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The Rolling Stones – Live In Oakland 1969 (No Label)

Live In Oakland 1969 (No Label)

Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, CA, USA – November 9, 1969 2nd Show

(75:54) Introduction, Jumping Jack Flash, Carol, Sympathy For The Devil, Stray Cat Blues, Prodigal Son, You Gotta Move, Love In Vain, I’m Free, Under My Thumb, Midnight Rambler, Live With Me, Gimme Shelter, Little Queenie, Satisfaction, Honky Tonk Women, Street Fighting Man

You know a bootleg has reached a legendary status when it gets a wikipedia page, LIVE’r Than You’ll Ever Be is in that category. The famous bootleg of the Rolling Stones second show at the Oakland Coliseum in the fall of 1969 changed the perception of what a field recording could be and certainly inspired a generation of fans to record concerts themselves and certainly helped bolster the bootleg industry. The LIVE’r boot is one that certainly appealed to the hard and casual fan, the Dub Taylor recording is a near perfect recording and is easily one of the best from the tour. Over the decades since its release there has been a mountain of releases of Dub’s recording, certainly too many to list, more than likely you have one in your collection.

Dub was not the only person who taped the November 9, 1969 second Stones show, back in 2010 at second audience recording appeared and appeared on the title Stoning The Coliseum (Godfatherrecords G.R. 605) and LIVE’r Than You’ll Ever Be (Dog N Cat DAC 116). And finally there is the soundboard tape made by famed concert promoter Bill Graham’s staff. All three recordings were used by the incredible Nite Owl to make one of his matrix productions, I have been quite taken with his work since I listened to his Led Zeppelin Blueberry Hill matrix and have been going back and getting the other titles of his work. Before we go any farther it needs to be noted, Nite Owl does not work for a bootleg company. He is obviously a music fan that uses his talents to produce high end projects and is freely distributed via torrent sites, fan pages, and the like.

The production notes for this release tell the story as well as provide history of these three unique tapes:

Fortuitously, as many as three different tapes of the Stones’ second Oakland concert, or their progeny at any rate, have survived in some form the half a century which separates this newly re-created “first-time-in-stereo” album from the performance. All three, however, suffer from problems of various kinds.

Our main source is the classic recording made by Michael “Dub” Taylor for the historic TMOQ bootleg discussed above, subsequently re-issued in myriad forms. As is well-known, Taylor had the ingenuity of using a Sennheiser 805, also known as a “shotgun” microphone, plugged into a Uher Report 4000 reel-to-reel recorder. Pointing it to the stage and in particular toward the drum set, he managed to capture the Stones in concert very well, all things considered. (Mastering of the LIVEr bootleg LP by “a big-time legitimate recording engineer” — allegedly David Axelrod — may have fooled Greil Marcus into thinking it was a stereo rather than a mono tape. He also reviewed the LP sides in the wrong order, which is not too surprising given the minimal packaging of the product.)

In fact, Taylor captured nearly all of the show — except that, unfortunately, the first half a minute or so of “Under My Thumb” was missed, probably due to a delayed reel change just after “I’m Free”. (The Uher would have used small 5 inch reels running at 7½ ips with 20 or so minutes on them per side. No other tape flips are readily evident on the TMOQ source.)

“We taped six Stones concerts on the West Coast, two in LA, two in Oakland, one in San Diego and one in Phoenix. The one we used, which became LIVEr Than You’ll Ever Be, was the second Oakland show. It was taped between two and five in the morning.” [Taylor, quoted by Heylin]

Taylor’s master tape has not come down to us (and would by this point probably have deteriorated in any case, if it still exists), but it is substituted by a low, quite likely 1st generation copy, almost as good as the real thing. (Such copies of several original TMOQ tapes now circulate.) This, too, has been bootlegged, but no truly satisfactory representation has so far appeared on commercial disc.

