The Rolling Stones - Exile On Main Street
The result is that the tracks on the album are driven by the rhythm, set by Watts' drumming, rather than by anything else. At times, Jagger's voice becomes so indistinct that it almost presages the shoegazers of two decades later where the voice became just another instrument and the words it was supposed to render became indistinct to the point almost of irrelevance. The only exception to this is the added stress and emphasis of the word "shit" repeated in the chorus of "Sweet Virginia", almost as if Jagger was making a point of emphasising the band's bad boy reputation by the use of "naughty" words. The biggest disappointment comes in terms of the Keith Richard guitar hooks where the flair and the uniqueness of his style becomes lost in the morass of sound which washes around you. Not having the benefit of an ear which can distinguish keys and chords with ease, I find that after a while it becomes too hard to listen to, unless I switch off and let it fade into the background - surely not something you would expect or desire from a record by the Rolling Stones.
What you are left with is the impression of a band who stripped down what they had become, a back to the basics approach of blues-based rock and roll. Over the top they added horns and piano as appropriate and a large dose of largely female backing vocals. Each component was added to the recipe in equal measure, thereby producing a sound which is dense and opaque but sounding like someone had taken the rhythm and blues of the late fifties and early sixties and muddied the waters (pun intended). Sure, the trademark Stones' devices are there - the typical Stones' opening track which tries to set the tone for the rest of the album; the rousing choruses; and the sharp drums. But after that, there is nothing really that new.
Rarely does the album produce a track which rises above the rest. It would be fair to say that "Tumbling Dice" is the highlight, and the closest the band come on the album to producing another classic track to the long list of classics they produced from the sixties. But in that respect, it is unique.
This reissue, timed to coincide with a documentary about the Stones' life in exile and how the drugs and the booze took hold of certain members of the band to a greater extent than before. This was, after all, the era of Jagger's marriage to Bianca Perez-Mora Macias. The additional tracks, to be fair, add little, but detract to the same degree. The reworkings of "Soul Survivor" and "Loving Cup" are interesting for what they are and the strange final instrumental outtake of "Title 5" gives you an impression of what the album might have been, but are probably not worth the price alone unless you are a completist.
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