Let Bill Janowitz be your guide as you slip down the steps into that dark cellar below the French mansion Nellcote where Keith Richards and the rest of the Stones made one of the most monumental rock n roll albums ever.
Janowitz's unashamed love for the band and the album will warm you while his knowledge and understanding of what it is to make an album (he's ex-Buffalo Tom) will throw fresh light on just how this Stones' masterpiece came together.
His broad passion and his precise observations ("listen to the section between 3.34 and 3.40 for some of the most glorious give and take") combine to make this a hugely enjoyable and wonderfully instructive guide to Exile.
Now I've read this little volume, all I need to do is try and persuade my friend Jas to let me have another look at his unbelievably expensive book of Domnique Tarle's photos taken during the making of the album...
Exile on main street is my altime favorite album!! If there was one thing i din't like about it, i would say that would have to be the fact that i didnt really know all that much about certain things, like where was what song recoreded, what Mick Jagger was singin about and what the songs were actaully about. For years I just used to let my imagination run riot and invent what i though was going on both in the songs and while the band were recording them. If like me you love this album, i reccomend you read a jeorny through hell with the rolling stones, by Robert Greenfield, or if you can get your hands on a copy of donique tarles EXILE, these books will give you a good insight to what actually went on in Nelcote where at least some of the album was recorded in Keith Richards basement. This book however is an absoulte Jem. Its tells you all about the recordings, where they were recorded, overdubbed and who plays what and where. The author has put alot of effort into listening to the lyrics, and guitar licks from each side of the speaker and he even pays particular attention to the background nioses, which even I after years and years of listening to thins album at least once a week have never heard before they were pointed out. "listen to the song between 3mins 12sec to 3mins 45secs" and quotes like this that really make the book brilliant and make the album become even more and more alive, if that were possible. Brilliant book, first class.. just wish there were more books like this about other stones albums.
I sometimes find Bill Janovitz's writing style slightly mannered, with his love of compound sentences and occasionally arcane rock and roll references that go over my head. What's my problem? Partly, maybe, it's because I am neither American nor a rock musician. I guess I simply don't have the interest in the "mythological" significance of rock, or of US history and culture, that he does.
HOWEVER, for content this book deserves six stars out of five. Exile has been part of my life for thirty years now, through speakers and headphones, but with the help of this book I hear more and more things I had never noticed before. I return to a favourite album refreshed and ready for more.
Janovitz delivers on so many different levels in this compact but comprehensive book. He gives us the context of the Villa Nellcote sessions. He points up the complex human interactions that make individual songs what they are. He also offers a forensic attention to detail - only possible to a working musician with studio experience - when looking at individual tracks, drawing attention again and again to revealing details and significant "oddities" and signposting them so we can check 'em out ourselves. I came away feeling I had learnt more about what made the Stones tick as musicians, as individuals and as a band. Exile is so often regarded (and with good reason!) as Keith's album, but this book also draws attention to the sheer artistry of Mick and of Charlie as musicians, and the "side men" like Nicky Hopkins are also give full credit.
Most of all, perhaps, Janovitz makes the case for Exile's integrity and "rightness" as a sprawling double album, arguing against the dissident view that it should have been edited down to the best cuts and released as a single LP. Several times he draws attention to completely "non-commercial" numbers that are not only fantastically good but also make their contribution to creating the dark, hypnotic "world apart" that is Exile on Main St. There is nothing to be gained from trying to compare this album with masterpieces like Let It Bleed and Sticky Fingers - its whole dynamic is different, even though most of the musicians are the same.
This is a must read for anybody interested in the stones and in particular the exile period at Nellcote. Although i've listened to this album for the past 20 years I learned something about every single track. It was great to share the writer's enthusiasm for the music. Sheer indulgence for any stones fan. A treat to be savoured.