The opening number, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” also suffers from multiple problems at various points which have been characterized as “level settings” or “volume fluctuations” but may actually be deficiencies of the original tape medium, which at those points presumably failed to record most of the signal. (Nor was Sam Cutler’s introduction before the song captured.) It was due to these issues that the song was not used on the original bootleg releases of the concert; instead, the TMOQ label opted to start LIVEr with “Carol”. Several subsequent discs have attempted to salvage the track by addressing these short but problematic sections in various ways, usually by patching from an alternate recording. The captured portion of “Under My Thumb” also contains a segment where the quality drops, but the flaw is much less severe, and can be adequately compensated with digital restoration — unlike the worst cases during “JJF”, which can only be smoothed over a bit.

Minor tape dropouts and other damage also exist here and there (whether part of the master before it was copied or the copy tape is not relevant). Some of these were less severe on another strain of the tape and were seamlessly patched from that source. Other problems of the TMOQ tape which have been here corrected include occasional clapping of hands close to Taylor’s microphone (removed manually if laboriously with click restoration tools; listeners are welcome to supply their own instead) and the fact that the acoustic set was effectively captured at a lower volume level — that is to say, with higher noise floor. General compensation was performed to account for (slight) changes in gain level, sometimes inside songs, to bring the volume to smooth and equal footing across the show.

Aside from these details, the audio quality varies somewhat across the TMOQ recording, and some of the songs sound a tad muffled and less clear compared to others. “Love in Vain”, following the acoustic set and played at an ideal volume may be one of the songs captured best, while “Satisfaction”, the inevitable crowd favorite, and “Street Fighting Man”, the final song, perhaps the worst (aside from “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”). Blown guitar amps, the PA struggling under higher volume, rowdier audience reactions, and purposeful distortion may each have partially contributed to these sonic qualities.

For many years the TMOQ recording was the only widely available source for (almost) the whole show. Belatedly, a second audience recording, made with unknown equipment by an anonymous person, came to light from its reel master. It is not quite as stellar as the TMOQ source, but still a very good recording for its time, and luckily mostly complete. This alternate source contains “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Under My Thumb” unscathed, but instead lacks the majority of “Live with Me”, likewise evidently due to a tape change, as well as the introduction (except narrowly its very end). This tape fades out just before the ending music from PA, the beginning of which can be heard on Taylor’s recording.

A third source is the “soundboard” tape which was aired from “Fillmore Archives” on FM radio on October 28th, 1972 (or actually the early morning hours of the next day), as part of the program “KSAN presents Bill Graham”, subtitled “A-three-day trip back to the good old days”. Graham’s actual reel, or even a copy of it, does not appear to survive, but an off-air copy of the FM broadcast does. While one is duly grateful for its existence and although it is ultimately an inline recording, the fidelity of this adulterated source thus leaves much to be desired; it is certainly not of releasable quality comparable to the official “Ya-Ya’s” LP, or even the TMOQ bootleg. Adding to our troubles, only nine of the sixteen songs were broadcast by Graham (“Sympathy” through “Love in Vain” from the first half, and “Live With Me” through “Satisfaction” from the second), with the banter between the songs also cut. Regrettably, “Under My Thumb” was not among the songs broadcast, assuming it even existed on the source tape which was aired.

It is not known whether Graham’s version was derived from a multi-track tape of some kind (made at the behest of the Stones or the film crew) or a direct mono (or stereo) mix; probably the latter. If we are to believe a statement released by ABKCO after the release of LIVEr, made in anticipation of “Ya-Ya’s” and to combat the claims that the bootleg originated from authorized tapes, only the Baltimore and New York shows by Rolling Stones were captured on multi-track and “no tapes were made on West Coast”.

“We loved it when they said that LIVEr was recorded on multi-track backstage and all that stuff … we got a big kick out of that one. It was just the Sennheiser shotgun pointed at the PA system. Usually I would point it at the drum set. I wanted to get the cymbal sound and usually the PA would fill in around it and generally it was so directional that it would go over people’s heads, so it didn’t pick up too much audience. It was the perfect mike for that purpose. I had it anodized black … so it wouldn’t reflect light and couldn’t be seen in the dark.” [Taylor, quoted by Heylin]

In this version the restored TMOQ source has been used for the left and the other audience tape for the right channel of the stereo image, respectively, with the low bass frequencies centered. As no two independently recorded analog sources will run constantly at the same speed, even after overall correction, the alternate source had to be manually and painstakingly synchronized to the TMOQ recording by adjusting its tape speed in short sections to match, avoiding them drifting in and out of sync.

