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A greatly underated live album!
on 28 August 2007
The Rolling Stones have been around for a VERY long time... so there are very few ideas they haven't tried several times. The concept of a live recording capturing the Stones not only in a stadium but also in a small club is a great one and was used in the excellent 2003 'Four Flicks' dvd.However, this idea was actually first used in nearly thirty years earlier in the now forgotten 'Love You Live'!
At the the time there was a very real feeling that the band were about to end; Keith Richards seemed bound for jail following the infamous Toronto bust and and by popular consensus the Stones had lost their way in an excesses of the rock n' roll lifestyle - producing substandard music after their creative peak between 1968 and 1972.
The idea that this- to quote an old Stones song- is the 'last time' you'll hear the Stones is a marketing ploy they have endlessly reused to promote every tour they undertake! But in 1977, there was a very real sense that this was a swansong, that the Stones were redeeming themselves just before their demise. Of course, NOW the popular story is that the 'Some Girls' album of 1978 was the band's return to form and 'Love You Live' is mistakenly viewed as part of the Stones' dodgy mid seventies period.
There is something heroic about success at the brink of failure, more heroic than simply being good when all is well. In these terms 'Love You Live' is the ultimate Stones album. Three sides of the album are from a 1976 concert at Les Abattoirs in Paris. This show took place shortly after the death of Keith Richards's newborn child. That the show took place at all is, incredible, that its so good is amazing. In the first track, 'Honky Tonk Women', Keith's guitar sounds ragged, he badly misses a chord and Mick says "C'mon baby!" However the rest of the song is note perfect with a solo by Keith that is jaw dropping; this recovery is really something to hear!
The sides from Les Abattoirs stand as a reminder of just how long the Stones have played their 'greatest hits' live show, with only a few later written favourites like 'Miss You' and 'Start Me Up' absent from the track list. However there are also some great seventies tracks like 'Hot Stuff' and 'Fingerprint File' that really groove. The band's energy level is top notch, Jagger's singing largely excellent (though a bit out of puff on an otherwise brilliantly played 'Jumping Jack Flash'). The guitar interplay between Keith and -then-new boy Ronnie Wood is more akin to the lead/rhythm model used by Keith and Mick Taylor then the 'ancient art of weaving' that evolved in later years but it works well and Ronnie has some great solos.
The club recording on side three -at least on my old vinyl copy! - from El Mocambo in Toronto in March 1977 is REALLY impressive. Remember this concert was recorded as Keith was awaiting his legal verdict. This is the sound of a band staring down the barrel of a gun and playing their socks off! Old blues standard 'Mannish Boy' is slightly marred by Jagger's mannered singing but his harmonica part is great and the music really cooks with inspired guitar interplay between Keith and Ronnie (noticeably better than on the Les Abattoirs tracks the year before). `Crackin' Up' is a rare reggae track that is brilliant in a very sexist way! `Little Red Rooster' evokes the original Stones sound to a degree that Brian Jones would've been proud of and the closing Chuck Berry cover `Round and Round' features an electrifying solo from Keith -that noticeably excites Mick's singing - and CAN'T be played too loud!
Listened to in 2007, this album reminds you just how GOOD the Stones were in their -comparative- youth. The music is played with conviction and energy long since lost to them (not that they don't excite these days though!) and is a reminder that even as late as 1977 they really were a truly great band. Get a copy of this forgotten classic and turn up the volume!