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Album review: Rolling Stones' 'Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!' 40th anniversary box set

Stones-Ya-Yas-edit

Even after the deluge of Woodstock 40th anniversary commemorations we’ve seen this year, a new box set revisiting the Rolling Stones’ celebrated  U.S. tour a couple of months after those three days of peace and music makes an invaluable addition to the pop music archives.

“Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!: The Rolling Stones in Concert,” being released today, starts with the original 1970 live album, which has long stood as one of the great documents of one of rock’s cornerstone bands in absolute peak form.

That album, culled from two shows at Thanksgiving at New York's Madison Square Garden, is supplemented in this four-disc package ($59.98 list price) by a second disc comprising five tracks not included on the original set. A third CD captures the rest of the evening’s stirring opening sets by B.B. King and Ike and Tina Turner.  The fourth disc contains film footage from the Stones' tour shot by acclaimed documentarians Albert and David Maysles (whose 1964 footage of the Beatles' first U.S. tour provided the inspiration for “A Hard Day’s Night”) for what would become the 1970 film "Gimme Shelter."

There’s also a “super deluxe” set ($99.98) that includes the three music discs on vinyl as well as CD.

By the time of the Garden shows, guitarist Mick Taylor had replaced Brian Jones, who’d been fired a few months earlier and then died under mysterious circumstances. In November, “Let It Bleed” was just being released, so the heart of the Stones’ set list was the material drawn from that album and its 1968 predecessor, “Beggars Banquet.” (Yes, Virginia, once upon a time, the Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band in the World was more interested in its newest songs than its classics.)

In fact, the big nods to the past were their versions of songs by a couple of their R&B and blues heroes: Chuck Berry’s “Carol” and “Little Queenie” and Robert Johnson’s “Love in Vain.” The bonus disc and the DVD capture a couple more: Robert Wilkins’ “Prodigal Son” and Fred McDowell and the Rev. Gary Davis’ “You Gotta Move,” which Mick Jagger and Keith Richards play as a virtual unplugged duo, Jagger sinuously singing while Richards applies a wicked slide to his old-school resonator guitar.

The Stones at this stage were still bona fide bad boys of rock — these shows took place less than two weeks before their appearance at the Altamont Motor Speedway, which would torpedo the hippie euphoria from Woodstock in August when Hells Angels hired by the Stones to provide security killed a fan.

Back-to-back renditions of “Midnight Rambler” and “Sympathy for the Devil” play out like the modern-day equivalent of the fabled midnight deal in which bluesman Johnson surrendered his soul for the ability to play and sing like nothing human.

The sound is sterling, Richards’ guitar soaring effortlessly over the nimble rhythm section work by bassist Bill Wyman and drummer Charlie Watts.  As dramatic as are the cornerstone numbers, which also include “Honky Tonk Women” and “Street Fighting Man,” I still argue that the Stones never sounded more exhilarating than in the Berry-inspired “Live With Me.”

The Maysles’ film catches Richards and Jimi Hendrix hanging out backstage, comparing notes on a Plexiglas guitar; then Janis Joplin can be spotted looking on from the side of the stage.  There’s also a curious separate snippet of film showing an impatient group of Stones biding their time at an airport waiting for an overdue plane along with Jerry Garcia and other members of the Grateful Dead.

The package also includes a 55-page book built around photos that Ethan Russell shot while on tour with the group. He also contributes text describing the unfolding of that tour — noting that before showtime, New York Philharmonic conductor Leonard Bernstein was hanging out backstage with Jagger.

Sandwiched in the middle is critic Lester Bangs’ Rolling Stone review of the “Ya-Ya’s” album when it appeared about a year later. It’s amusing to read even back in 1970 Bangs referring to worries about the future of rock music and how the form appeared to be in trouble, even though he thought the Stones sounded magnificent on the live album: “I’m beginning to think Ya-Ya’s just might be the best album they ever made.”

The remarkable thing is how many Stones aficionados would be willing to stand by that statement 40 years later. 

-- Randy Lewis

The Rolling Stones
“Get Your Ya-Ya’s Out!: The Rolling Stones in Concert”
ABKCO Record
**** (Four out of 4 stars)

Photo of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards at Madison Square Garden, 1970. Credit: Ethan A. Russell

 
Comments () | Archives (11)

Also released at the time was a bootleg album "Liver Then You'll Ever Be" from the LA Forum shows. It was in plain white jacket and available at the record store that once stood at Sunset and Laural Canyon.

