Monday, January 30, 2006

Various Artists - Exile On Blues Street (2003)

I offer my deepest apologies to those people who believe the Rolling Stones really were the "world's greatest rock 'n' roll band" because I'm about to commit rock 'n' roll blasphemy with this statement: Exile on Main Street, the 1972 double-disc Rolling Stones LP considered by most critics of the musical cultural elite to be one of the finest rock albums ever recorded, is an immensely bad album. Maybe it's the very muddy sounding final mix that made every song -- except for the two big hit singles, "Tumbling Dice" and "Happy" -- sound the same, or it could be the crudity of many of the songs. After all, what is there to like about a song titled "Turd on the Run"?

Therefore, you may be surprised to find that I feel just the opposite about this compilation from Telarc consisting of 10 songs from Main Street re-recorded by a crackerjack blues band along with a host of blues all-stars.

Exile on Blues Street is another in Telarc's series of CDs in which they take classic rock albums and record new blues versions of them. Two other classics LPs they've reinvented are The Beatles' White Album, which the record company retitled The Blues White Album, and Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde.

The studio band Telarc gathered for this CD includes Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon, formerly of Stevie Ray Vaughan's band. Each track has a different lead vocalist and often a different lead guitarist. Christine Ohlman does a hot version of "All Down the Line," Otis Taylor sings and plays guitar on "Sweet Black Angel" with Cassie Taylor on backup vocal, and Tommy Castro performs a smoking version of "Rip This Joint." Another favorite is Lucky Peterson's version of "Ventilator Blues." Jimmy Thackery closes the 10-song disc with a fantastic version of "Rocks Off."

It is common knowledge that the Stones music was born from the blues, but they mostly played a hybrid fused with rock 'n' roll. This album is the real thing and is a great example of how the Stones would have sounded if they stayed in the blues genre rather than playing rock for more than 40 years. Listening to this CD will make you appreciate their music in a way you didn't before.

Fortunately, "Turd on the Run" is nowhere to be found.

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