As for the incomplete songs, the soundboard (Bill Graham’s) tape has been used for the right channel of “Live With Me” by necessity (throughout, to avoid a distracting change in sonic quality mid-song). As noted earlier, multiple sources exist only for the latter half of “Under My Thumb”, so perforce it is here partially represented in mock-stereo, by the alternate audience recording running alone for roughly the first half a minute.

The soundboard/KSAN-FM tape has additionally been utilized to reinforce the center channel during the two acoustic numbers, where the audience sources are, even together, weaker and more distant than otherwise. For the other tracks, however, this trick was not found to be feasible. The hiss level goes noticeably up during the two songs, but we think “Prodigal Son” and “You Gotta Move”, at least, may be found to sound superior to other releases of the show. While the temptation was there, digital noise reduction has not been used.

Other smaller gaps between the two mono audience sources could be restored and edited with the reconstructed stereo image remaining more or less intact. The channel separation may not be nearly as great as could have been achieved by mixing from a true multi-track recording; nevertheless, we believe the effort, with increased ambiance and at times greater clarity achieved, has been worth the effort, which was not inconsiderable.

Finally, to set the scene and the concert in motion better, we have also taken the small liberty of editing in Sam Cutler’s introduction (but not the preceding apologies for delay) from “Dub” Taylor’s tape of the first Oakland show.

Now, without any further ado … play it LOUD and enjoy!

The last line is obvious…Play it loud is certainly the best way to listen to this recording. Like the other Nite Owl projects, this is an excellent sounding production, clear and atmospheric with a depth of instruments and vocals not heard in listening to these sources as standalone. Jumpin Jack Flash leaps from the speakers and is strong and grabs you instantly, hang on to your seat! The mastering is expertly done, homage has been done to these tapes, you get a little tape hiss as it is inherent to analog tapes of the age, to try and remove it would take away from some of the natural frequency range. This is as complete a version as you will ever hear, as stated the Sam Cutler introduction is from the November 9 early show but blends in perfectly. You will hear the occasional drop in quality during Prodigal Son, You Gotta Move and Live With Me as these songs specifically used the soundboard tape to fill gaps in the other two. The small amount of distortion from the original tape is still there, much less noticeably thanks to the expansive crowd. If I was to listen to this concert, I prefer this to the other versions I have of this concert of both audience sources. If one was to evaluate this version based solely upon sound, this is THE best version available.

This is a concert that needs no introduction, it is one that every fan of Rock and Roll should have in their collection. I know there are some who don’t believe in the mixing of sources, preferring to listen to them as they were recorded and not “fixed” by modern technology. The No Label were the first to issue this production, the Japanese budget label Moonchild has also released their version as LIVE’r Than You’ll Ever Be (Moonchild Records MC-098). This concert is still available on a couple different torrent sites, I would implore you to seek it out and get it how it was originally intended, for those who want the collectible edition, this is a really nice title. The packaging is typical for No Label, inserts adorned with black and white shots from the tour as well as concert posters and the highly collectible numbered sticker.

If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)

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2 comments

  1. Thanks for the kind word but I am just part of the team that keeps the site going, Stuart and Wgpsec do all of the regular maintenance of the site, I get the easy part, listening to music !

  2. Careful Axeman Eugene

    Thanks very much for this great review. I was going to order it after I finished reading your review, but then I realized that I had forgotten that I had already bought the Moonchild version back in early 2018, which has a total playing time of approx. 45-50 seconds less, apparently due to it likely running approx. 1% faster. Anyway, thanks again, & thanks very much, relayer67, for all your great efforts here that have kept this place running since the very tragic passing of G. Sparaco slightly more than 7 years ago.

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