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The Stones Sessions 2002 – The review

 

This all started with a simple thread on IORR. One collector who dropped hints about the tape he had for trade – the files were a bunch of takes from the Stones sessions of recording new tracks for an alleged brand new album recorded at the Guillaume Tell St. studios in Suresnes, Paris between May and June, 2002 for their 40 (!) years in show business. As we know, these sessions faltered and ground to a halt, the band turned their attention to releasing another greatest hits double CD but shaking it up by dropping in four brand new tracks of which ‘Don’t Stop’ was announced as the lead single.

To be fair to the collector, he was out for what he could get in a fair deal, sometimes he was offered a raw deal by fans who were looking for something for free (That’s another discussion – Don’t write in!), to be fair to the fans, they were given short shift by the holder of the tapes who wasn’t exactly clear as what he wanted as part of the trade. This saga eaked out for a while, standing at an impasse while any deal that was due was worked out. It took another collector to break his silence, arranging with other close collectors to begin sending out links via email.

As with the largest fires, it takes a spark to set it off and so the ‘Paris 2002 sessions’ became the biggest leak since, ‘Foxes In The Boxes’, the ‘Undercover Of The Night’ studio sessions and outtakes. Nine tracks including early versions of ‘Don’t Stop’ were included on the set with a hefty slice of studio chatter around it. The first thing you notice about these tapes is that they really are just warm ups, not jams as such but still a little way from actually being finished – Whether these discrepancies are overdubs, a little mixing or not being THE final renditions and that’s by virtue of Jagger’s voice too. A lot of the time, he’s just phoning it in and the laziness of his slur is far away from the regular slouch and drag of Jagger’s drawl. The next thing you’ll notice is, despite the fractured worlds that are reported to exist between Jagger and Richards, Mick is very respectful of his bandmates works – This could have something to do with the fact that they’re all holed up in the recording studios, under the view of their camera crew so bun fights and fisticuffs wouldn’t be very seemly in any circumstances.

The tracks themselves are studio quality, there’s a very digital quality to the sound, mostly notable after listening to many years of analogue studio recordings, it almost sounds like it has been dubbed from video tape. The atmosphere however, is reflective – A lot of these tracks feature the latter-day Stones vibe of remorse, reflection and regret. A universal theme, sure, but hardly stadium fodder – A lot of the faster tracks that would have the crowd shouting the words back at the band have been extinguished.

MoonChild: Just Because (I) / Dreams / Cried Out / Studio Chat #1 / Just Because (II) / Studio Chat #2 / Love is a Test / When I Call Your Name / U Don’t Wanna / Don’t Stop / Keys to Your Love / Extreme Western Grip / Well Well

No Label; Just Because (I) / Dreams / Cried Out / Studio Chat #1 / Just Because (II) / Studio Chat #2 / Love is a Test / When I Call Your Name / U Don’t Wanna / Don’t Stop / Keys to Your Love / Extreme Western Grip / Well Well

Goldplate; Just Because / Dreams / Cried Out / Love Is A Test / When I Call Your Name / U Don’t Wanna / Don’t Stop (Early Mix) / Keys To Your Love (Early Mix) / Just Because (Studio chat) / Just Because (Rehearsal Take) / Well Well (Edit version) / ‘Rehearsal’ / Keys To Your Love (Rehearsal take) / Losing My Touch (Rehearsal take) / Don’t Stop (Rehearsal take) / You Better Leave That Man Alone / Extreme Western Grip / Well Well / Don’t Stop / Keys To Your Love / Stealing My Heart / Losing My Touch / Only Found Out Yesterday / Hurricane

Rattlesnake; Just Because / Dreams / Cried Out / Just Because / Love Is A Test / When I Call Your Name / U Don’t Wanna / Don’t Stop / Keys To Your Love / Extreme Western Grip / Well Well / Don’t Stop / Keys To Your Love / Stealing My Heart / Losing My Touch / Hurricane

Tracks bounce between ‘Just Because’ (An embryonic version of the track, ‘Trouble’ that finally saw release on Keef’s solo album in 2016), ‘Dreams’ an acoustic driven road ballad with flourishes of muted guitar alongside piano (It is beautiful to hear as Jagger sucks a bruised tooth and pours out some great lyrics. One of the best tracks from this early sessions collection – Let’s hope it makes a return at some point.)

‘Cried Out’ is an earlier version of ‘Laugh, I Nearly Died’ from ‘A Bigger Bang’, ‘Love Is A Test’ begins with a false start as Mick realises that the intro has been missed and chortles to himself that they’d better start again, it fades straight in to ‘When I Call Your Name’, both medium tempo ballads but with a heavier twist.

