One of the ongoing trends since the advent of the digital age is the consistent re-mastering of classic albums. This is so that a new generation of fans can discover a bygone classic and also for older fans to hear their favourite albums in a new ‘avatar’, so to speak.
So although most of the music from the analogue (pre-CD/mp3) age is now available, there is still the carrot that music companies dangle before fans and music aficionados alike. The carrot being the re-mastered-deluxe-editions-with-bonus material versions of most music albums as we know them.
The list is exhaustive but to illustrate a few examples, there is the recent complete Beatles catalogue that was re-mastered with mini-documentaries on the making of each album embedded in the individual discs, add to that some superb repackaging with new liner notes and rare pictures.
Then, every four or five years The Doors’ catalogue will get re-packaged with new replications of classic album artworks with a few bonus live or demo tracks thrown in. Then there are individual classic albums like Def Leppard’s Hysteria, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Nine Inch Nail’s Downward Spiral, Pink Floyd’s The Wall and many other such individual gems that get the anniversary treatment, all re-mastered and re-packaged (and re-priced), of course.
One of the most recent additions to that pantheon has been the classic Rolling Stones album Exile On Main St., released in the May of 1972, it was their first and only double album, with 18 songs that have since become classics in various ways.
At first listen the album seems like a very ordinary jumbled collection of ditties that fit into the varied umbrella of rock n roll. The Stones didn’t have too many hits of this album save for the raucous Tumbling Dice. And although songs like Happy and All Down The Line were released as singles, it was the other songs that have since gained their own individual resonance.
Shine A Light which appears as track 3 on side four of the LP and track 17 for all those who own the CD, was the title of Martin Scorcese’s concert documentary, which also featured Lovin’ Cup a song that appears as number 4 on side two and 9 of the LP and CD respectively.
But to come back to the subject of the restoration, a lot of the albums that have been out on CD, have been the mixes that were done on the primitive equipment of the time. And as we know, modern advances in sound technology have made it possible to go back and restore some of the original recording ideas that were mooted at the time.
For those who have heard the album on their 35plus year old LP’s and their similar copies on CD will welcome the re-mastering of this classic Stones album.
So the crunchy guitars on Casino Boogie and Rocks Off are even crunchier. Al Perkins’ steel guitar solo rips it up on Torn & Frayed. The late great Billy Preston lives again on Shine a Light.
Since its release and resurgence, with the added staying power of the Stones themselves, Exile On Main St. has consistently popped up on various best of lists across the board, be it albums, guitar albums, songs, album covers, decades etc.
In fact, Mick Jagger has gone on record to say that it’s not one of his favourite Stones albums, probably because of the stories attached to the making of it.
However, time has been the healer and this deluxe edition of the re-mastered album includes a bonus disc of rarities (10 songs) from that era that did not make it onto the album, in addition, a DVD that has a 30 minute, making-of documentary and a 50 page book with pictures from the time.
I could go on and tell you about how the album has influenced many generations of musicians since but that’s for another time. For now, go listen to this album again, for the first time, for this is some great rock ‘n roll ‘exile’ to go into…if I may say so.