Unbiased reviews of new vinyl releases, audiophile reissues, and more
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Next Tuesday, May 18, 2010, The Rolling Stones will finally release the highly anticipated Deluxe Edition of Exile on Main St. This reissue will be released in four formats: Exile on Main St, Exile on Main St (Dlx), Exile on Main St [Vinyl], and the Super Deluxe Vinyl Box Set. Longtime fans and collectors have been left wondering whether it will be worth it to spring for the Super Deluxe set, when much of it will be available separately?
I've spent the last week or so with the tracks from the remastered Deluxe Edition, hi-res files of the cloth bound book, Exile on Main St, as well as an eleven minute promotional version of the upcoming DVD, Stones in Exile. And I've got to say, I haven't enjoyed a new release from the Stones this much since Tattoo You. On May 19, 2010, this review was updated to include impressions of the final physical product.
The Bonus Tracks:
I'm not going to spend a lot of time dissecting the ten bonus tracks found on the deluxe editions of this reissue. It's been too much fun hearing this new material, and I think you'll enjoy listening and discovering it for yourselves. The bonus tracks are a combination of alternate takes of favorites from the original album, such as Loving Cup and Soul Survivor, and unreleased tracks from the Exile sessions, such as the epic, Elton John-inspired, Following the River--most of which contain new vocals from Jagger, and some instrumental overdubs as well. Plundered My Soul, which was released a month ago, is arguably the best single from the band since Waiting on a Friend.
When it began to leak out that Mick Taylor was in some way involved in this reissue, many fans couldn't believe it. Well, he can definitely be heard on more than a few of the bonus tracks--and he is credited on six of them. On I'm Not Signifying--one of the few tracks with an original, country-drawl vocal from Jagger, Richards isn't even listed as playing.
The Stones in Exile DVD
The thirty-minute video includes an eleven minute promo of the upcoming DVD, Stones in Exile. It features photos, video, and audio from the Exile sessions at Nellcote, interspersed with commentary from the band members and others present at the sessions. Even the most jaded Stones fan should be fascinated by this. Rounding out the DVD is ten minutes each from Cocksucker Blues and Ladies and Gentlemen . . . the Rolling Stones, both of which are scheduled to have full releases in the fall.
The two discs of vinyl, two cds, and dvd are housed in a tri-fold gatefold design, rather than the Unipack design used for the original vinyl release. The inner sleeves holding the vinyl are faithful reproductions of the originals. Also included are repros of four of the postcards, originally included with the first pressing vinyl. The fairly hefty regular weight vinyl arrived clean, flat and played throughout without noise.
The vinyl cutting is credited to veteran engineer, Doug Sax of The Mastering Lab, from a 24-bit/44.1 kHz file provided by Stephen Marcussen, who remastered the Deluxe Edition Cd. In preparation for this review, I listened to the original Artisan cut U.S. vinyl, the 1994 Robert Ludwig mastered cd, as well as the new vinyl and cd remasters from this box set. My main comparison, however, was the original Artisan vinyl and the new remastered vinyl. As always, I primarily listened to complete album sides to get the overall vibe and feel of each of the pressings, rather than constantly switching back and forth between records.
Exile on Main St has often been described as a dark, murky--even muddy-sounding album. And I've always loved it for exactly what it is. While sound quality does vary between tracks, I've found the the Artisan cut original vinyl to be just right--organic, exciting and dynamic on some cuts, and dark, mysterious and swampy on others. So, while I approached the remastered vinyl with an open mind, I wasn't looking for any significant departures from the original.
Unfortunately, this remastered vinyl doesn't come close to the original Artisan vinyl. The primary problem is that it sounds too loud and compressed. Good records, including the Artisan original of this one, beg the listener to turn them up--and they continue to sound better. This remaster does the opposite. From the start of the record, Rocks Off sounds too loud and lacks the dynamics of the original.
Songs like Happy, Tumbling Dice, and Soul Survivor sound harsh, and at times border on sibilant. Even Loving Cup, which never fails to give me goosebumps when the drums come in, falls flat on this remaster, due to the lack of dynamics. Acoustic and simpler compositions, such as Ventilator Blues, Sweet Virginia, and the intro to Let it Loose, fare slightly better--but they still don't have the same ambiance and natural sound to the piano, guitars and drums found on the original Artisan.
The Stones in Exile Book
The book is the real reason to buy the Super Deluxe version of this reissue. The album-sized cloth bound book is of very nice quality--and for someone who has always regretted missing out on the Genesis Publications book from Dominique Tarle, I've got to admit that I'm thrilled with what has been released.
Previously available only in the long out of print and uber-expensive book, Exile, the Genesis book of photos from Dominique Tarle, or as limited edition large format prints from a few select galleries, Tarle's photos are finally presented in a package that can be afforded by a majority of fans and collectors. Nearly thirty pages of the sixty-four page book are devoted to Tarle's photos, which are accompanied by quotes from members of the band and a narrative from Anthony DeCurtis. The remainder of the book consists of excellent, though not quite as coveted Ethan Russell photos of the 1972 tour, and images of programs, press kits, and other promotional items from the '72 Tour.
Should you buy the Super Deluxe Vinyl Edition? If you've always coveted the Exile book from Dominique Tarle, it is an automatic buy. If you don't care about the book, I wouldn't bother. The alternate tracks--which I do consider essential, are available separately on cd or via digital download. The dvd, while entertaining, is merely a preview of what will be released within several months. And the vinyl, unfortunately suffers from markedly inferior sound compared to the Artisan-cut original. It's really too bad that the book isn't being released separartely.
While it isn't clear how limited this Super Deluxe set is, it also isn't clear whether Tarle, who has been notoriously guarded about releasing these images over the years, will allow them to be used again. If you're obsessed with Exile, you'd better pick it up now--or be prepared to be sorry later.
Related: The Rolling Stones in Concert--Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! -- Super Deluxe Edition Vinyl Box Set
Posted by My Vinyl Review at Wednesday, May 12, 2010