Am I an idiot because I forked out a shedload of money for this set? Am I a sad old git because I have just bought the same album four times, so I can add them to the half dozen other copies I already possess? Should I ask for help from someone qualified to provide it? The...See more
Am I an idiot because I forked out a shedload of money for this set? Am I a sad old git because I have just bought the same album four times, so I can add them to the half dozen other copies I already possess? Should I ask for help from someone qualified to provide it? The answer to each of the above questions is, of course, a resounding YES! An answer incidentally that the other members of my family are already proclaiming loudly. And yet! And yet! I am entirely unrepentant about buying this quite beautifully assembled and presented box set. Since it arrived in my mailbox I have spent several happy hours just holding it, savouring it, admiring it and listening to it. Of course my behaviour is illogical. On any kind of rational level it is virtually impossible to justify. But being a music fan, and in particular a Rolling Stones fan, has never been about logic for me. I have stood in pouring rain at their concerts, drenched to the skin and freezing cold, suffering numerous bouts of illness in the process. At other times I have sweltered in almost 100 degree heat in football stadiums and sporting arenas across the US, waiting for hours for them to honour us with their presence on-stage. That was back when they routinely performed anything up to five or six hours later than advertised. And I have seen them range from sublime to chaotic on stage, sometimes within the same performance. I have never regretted it. Not one second of it. Fandom, enthusiasm, addiction, devotion, call it what you will - makes sense only to the individual themselves, defining its own criteria, and functioning within its own logic. To me this package is as much a sensory, visual and kinesthetic experience as it is an auditory one. It is wonderful to have reproductions of the late Robert Brownjohn''s sketches for the original cover art. It is a delight to have Ethan Russel''s tour photographs so beautifully presented. It is a real treat to have, for the first time since 1969, a mono 7" single of Honky Tonk Women c/w You Can''t always Get What You Want (single edit) And it is quite marvellous to have Bob Ludwig''s new stereo and mono remasters of the album itself. They really are quite extraordinary , especially so in the case of the mono version. Let It Bleed was never mixed in true mono. The mono version released back in the day was in fold-down format, as is the version here. But in his mono remastering, Bob Ludwig has come as close as is humanly possible to letting us hear what a full mono remix of the album might sound like, without actually remixing it. He is, for me, the pre-eminent remastering expert where Rolling Stones recordings are concerned, and is absolutely the best person possible to work on Let It Bleed. A consistent complaint about reissues of the Rolling Stones Decca/ABKCO era recordings concerns the absence of any bonus material - there are no out-takes, rough mixes, early versions, discards and such available on this set. Bootlegs of what still exists have been doing the rounds for many years, and most of them have been posted on line. Little of this material, in my opinion, has any value. Out-takes became out-takes because they were not good enough. And in The Stones case, anything that had potential, but failed to get on the album, ended up being worked on later, and surfaced further down the line on other releases. A sizable amount of the music that featured on Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street had its genesis in the 1967-68 period and I have no doubt that tracks on Exile and Sticky Fingers may have , in earlier incarnations, been under consideration for Beggars Banquet or Let It Bleed. It is entirely understandable that many people compare the Let It Bleed box with Abbey Road or The White Album sets, both of which have a vast amount of bonus material. However I submit two counter-arguments here. Firstly there is a very limited commercial appetite for alternative versions, especially when it comes to wading through repeated takes of certain tracks. Secondly, the nature of the Beatles material is significantly different to The Stones, and both bands composed in completely different ways. In The Beatles case, one or other of the band members would turn up with something partially formed. Under George Martin''s painstaking guidance and encouragement , they would then work through several different recordings, tweaking, polishing and evolving towards the final version. The Stones were nothing like as painstaking. And they never worked with a producer as focused as George Martin. Most, but not all, of The Stones numbers began as studio jams, and when the band hit a groove, they began recording. Where The Beatles might record up to 30 different versions of a track, adding layer after layer of orchestration, minutely adjusting the usage of certain instruments and trying out a variety of different sound effects, The Stones might record 3-4 different takes, but remain largely within the original approach. So there was nothing like the same amount of alternative material left lying about when they had finished. For me, the classy design of this box set, the quality of the contents, and the peerless music herein has made it an essential purchase. It enjoys prime position in my home, proudly proclaiming that its owner is, and always has been, a lifelong Rolling Stones fan. And that he considers this album to be, without doubt, THE GREATEST musical recording he has ever heard. Fifty years after I first purchased Let It Bleed, and smuggled it into my bedroom to avoid the wrath of my father who considered it a complete waste of money, I can give it the homecoming it deserves. At last!