“I’m no schoolboy but I know what I like…”
I can’t believe it. Here it is the tail end of 2011 and the Rolling Stones go and release their best album since 1969’s Let it Bleed. I’m serious. This is spec-freaking-tacular.
Released as a download only (320 kbps!) on Google Music, The Rolling Stones Brussels Affair 1973 is the official release of an oft-booted album over the past three decades. But there’s a reason this has been booted in such high praise lo’ these many years: it just f-ing rocks. This is the Stones at the peak of their powers. Riding a high of album creativity from 1968’s Beggar’s Banquet to 1972’s Exile on Main Street, the Stones bring everything out to the forefront and rock like it’s nobody’s damn business. Sorry for all the swearing, but this is the most badass live Stones album I’ve ever heard and it’s been rocking me non-stop since I downloaded it a few days ago. Just look at that damn album cover you son of a…
Price is $4.99. Do you see that? $4.99 for a 320 kbps download of one of the Stones greatest live recordings, and one of their greatest albums, of their entire career. Do we live in a great time for music or what?
Ok, so you know how we roll here, how’s the sound? Fan-freaking-tastic! I don’t want to hear anyone complaining about the fact that’s it’s download only. It’s 5 bucks and the sound is fantastic with some excellent separation between the instruments and a nice, thick atmosphere that perfectly captures the excitement of the Belgian crowd. Honestly, I am simply blown away by the quality of this recording, everything being perfectly balanced and perfectly placed. Just amazing.
More importantly, the music is stellar. I haven’t heard the Stones rock this hard, and with this much perfect musicality in, well, ever. Every one’s completely in sync (and in key) and rocking to the fullest extent that Belgian law will allow. Did I mention this thing is killing me? Mick sounds fantastic and is in perfect voice with just the right amount of wild excitement to make everything sound like the party of the century. Meanwhile, Keith Richards and Mick Taylor are blowing guitar riffery left and right to astonishing effect, while Wyman and Watts are holding the rhythm section together like it’s their job…which it is. I mean, they are all just nailing it like there is no other band on the planet at the time. And really, on this night, there is no one else. Absolutely no one else but the Stones, live in Belgium, 1973.
Organist Billy Preston and saxophonist Bobby Keys supply a much appreciated texture to the band, and with their help everything, and I mean everything, just gels to perfection. Every song, every moment, cooks with a rolling boil that constantly threatens to go overboard but somehow, miraculously, never does. It’s perfect. The Rolling damn Stones live on stage in complete perfection.
“Brown Sugar” kicks things off with a stunning swagger that is quickly followed by an almost funky “Gimme Shelter” that is simply brimming with suspense. A ragged “Happy” flies by, followed by the killer groove of “Tumblin’ Dice.” If you thought the versions on Exile sounded good, just wait until you hear these! The riffs explode from the speakers while Jagger presides over everything and one can’t help but picture him prancing all over the stage. Jeez, four songs in and it’s already some of the greatest Stones I’ve ever heard.
Four tracks from Goat’s Head Soup follow with a fire that was sometimes lost in the studio. “Starf***er” rocks out with it’s Chuck Berry riffery while “Dancing with Mr. D” sounds like it should have sounded in the first place with it’s sleazy, stoner riff right out front for all the world to hear. “Heartbreaker” rolls along with a new found funk worthy of this raucous band, while “Angie” is delivered with a heartfelt emotion that finds Mick at his most vulnerable. Just perfect.
“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” finds new life in it’s 11 minutes of rock perfection. Taylor takes a wonderfully pointed solo that pairs perfectly with Keys’ emotive sax solo, while Jagger is drawn in to the magic in it all and delivers some of the best vocals of the night. But just when you thought the Stones had hit their peak for the night they rush off into the speeding train-like rhythm of what might just be the definitive “Midnight Rambler.”
The band…who are these guys? When did the Stones become such a live rock machine? They rock the song for all it’s worth and then some. The train reaches a lurching stop midway through, Taylor adding very tasty wah-wah guitar to remind everyone it’s 1973. Jagger, meanwhile, is grunting his way through a soul review of everything that makes rock and roll so exciting. He’s nailing it. Everyone is. All of a sudden the world’s greatest rock band is just knocking the balls off of everything. It rips. It kills. Unbelievable.
As if that weren’t enough – and really, every Belgian in the audience must be too ecstatic for anything to end at this point -the band smokes through delirious versions of “Honkytonk Women,” “All Down the Line,” “Rip This Joint,” a completely unhinged “Jumping Jack Flash,” and a stunning end of the world “Street Fighting Man” that will knock your stones right off. Seriously.
So, there it is. The Rolling Stones Brussels Affair 1973. Rock and roll played by the absolute masters at a time when they were at the peak of their powers. A recorded document so damn stunning, so unforgivingly awesome, it will further cement their status as the world’s greatest rock and roll band. After this, everything else just seems weak.
Trust me on this.
- Brown Sugar – 3:56
- Gimme Shelter – 5:33
- Happy – 3:14
- Tumblin’ Dice – 5:04
- Starf***er – 4:16
- Dancing With Mr. D – 4:38
- Heartbreaker – 5:03
- Angie – 5:15
- You Can’t Always Get What You Want – 11:01
- Midnight Rambler – 12:53
- Honkytonk Women – 3:12
- All Down the Line – 4:21
- Rip This Joint – 2:25
- Jumping Jack Flash – 3:27
- Street Fighting Man – 5:15