The Rolling Stones

Virgin Records, 1995

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


For most of their 30-plus year career,the Rolling Stones have had problems translating their power in the studio to live recordings. They always tend to go into "hyperdrive," speeding up the performances and leaving the listener tired, confused and unsatisfied.

Their 1996 release Stripped, however, features some of the best live work this band has ever done - if only it were really a live album.

Mick Jagger and crew find themselves captured on stage in Holland and France,banging out some old favorites as well as some songs I'm not accustomed hearing the band perform. However, a good portion of the album is taken from rehearsals at other locations on the tour - and this is what leaves me quite disappointed.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The foursome (c'mon, guys, why don't you recognize Darryl Jones and make him a full-fledged member of the band?) open up with a powerful acoustic version of "Street Fighting Man," a song which has never sounded more relaxed or powerful. The guitar work of Keith Richards and Ron Wood is at its crispest since Tattoo You, and the acoustic setting of the album may be exactly the atmosphere the Stones have been looking for throughout the '80s. Their cover of "Like A Rolling Stone" is energetic and a definite change for the Stones - maybe they should turn to covers a little more often.

But as the recording turns to the rehearsals, you find out you miss the tension of the live crowd waiting for Jagger et al. to plow new ground. I don't think I've ever heard a more beautiful version of "Wild Horses" by the Stones - pity it wasn't in front of the crowd. Richards also gets a chance to shine on "Slipping Away," further proof that maybe Keef should have been given a shot as lead throat more often.

And it's not that I object to including material from the rehearsals - but when Stripped is touted as a live album, I expect to hear the crowd roaring in the background more often than not. Then again, remember that the Stones always seem to tense up and speed up in front of an audience - while this album has a relaxed, refreshing feeling.

One of my favorite tracks here is "Sweet Virginia," a song which offers more proof that the Rolling Stones are far from washed up despite three decades in the business. Charlie Watts provides a solid backbeat, as usual, while producer Don Was adds in a touch of organ to keep things lively.

So is Stripped a good album or not? In one sense, I guess it is - Jagger and crew have never sounded better on stage, even without an audience in front of them. But in another sense, someone thinking this is another live album - if I count right, the sixth in their career - will be somewhat disappointed.

This disc is also an enhanced CD, though my promotional copy, for some reason,didn't have these features. So, at least you'll have something to look forward to discovering on your own.

Rating: B-

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© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Virgin Records, and is used for informational purposes only.