The Cover ArtThe Stones always put extra effort into the packaging, and Exile ranks with Sticky Fingers and Some Girls as the best. Dominique Tarlé basically lived with the band for 6 months, painting the mystique with his black-and-white candid photography. Many of his best shots aren't even on the album packaging, but their usage in marketing materials, the "Stones in Exile" documentary, and various books just builds the legend even further. Here's a link to a gallery that does them more justice than I do here: http://www.snapgalleries.com/?page=collectionview&itemid=10028&itemID2=20005
The Outtakes Are Pretty GreatThe deluxe reissue has a 10 song bonus disc of outtakes. As a lifelong collector of bootlegs, the news that these tracks (the vast majority of which have NOT shown up on bootleg) were coming out was roughly equivalent to unearthing the Dead Sea Scrolls. Still, I've learned over the years that outtakes are almost always a letdown - and pleased to report that these definitely are not.
I'm not going to say these are phenomenal - Mick recently overdubbed vocals to 4 of the 10 tracks. While I'm guessing it was due to necessity - the vocals were probably never finished as they already had enough tracks for a double album, and while the Stones have been known over the years to go back to unfinished tracks years later, most notably for "Start Me Up" - it would be impossible for him today to nail that decadent '72 vibe. But the tracks themselves are quite solid and do fit said vibe - with the full horns and pianos treatment - and it's obvious Mick did the best his further-down-the-line self could. My favorite new track so far is "So Divine (Alladin's Story)" - clip attached. Not surprisingly, this is one of the non-overdubbed ones. That said, "Plundered My Soul" and "Following The River" are excellent tracks even with the overdubs, and all the new songs are worth a listen.
In addition to 7 unheard songs there are also radically different versions of "Loving Cup" and "Soul Survivor" that are quite the treat, as well as the previously-bootlegged "Good Time Women" (a really early, very different version of "Tumbling Dice"). Ben Ratliff in the NYTimes states that the "Loving Cup" outtake (in this case recorded a few years earlier at Olympic Studios in London) "seems to me the best thing the Stones ever did", and he tries to make a case that the "recorded in French Exile" aspect of the album is overrated. While his article is an interesting read, I don't agree with this assessment http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/23/arts/music/23stones.html. I think the album version of "Loving Cup" is a ragged masterpiece, but then again I like my ragged.
"Happy"As pure rock and roll as a song gets. Keith + the horns.
The Drugs(Under this banner I include Mr. Jack Daniels and Sir Cabernet)
Many great records in rock history have been written or recorded when most of the key elements in a band were under the influence. One could make a very strong case that there is a window of time when this works, and then the rot (or even death) sets in as it almost-inevitably goes too far. But that is another list for another time.
It's safe to say that just about everyone in the Stones' circle was partying, hard, during the making of this album. This has been chronicled at length and through legend, most notoriously in a book "Up And Down With The Rolling Stones" by Keef's personal assistant/drug dealer the late "Spanish Tony" Sanchez. http://www.amazon.com/Down-Rolling-Stones-Tony-Sanchez/dp/0905846915/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1274652352&sr=1-1
A careful examination of the credits on the album reveal "Marimbas - Amyl Nitrate". Etc.
On "Exile", like Neil Young's "Tonight's The Night" or Derek And The Dominoes "Layla", the altered states of the players seep into just about every note. The reel-to-reels captured a very real level of emotion that would be impossible for these players to replicate ever again.
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