This one is chock full of hits. Where do you even start? I guess the best place to start is at the beginning, because this one is full of gold.
Right off the bat, this album begins with Brown Sugar, one of the Rolling Stones‘ biggest hits, and that opening riff really sets the tone for the album. Second up is Sway, a solid rock song. Then, bam! Here come classic rock heavy hitters Wild Horses and Can’t You Hear Me Knocking. This album is just that amazing, it’s hit after hit. My favorite tracks are probably the somber, slow Sister Morphine and the lyrical powerhouse Dead Flowers, but this entire album is killer. There were other times in my life where Bitch or I Got the Blues might have been more emotionally pertinent to me, but not at this point in my life.
I’m trying to remember the first time I heard this album, or any song from it, but was there really a time in my life before I knew the Rolling Stones? I remember really picking up the Stones in high school, and my appreciation just grew from there, but it was far from the first I’d heard of them. I imagine it would have been quite a thing to hear this album when it was new, especially on vinyl, with headphones. Oh, bliss.
So basically, I recommend this album. Does it make the Top 25? I’m not sure. I’m trying to think of a Stones album I like more than this one, and I know there is one that I can’t put my finger on. I will say, as of this posting, Dead Flowers is my favorite Stones song, so that’s gotta count for something, but that favorite song is constantly changing. That’s the magic of the Stones and all really great (or at least prolific) musicians, they seem to have a song for every mood and occasion.
Part of the reason I wanted to do this wacky experiment/blog was to root out a lot of live music, because it is not my favorite most of the time and I have a let a lot slip through over the years. There are, however, exceptions to this rule, and this album is (generally) one of them. While I am not a huge fan of How the West Was Won and other Led Zeppelin live albums, a lot of the Jimmy Page and Robert Plant live stuff hits the spot sometimes for some reason I haven’t figured out yet.
I like when artists take something that is so known and try to do something different with the sound or the lyrics when they play the song live. This album is a great example of that. Every song seems to be altered in some way from the original. The flute solo at the beginning of Friends is a beautiful new introduction to the song and Yallah and City Don’t Cry are inspired tracks, not to mention that I have a soft spot in my heart for Since I’ve Been Loving You. Songs I didn’t care for? Well, I don’t love the titular song. No Quarter sounds like it was mixed wrong, and feels like it’s missing something. Probably that driving bass line that is somehow absent. Overall, the album is solid though, with some Zeppelin hits with some unexpected sounds in familiar tunes.
It is a great, but imperfect, live album, but isn’t that what is so loved about live performances? The imperfections? The times the artist went off book? One of my favorite live albums (because I do have favorites despite my preferences against live music) is Counting Crows’ Across A Wire: Live In New York City, where whole sections of the lyrics are altered from the original, and it makes the songs take on exciting new meaning, it breathes new life into something you’ve heard a million times over. That’s one of the virtues of live music, I guess.
This album is an essential to me because it has essential tracks on it, top being Yallah and City Don’t Cry (neither Zeppelin standards), but overall as an album, I only really listen to it rarely, and this was probably the first time I listened to it all the way through despite enjoying some of the tracks immensely. The best stuff here is the stuff you can’t get from a Led Zeppelin album, the new stuff, the differences, and most of them work, but when it comes to my go-to Zeppelin, I usually prefer their albums to anything live.