect to signal the end of side one.
“When The Whip Comes Down” follows the same concept – Play out the song proper & then draw it out to a lethal conclusion. Various undulating riffs float around underneath the rhythm as Keith & Ronnie spar for attention – Japan must have been good for the boys as the violence they put in to their playing is almost brilliantly powerful.
We turn to India for the next track – A super charged “Miss You” – Still charged up with the same pumping disco chutzpa of the original bur played a few steps faster here. Mick plays up his theatrics as a brave faced lothario – The crowd are lead through a mass harmony exercise, cajoled by Jagger to sing back the “Woo, woo, woo” harmonies before Bobby breaks through with his sleazy, sax playing once again.
“Parachute Woman” heralds it’s only live appearance out side of 1968’s “Rock & Roll Circus” – The recording is a shade below the rest of the CD but still high enough to reach CC’s quality restrictions. Of course the track is here with whistles & bows – No extended outro just the song as is – Shakey soloing, harp playing & throbbing percussion lines. The presentation is as if it’s never left rotation, the band play as if they’re more than familiar with it of course.
“Worried About You” is another track that was wheeled out for this tour although without such a lengthy gestation period. The sound quality is a little muddy around Mick’s vocal but strangly, the backing vocals & piano sound a little cleaner.
This is followed by the cover of a cover “Don’t Look Back”, another track that the Stones unveiled on this tour. A conundrum as while it’s fun, lively beat sits well within the rest of the disk the reggae feel jars slightly with the feel. It is, first & foremost though, a rarity & fits correctly within place.
The disk is wound out with a showy, gospely, “That’s How Strong My Love Is” – Mick’s vocalising is raw, begging & pleading as he tears right through this soul ballad – another first performance from the band but, this time, from the other end of their career.
All in all, the collection is a brilliant catch all accompaniment to the Licks tour. Despite the loss of quality towards the end then the performances are some of the best you’ll hear ( And probably better than you might hear on an official release most of the time. ) The packaging is a splendid CC production featuring stage shots, promo shots & the various other little pieces of material available from around the time all printed on glossy photo quality paper.
As the rumour mill starts spinning for the 50th anniversary tour in 2012 with Keith’s invitation to the other Stones ( Past & present ) already in the mail then this a great chance to review & renew your listing acceptance of the Stones before the next tour sets off down the road.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)