Rolling Stones Score Big Again With 'Some Girls' Deluxe Reissue

Following the critical and commercial success of the 2010 expanded rerelease of "Exile on Main Street," generally regarded as their best album, the Rolling Stones have given the same treatment to "Some Girls," generally regarded as their last great album (and their highest-selling to date). The deluxe edition includes a remastered version of the original 1978 album as well as a bonus disc of 12 previously unreleased tracks and a 24-page color booklet.

Rolling Stones Score Big Again With 'Some Girls' Deluxe Reissue

The lore surrounding "Some Girls" is well-known: it was an effort by the Stones to prove they could still be commercially relevant in an era ruled by disco, punk and funk, many of the lyrics are Mick Jagger's wry take on the decadence of late '70s New York, and due to Keith Richards' debilitating drug habit Jagger essentially took the album over. A listen to this new edition proves that like most conventional wisdom, the established take on "Some Girls" is based in truth but not wholly accurate.

The superb remix of the original album makes it clear the Stones were definitely out to prove they were still relevant in 1978 and not a bunch of '60s leftovers. From the opening 4/4 thud of "Miss You," the songs crackle with energy and bite, with different instruments and Jagger's sharp vocals clearly distinguishable to the ear. "Some Girls" followed several lackluster, subpar releases, and the Stones considerably upped their effort here.

One thing that quickly becomes evident is how much Charlie Watts' contributions to "Some Girls" have been overlooked. Watts in general has never gotten his due as a premier rock n roll drummer due to his economical style which emphasizes keeping the beat over flash or bombast. But whether he is providing the steady heartbeat to disco-themed numbers such as "Miss You" and "Beast of Burden," fueling fast, ragged, punk-influenced tunes like "Lies" and "When the Whip Comes Down," or laying a steady platform for more traditional Stones material like the excellent Motown cover "Just My Imagination," Watts makes it clear why Keith Richards has repeatedly said he would never do a Stones project without him.

While Bill Wyman's bass playing does not especially stand out in the mix (he also did not play bass on the tracks "Some Girls," "Shattered" or "Before They Make Me Run,"), the R&B brawniness of Keith Richards' riffs shines through even on non-rocker numbers like "Some Girls," and Ron Wood's gorgeous pedal steel is a highlight of the country spoof "Far Away Eyes." And Jagger's classic snarl and leer comes through loud and clear, turning "Shattered" from what could have been a goofy throwaway into a high-octane satire of Manhattan nightlife.

The bonus disc, containing 12 songs from the vaults, some of which include new overdubs from the Stones, is a revelation which punctures a hole in the theory that during the recording of "Some Girls," a strung-out Richards ceded all creative control to Jagger. It appears Jagger clearly had a majority of the say on what songs made the final cut, but this collection of blues, rockabilly and country has Richards' fingerprints all over it. Most of the songs actually sound more at home next to material from "Exile" than "Some Girls," which helps explain why a band anxious to prove it was staying current with the times chose to leave what are mostly brilliant songs off the final album.

"Claudine," the first song on the bonus CD, is like a Vanity Fair article set to music. The lyrics are pure Jagger - a sarcastic account of the scandal surrounding the mid-70s shooting death Olympic skier Spider Sabitch by his socialite girlfriend Claudine Longet. However, the music is all Richards - a rollicking piano intro reminiscent of Jerry Lee Lewis and a steady boogie-woogie beat throughout. "When You're Gone" is a Howlin' Wolf-style classic blues song featuring distorted vocals to give Jagger's voice a raggedy growl, and "Keep Up Blues" is a close cousin to the Stones' cover of Robert Johnson's "Stop Breakin' Down" featured on "Exile on Main Street."

Other highlights of the bonus material include the uncharacteristically surf-influenced "Tallahassee Lassie" and a few pure country tunes, including the Hank Williams cover "You Win Again," and "No Spare Parts," which has been getting some recent airplay. The bonus CD closes with "Petrol Blues," a short blues number solely featuring Jagger on piano and vocals which sounds like it could have been recorded in the 1930s. Richards does not appear on the track, but his spirit permeates it.

Although 1981's "Tattoo You" contained some great individual songs, "Some Girls" marks the last time the Stones put together an album of cohesively high quality material from beginning to end and the last time the Stones were really a major creative force in new music. It is worthy of a remastered release, and the bonus CD has much to offer fans of the Stones' more traditional bluesy/country side. The Stones' future is currently a mystery, but this CD set demonstrates their past is still worth investigating.

By Dan Berthiaume

by Daniel Berthiaume; Monday, December 19, 2011 @ 08:43 AM [2613]

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