Interesting that there was not much change in the songs from those in the Ya Ya album. Midnight Rambler might be the one exception. That show and their next round with Stevie Wonder were indeed standouts in an era of standout shows

If this era/69 tour Stones means anything to you you must read Stanley Booths masterwork-
"True Adventures of The Rolling Stones"

40 years on, and they still kick ass better than anyone!

Love the Rolling Stones and love this album, but I am apparently the only person on Earth who is bored by Midnight Rambler - could never sit through that song.

I saw the Stones '69 tour in San Diego. B.B. King, Ike and Tina Turner (with a big dancing revue) were awesome. They left Terry Reid off the CD, too bad, because he was good too.

The Rolling Stones were at their apex on this great album. I can hardly wait to hear it. I may have to get the "super deluxe" version since I still have a stereo and lots of vinyl records from the 60's. I love the blues and I love the Stones.

This box set is a shameless rip-off. For five new Stones songs we're supposed to buy a $60, four-disc box set? If the Stones cared anything about their fans, they would have added the five bonus songs onto a single CD (which have brought total running time to 67 minutes, still pretty meager), remastered the sound and called it a day. No question they were a great rock band when this was recorded. But these days the Stones are all about milking their legacy for every penny it's worth.

fyi - the 'at an airport waiting ' is actually the afternoon of altamont....

This is the Stones at the peak of their powers, possibly the best rock and roll has ever had to offer. Its a shame they have devolved into the money grubbing, almost hilarious caricature of their former selves. Im convinced Mick Jagger would sell his own moms panties, if he thought they could bring him a buck. What a sad decline for this once "Greatest Rock and Roll band"

It's good to know Mick's mom wore panties; I was worried about that. In any case, it's only rock 'n roll, and we shouldn't self-inflate like the Lester Bangs of the world (it amazes me that the music has survived rock journalism). Robert Johnson didn't really sell his soul to the devil, and the Stones didn't incorporate in Hades and offer an IPO. They have aged with more musical grace than Elvis or Jerry Lee -- much more like their heroes Muddy, Wolf and Chuck, whose music continued at a high level throughout their performing careers, even after they stopped breaking new ground. That's all we should ask.

Just to set the record straight, it's Mick Taylors "soaring guitar" on "Midnight Rambler" and "Sympathy for the Devil". On "Sympathy for the Devil", Keith Richard plays the riff over Mick Taylors rhythm guitar for the first several minutes of the song. Then, Keith takes the first lead. Then there is a short interlude, wherein Mick Taylor takes over on lead guitar until the end of the song. In "Midnight Rambler", Keith plays the rhythm guitar in "Open D tuning" for the entire song while Mick Taylor plays the fills and the bluesy lead guitar near the end of the song on a red Gibson SG. Trust me, I not only was there at these gigs, but I've come to know guitar players over the years (being one myself) and I know Richard's sound; Taylor's style; Clapton and Page's licks, etc., etc. Keith plays the Chuck Berry style riffs on "Carol" and Little Queenie" and the lead guitar on "Live With Me" and "Honky Tonk Women". Taylor plays the beautiful slide solo on his sunbust Les Paul in regular tuning on "Love in Vain". He also plays the blues on "Stray Cat Blues". Finally, it's Taylor on all the fills and leads on "Street Fighting Man" with Keith once again laying the rhythm down in "Open D Tuning". This is the greatest live album of all time, and it would only be surpassed if the Stones had not been prevented from releasing the live album from the '72 tour, which is out there titled as "The Unreleased Live Decca Album" which has never been formerly released because of copyright considerations, but has been bootlegged extensively. "Gimme Shelter" is outstanding on that album. The Stones were at their peak musically during the 69-74 years, bolstered by Taylors extreme edge in musicianship and technical magnificience over the others in the group. With Ronnie Wood they have become more popular, but decidely weaker in terms of scope and capability. Wood could never produce anything like Taylor did, either live or in the studio, re: "Sway", "Can't You Hear Me Knocking", "Time Waits for No One", "Winter", "All Down The Line", "Shine a Light", among many others.


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