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STICKY FINGERS DELUXE EDITION
THE ALTERNATE TRACKS
6/5/15

by Bud Scoppa

We’ve already marked June 8 on our calendars as the opening day of Apple’s WWDC, but we’ve got June 9 is circled as well. That’s the day the expanded reissue of the Rolling StonesSticky Fingers will be unleashed by UMe. And believe it or not, the greatest album by the world’s greatest rock & roll band is now even greater.

From the titanic riffage of “Brown Sugar” to the cinematic splendor of “Moonlight Mile,” the third of the Rolling Stones’ four straight studio masterpieces released between 1968 and ’72 may well be the best of this exalted bunch. While the regally raunchy Beggars Banquet, the subterranean Let It Bleed and the sprawling Exile on Main St. are crammed with wonders, 1971’s Sticky Fingers contains one indelible classic after another—there’s not one moment on this extraordinary piece of work that isn’t explosively immediate.

Amazingly, the same can be said for the five alternate takes that have been unearthed for the occasion. I can’t credit the responsible engineers (I don’t yet have the credits), but the mixes separate the guitar parts, setting off the interaction of Keith Richards and Mick Taylor, just settling into his role as the Stones’ first bona fide lead guitarist. And on one magical track, the stereo split isolates a delectable slide part from a surprise special guest.

The Deluxe Edition also contains 18 previously unreleased live tracks from the period between the Stones’ monumental ’69 and ’72 tours, which we have yet to hear.

An early, pre-jam take on “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’” serves the same purpose as the roughs collected by Jimmy Page for Rhino’s Led Zeppelin expanded reissues—revealing how this stunner first came together, as Keith shapes the soon-to-be-iconic riff that drives the first half of the song, Charlie picks up on the falling-down-the-stairs groove, Mick Taylor fills in the holes with hot licks and Mick Jagger exhorts his bandmates by interjecting “C’mon, c’mon” into his scratch vocal.

If anything, this burnished acoustic rendering of “Wild Horses” intensifies the torn and frayed ballad’s morning-after ache, centered on Jagger’s nakedly vulnerable vocal performance.

The six-minute version of “Bitch”—a completely different take from the album track—serves as a showcase for Mick Taylor’s super-tasty guitar work, with its spun-gold flow and staccato interjections.

Here we get into godhead territory, revealing the Stones in full-on folk-rock mode, as David Fricke notes in his Rolling Stone review of the reissue. Indeed, this springy performance of the glorious “Dead Flowers” is as close as they would ever come to the Byrds—specifically that band’s post-Sweetheart of the Rodeo latter-day lineup, Taylor’s fleet-fingered licks strikingly reminiscent of the late, great Clarence White’s dexterous picking.

And now for the pick of the litter—a rollicking run through “Brown Sugar” featuring none other than Eric Clapton, who commandeers the left channel of the stereo mix with cascading slide guitar accents, as Keith hammers away on the song’s familiar driving riff. And just like that, we have a brand new essential Stones cut to treasure.

The Stones’ Vevo channel also offers a newly made, performance-packed mini-doc that bears the exalted but accurate title The Rolling Stones - Mojo Working – The Making of Modern Music. Not a bad way to spend 25 minutes.