CD Review and Commentary: The Rolling Stones “Got Live If You Want It!”

The Rolling Stones

Got Live if You Want It! (Original recording remastered)(Abkco)

By Brian Arsenault

Black Friday was a wondrous holiday for two reasons:

The video of women fighting in malls, one even with a taser. The release of the half century old Brit version of The Rolling Stones’ EP Got Live If You Want It!  

When consumer excess reaches the point that people are willing to go beyond pushing and shoving and actually start throwing punches, I begin to admire the excess. It becomes sort of like a religious fervor– our faith in electronic gadgets beyond all normalcy, worthy of faithbased warriors. The new Knights of Malta with Hospitallers much needed. Just too good.

overStill, there are icons (don’t you hate the overuse of that word, sub in “articles of faith“) to be found. Mick and the original boys (Bill Wyman and the late Brian Jones as well as Charlie Watts and Keith) were becoming saints when the true religion of the day was rock ‘n roll. The early faith hysteria just need to be calmed a bit.

This has been a good year or two for vinyl. Several releases of classic Stones albums — Beggars Banquet among others — stuff from the Animals, Ten Years After, others. There have even been serious (at least mock serious) articles about The Return of Vinyl.

Look, I love it too but it’s really a bit of nostalgia don’t you think. It’s rather like collectors of old cars. They sure are neat but you don’t really expect everyone to start driving around in old Studebakers, do you?

The generations coming up who get their music from devices some of us can’t even operate aren’t going to have much time for turntables or even something that actually has to be “played.” It simply needs to be summoned, increasingly by voice command.

Still, I take enormous pleasure in a Side Two, in putting down the needle to the groove, in, my god, 45 revolutions per minute. Doesn’t seem fast, does it?

What’s really remarkable here is the quality of the band — they were kids then. The recording sounds a bit like you were in the next room and it’s mono, of course. But the Stones could really pound it. Charlie especially has already mastered the backbeat which will pulse the band down through ages.

The songs are great. Otis Redding’s “Pain in My Heart,” Hank Snow’s “I’m Moving On,” a bit of Solomon Burke’s “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love.” It reminds us that the Stones began wanting to play blues and r&b. That’s what Jones’ ad for musicians that Keith and Mick responded to made clear.

One almost wishes they had covered even more of such masters as Muddy and John Lee than they have down through the many years.

There’s an absolutely rippin fast version of “Route 66.” That must be Keith speeding along. The Stones make the song their own. They were so young.

It seems to me that the Stones, more than the Beatles ever did, overcame the screaming, pre-teen girls to become a terrific concert band. Still out there, aren’t they? Part of it, and you hear it on this album, was that they play so fast and so loud that the screamers can’t drown them out as they seemed to with the Beatles.

Not that the Beatles didn’t try. There’s a piece of the footage of the Beatles’ first US tour in the ballpark in New York and Paul is singing “Long Tall Sally.” He has said he couldn’t even hear himself for the screaming, yet even with the lousy audio quality on the film, he sounds pretty good.

The Beatles eventually gave up the live stuff for the most part to become the pre-eminent rock recording band ever. Their efforts through the remarkable Rubber Soul and Revolver would culminate in the near masterpiece Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and The White Album, one of the art treasures of the Twentieth Century.

To be The World’s Greatest Rock ’n Roll Band, though, the Stones had to master the stage and soon the arena, with dazzling live performances as well as always top notch and occasionally startling albums — think Exile on Main Street, also reissued this year.

What’s so interesting about this little 45 is that you don’t go, “Hey, you can see how good they’re gonna be.” You rather think, “Hey, they were always good. Right from the start.”

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To read more reviews, posts and commentaries by Brian Arsenault click HERE.

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