Maybe it's worth buying this deluxe reissue
of one of rock's most important all-time records just to listen to the Stones' memorable version of Brown
Sugar with Eric Clapton doing his thang on the slide
guitar. The track, recorded back in 1971 when the Stones were at their zenith,
not only has Slowhand's inspired contribution, but also the unforgettable Mick Taylor, the group's lead guitarist
that was at the heart of many of their hits despite going largely unheralded in
rock's history books, mainly due to his desire to go his own way. He still
plays every now and again and is a pure delight to listen to. Back then, he
wasn't even a true band member. He had to wait until Sticky Fingers in order to
be recognised as an intrinsic part of the group, coming in to take over from
another master of the six strings, Brian Jones, now the stuff of legend.
Clapton's participation is really just an anecdote, almost a musical joke. The real treasure of this edition is the inclusion of live material recorded when Jagger, Richards and company were in their prime, right before the downward spiral into the land of drugs, alcohol and excess that would leave a mark on all their work from Exile On Main Street onwards… The only problem is that in order to have it all, especially the 'Get Yer Leeds Lungs Out' tracks recorded live at Leeds University where they presented new songs from their upcoming LP, you have to buy the three-CD 'superpack' that comes with enough bells and whistles to make the collectors' toes curl. Financially speaking, it's a tough call, but the bare-bones double CD doesn't include this legendary performance, which is in itself a landmark in 20th Century music.
You only have to listen to the Leeds recording of Live with me to see that the Stones were at that point still a musical force to be reckoned with, their brains (and hands) still intact. It was real no-messing rhythm and blues. Simple beats and uncomplicated solos that did the business. That typical tinny sound of recordings made back then merely add to the nostalgic feel. This is not to say that the tracks on the double CD recorded at London's Roundhouse in the same year are not of merit, but this handful of songs are more noteworthy for their obscurity than anything else.
The other gem in this edition is Mick Taylor, whose legend relates that in 1966 by pure chance he stood in for a missing Eric Clapton in a John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers concert in his hometown of Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire, only to then disappear before the king of blues had time to thank him for a job well done. This shy and retiring nature did much to hide his contribution to the Rolling Stones' cause, a man who went largely unseen under the overpowering shadow of the charismatic Glimmer Twins and whose shyness kept him away from the world of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll that surrounded him.
In 1975, he definitively left the Olympus of the rock world and took to the road, first with Jack Bruce and then with various artists and bands. The difference was that now the real star of the show was his guitar and instead of playing to packed-out stadiums he now performed in modest rock clubs in front of a few hundred punters. A man with a guitar that only spoke one language, the blues.