The Rolling Stones: Sticky Fingers—Super Deluxe Edition

The Rolling Stones are at it again. The world’s greatest band has rolled out the big guns for its 15-date North American stadium run that’s been dubbed the ZIP CODE Tour, a 19-song walk, stomp ’n romp through a half-century of impeccably unimpeachable classics. That taut live set places an emphasis on digging deeper into cuts culled from the perpetually seminal 1971 album Sticky Fingers, which has just been given the Super Deluxe box-set treatment by Polydor/UMe. A club gig at The Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles on May 20 saw The Stones rip that joint up 16 times, including their first stabs at Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “You Gotta Move” since 1976 and the dreamily soothing “Moonlight Mile” since 1999, both Sticky tracks having since made their way into regular rotation as part of the stadium set lists. (Longtime fans like yours truly feel The Stones should do intimate clubs gig like the Fonda outing more often, as it helps loosen up the vibe of songs that often become broader and less adventuresome in stadium settings.)

As befits current practice, you can get Sticky in multiple formats and configurations, including the three CD and one DVD mega box, the double 180-gram LP package complete with Andy Warhol’s original zippered-pants cover art, and the super deluxe download, the latter currently only via iTunes. But it’s the Super Deluxe Edition that requests our most attentive majesties’ aural attention. Disc 1 is a remaster of the original album, and while all ten of its tracks have essentially been ingrained into our brains thanks to more than four decades of rock-radio saturation, it remains a masterful representation of how a band can lock into a groove to move past both tragedy (the death of Brian Jones, Altamont) and the faded dream of the ’60s.

Disc 2 is the real gem here, a mixture of five alternate takes/mixes plus five live tracks culled from a gig at London’s Roundhouse in 1971. “Brown Sugar” finds Eric Clapton on howling slide-guitar duty, a different echo on Mick Jagger’s cutting lead vocal, thumpier bass from Bill Wyman, and Keith Richards’ counter-harmony vocals further on up in the mix. It’s quite fascinating as an outtake, but just a few notches below the hard-driving final version we know so intimately. An abbreviated “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” with Jagger still working through the lyrics, showcases the push-pull character of Mick Taylor and Keith Richards’ guitar chemistry—which exudes a different vibe than the more complementary give-and-take feel Richards has since shared with Ronnie Wood—while an extended take on “Bitch” gives Richards and Taylor even more room to jam with abandon, with Charlie Watts’ ever-steady beat and Jagger’s patented spit-scat helping drive the back half. This “Bitch” be smoking hot! Meanwhile, the jangly, feisty alternate version of “Dead Flowers” could very well have served as the template for the No Depression movement. “We might slow it down,” Richards says at its conclusion—and that’s exactly what the band did for the actual album.

Disc 3 (Get Yer Leeds Lungs Out!) and the DVD (Live at The Marquee Club, 1971) are all about the live experience, each capturing The Stones in their tight but loose glory days. The Leeds disc expands on the Roundhouse set list that rounded out Disc 2, consisting of sinew-rattling and bone-crushing rides through tracks like the blues-infused “Little Queenie” and the sneering, still poignant “Street Fighting Man.” The 14-minute DVD features two tracks culled from Eagle Rock’s separate and complete From the Vault: The Marquee–Live in 1971 release. A 10-minute “Midnight Rambler” kicks off with Jagger blowing a mean harp, his eyes closed and his hands wrapped tightly around the microphone. And then the song takes full flight, oh-so-acutely ebbing and flowing in tempo and intent at will. “Bitch” is even more reckless, furiously punctuated by the late Bobby Keys’ sax riffing and Richards’ glorious glass-guitar solo.

If you can’t get enough of what you want in terms of hearing The Stones rock it live, there are additional releases in Eagle Rock’s From the Vault series, including the CD/DVD combos L.A. Forum–Live in 1975 and Hampton Coliseum–Live in 1981, with more on the way. But when it comes to garnering a finer appreciation of the sonically tattooed earwig that is Sticky Fingers, wild horses couldn’t drag me away.

Label: Polydor/UMe
Audio Formats: 44.1-kHz/16-bit PCM Stereo (CDs), 96-kHz/24-bit Dolby True-HD 5.1 (DVD)
Number of Tracks: 35 (33 on 3 CDs, 2 on 1 DVD)
Length: 3:12:31 (CDs), 14:03 (DVD)
Producer: Jimmy Miller
Engineers: Glyn Johns, Andy Johns, Chris Kimsey, Jimmy Johnson, Larry Hamby, Keith Harwood

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World's greatest Rock 'n' Roll band.