‘U Don’t Wanna’ is more of a rocker, albeit an incomplete one, Stick it towards the end of the album, you have a more than passable LP filler or, gasp, single B-side. With a little more work however, it could really go (’Specially if they keep the informal nature of the extended coda and let Charlie get a little more jazz-loose). ‘Don’t Stop’ we all know – I really liked it when it came out too – Handclaps are so infrequently used in rock nowadays – this is an early mix of the track, almost finished – it just needed a little more polish.

‘Keys To Your Love’ is another early mix of the track from “Forty Licks”, much like the early version of ‘Don’t Stop’, all it needs is a little more production finesse to get going.

Interestingly, the studio chatter to ‘Just Because’ is something that we very, very rarely get from Stones boots. A little background, a work in progress, fly-on-the-wall snapshot where Mick and Keith (With Don Was) converse between themselves discussing what they want and where in the track – again, on their best behaviour – they’re cordially good with each other but we can only surmise that once they ARE in the studio, they still get their heads behind the craft, relishing the production of something new. The rehearsal itself is interesting, Jagger on the floor conducting as he hears it, barking orders as he hears things come up. The speed of the song surprises him as it whizzes past, he doesn’t actually hear what he’s singing it seems as once the song ends, he wonders if they’ve actually been through three verses to which he’s told that they did. It’s all done in a flash.

‘Extreme Western Grip’ is a Richards composition, instrumental, sounds like a Jam as the tentative jazz scamper of Charlie Watt’s drumming shuffles around, Keef’s guitar imitates a classic horn sound, Ronnie’s guitar bubbles and pops while Chuck’s key’s add just the right amount of swampy fugue as a glint of harmonica slides through.

Lastly, ‘Well, Well’ is uptempo soul improv – Very possibly another Richards improv. The title is the lyrics and from that, you might know what to expect – It’s a work in progress with much less idea where it’s going as opposed to ‘EWG’. Not the most thrilling 4 minutes that you’ll spend with the Stones, I’m sure.

A short while after the leak, another enterprising fan expanded the ‘album’ by adding a litany of bonus tracks from different sources including sessions from the official ‘Forty Licks’ DVD as the Stones rehearsed a set of tracks that never saw full fruition (And it doesn’t seem like they’ll be out officially anytime soon!). The addition of these partial clips didn’t impress me much (Four tracks are from the ‘Forty Licks’ official comp, another, “Hurricane” was released on the promo CDR for the Katrina Hurricane Victims Benefit in November 2005 – we’ve got them already!) It’s nice to have them in one place, I guess but as a lot of these are blotted by voice overs from the film, you’re unable to just sit and take it all in. I did find myself itching over the fact that Mick would chime in as you’re listening to conversation in the studio over Chuck’s keyboard playing. I much preferred just to sit on my chair, slip on my headphones and gaze at the back of my eyelids while pretending I was there. If I wanted voiceover, I’d engage a bit more with the visual.

The releases of these sessions came thick and fast after they sprang up – there was around 24 hours between the announcement of the Moonchild and Goldplate variants. Moonchild focused on the initial 9 tracks that were leaked, Goldplate decided to go with the fan expanded version. A few days later the No Label gang announced their version – the lean, basic version – though early copies came with a bonus DVDR (an early version of the 40 licks film) Just a few days after that, the Rattlesnake label announced their copy of the expanded release.

Covers didn’t vary a lot in their presentation – the first three releases all utilised the lips logos – though Moonchild actually released two variations, the second version using a grand-masterly version of Keith – The Rattlesnake release took era correct photos of the Stones in the studio (From the film) and used a Beatles ‘Let It Be’ approach to collage. Each of the Japanese releases utilized very linear double sided sleeves, the very basics of information given, the Rattlesnake release went the extra mile as usual, proving an 8 page booklet with the intelligent writeup that we’ve come to expect from their releases. The only drawback to all this is the start of the essay – It makes note of the UK / second leg of the ‘No Filter’ tour that starts ‘In a couple of weeks, the Rolling Stones will embark on a new British tour ..’, at the time that I received my copy, the tour was three shows down. Not a terrible blunder but it dates the notes pretty quickly – It really is a little nit-picking but had the author looked at the time line of release, they may have approached it differently.

Finally, the open verdict – Moonchild give you a choice of covers, No label don’t but both these releases would suit me fine as I’m not that bothered about the bells and whistles. The Goldplate version is pretty much the Rattlesnake version but without the light touch of mastering and a solid set of liner notes. Those extra tracks do give the set an ‘anthology’ kind of feel (but we’re not talking “Exile ..” here.) If you want these tracks for an all round version of these sessions, the Rattlesnake version is possibly the easiest to find and a very handsome production indeed.

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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One comment

  1. Careful Axeman Eugene

    Thanks for this very interesting review. I got the Goldplate version myself a few weeks ago, and I was quite pleased & happy with it, as I was also with the Pink Floyd & Eric Clapton CD’s that I ordered along with it.

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