Two Marvelous Double LPs in Vinyl from Eagle Rock Entertainment (With CDs tucked in each three-panel sleeve for the disadvantaged)
By Brian Arsenault
Last check, the Rolling Stones are still a very fine rock ‘n’ roll band but they aren’t what they were in 1978. Who is?
And they can’t play any more with Muddy. He’s gone. But in 1981 they could. And did.
To get a feel for what the Stones and Muddy were then, read on. Then give yourself a gift and listen:
The Rolling Stones
Some Girls Live in Texas ’78 (Eagle Rock Entertainment)
This album is so good that no matter how much I liked the song that was playing — and that’s just about all of them — I couldn’t wait to hear the next one.
They kick off fittingly with Chuck Berry’s “Let It Rock”; the prime purveyors of the real thing in rock’s second generation knocking out a song by the true king of the first. Guitars up.
They do their take on Robert Johnson’s “Love in Vain” in such a bluesy fashion that it’s no longer fond imitation or tribute, it’s the real deal. Aches and laments from both Mick’s vocals and Keith’s and Ron’s guitars. And Charlie is here and throughout the album as good as I have ever heard him. (It’s ok to use just first names, isn’t it? It’s not like we don’t all know them down all these years.)
Know that they are all at their peak here. Charlie and now retired Bill Wyman were then arguably rock’s premier rhythm section. Keith has been joined by another guitarist within whom rock just lives, replacing whoever Mick Taylor was.
Jagger’s in fine voice throughout. And his energy? Well, even those who have seen him only as an old guy are impressed. But in 1978, well, you easily knew why he was sometimes called a devil, a demon, in admiration or admonition.
Still, by now the Stones are a true guitar band, no longer needing to rely on Mick for most of the energy. Check out the guitar work on “Miss You” or “All Down the Line”. Throbbing, kicking, racing, frantic.
The guitarists and the band as a whole, when live, hadn’t learned slow hand by then which they now employ to great effect on some songs. So here “All Down the Line” is one speeded up piece of madness with Ian Steward banging away on his piano in the background.
On “Beast of Burden” Keith does that neat little guitar entrance and Charlie is again magnificent. Mick makes us believe what he will and won’t be.
“Shattered” here outranks the studio version which was one mean recording. “Miss You” brings us a band that’s all grown up, a mixture of cynicism, world weariness — “fashion and sex and sex and sex . . . Like we used to.”
One of the remarkable things about this album is the quality of the recording, so much better than many of the same era and later. The fact that you can hear Stewart at all says a lot. It’s also amazing that this album was recorded at a single concert and maintains such a high quality throughout.
When you hear this album, again or for the first time, you’ll be reminded what the world’s greatest rock and roll band was. Is. And probably always will be.
Muddy Waters and The Rolling Stones
Live at the Checkerboard Lounge 1981 (Eagle Rock Entertainment)
Two years before his death in 1983 at the age of 70, Muddy Waters was joined at Chicago’s Checkerboard Lounge by most of the Stones and a couple of other “sidemen” like Buddy Guy and Junior Wells. Goes to show there isn’t always a lot of time left — give and take what time you have.
This is a coming together of Chicago and British electric blues. It’s a joining of two generations of terrific musicians that suggests rock and blues are so close that they are only separated by nomenclature. It was a time when you were pretty sure race relations were getting better. Are you sure about that now?
But enough of that. On Side A, before the Stones join in on Side B, Muddy kicks things off with “Sweet Little Angel”. If ever anyone asks you what electric blues is, you just play this for him. Then play the other side of that sentiment “You Don’t Have To Go” when Muddy intones that “there’s something wrong with you, baby” so “down the road I go.”
Good relationships and bad. Good times and bad. Right down to the basics of living. That’s the core of the blues. And rock when it’s good, real good.
This album is a true Muddy Waters songbook fused with a Muddy Waters tribute album given who’s playing on it. Muddy on “Mannish Boy” tells us he’s a Rolling Stone. And for this night, he is. And for this night, they are his backup band. And there’s also, oh, a Junior Wells harmonica moment that rises to the level of a second vocal. How could he hold that note so long, so well.
The songbook? Rip roarin’ versions of “Baby Please Don’t Go,” “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “Mannish Boy,“ “Got My Mojo Workin’.” Yes, truly workin’.
If I were to make a further social comment it would be about “Champagne and Reefer” wherein we still find a political climate in which a black blues guy couldn’t take a hit before the war (that’s WW II), and white rockers could be busted for it still in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and users are still oppressed today in most places at most times. So I’ll ask: What is wrong with us?
But this album isn’t about what is wrong with us but rather what is so right. Muddy and Mick swapping vocals, guitar heaven on the break on “Country Boy” and elsewhere (just about everywhere), and drumming by Ray Allison that Charlie must have listened to even though he wasn’t there that night.
Time, very special time, was recorded. Baby, please don’t go.
To read more posts, columns and reviews by Brian Arsenault, click HERE.