Review Summary: The Rolling Stones strike with fierce performances influenced by the musical scene of 1978.
The Rolling Stones were taking off again in 1978. After the somewhat dissapointing Black And Blue, the Stones released Some Girls, their comeback album in which they explored the (by then) current state of popular music, with the punk/disco-influenced hit singles "Respectable", "Miss You" and "Beast Of Burden". With multiple hit singles scored and the reaching of Some Girls to N°1 in the US, the Stones were brought back to full form, and were more than ready to hit the roads again on their first american tour in three years. Taken from that tour, in their show on Forth Worth, Texas, is this live album that manages to capture "the greatest rock 'n' roll band" on their most agressive and ferocious.
A cover of Chuck Berry's "Let It Rock" opens the night. Fusing deliberatly exhausted and hurried vocals and speedy, heavy guitar riffs, the Stones implicitly tell us this show will be different from any other. And that is true indeed; a lot of the performances on the album seem to be heavily influenced by the punk movement, reshaping a lot of popular tunes into a more savage and agressive style. But well, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. For example, the easy rocker "All Down The Line" takes a dirtier change of direction by adding more guitar sonority and lower-volumed vocals. That sort of rework fits perfectly into the songs that were already fluid and fast-paced, but it does not so much in songs with intermittent riffs such as the classic "Brown Sugar" or "Star Star".
7 of the 10 songs in Some Girls are featured here one after the other, starting with one the greatest performances of the night: "When The Whip Comes Down". Like "All Down The Line" or "Shattered", this song benefits from the rougher and edgier style of performing the Stones were trying to accomplish, changing from a not-so-interesting number on the album to a (most definetly) catchy and powerful chorus-based, exciting three guitar piece.
But if you think this live album focuses only on messy punk riffs, you got it wrong. We still get a handful of amazing slower dance tunes or blues/gospel numbers. For example, "Beast Of Burden", a slow almost-disco song, gets an amazing treatment, sounding a lot more vulnerable and desperate that in the studio version, but still being able to keep the delicacy and professionality it originaly had. "Miss You" and "Far Away Eyes" also get a a brilliant performance, the former lasting almost 9 minutes full of four-to-the-floor drumming and dark shaded guitars, and the later being a quieter gospel ballad with some very nice background piano.
But, sadly, it's not all roses on here. There are some very dissapointing performances of otherwise great songs that get almost completely ruined. The all-time Stones classic "Honky Tonk Women" is treated with little care on the sing-along chorus "It's the honky tonk women/give me, give me, give me the honky tonk blues", turning it into an unprofessional excursion of lousy vocals. The biggest let downs also include "Happy", "Brown Sugar" and "Star Star", all being wrecked by mediocre and generic riffs, even altering the tempo of the songs to make them sound like an unnecessary fusion between Chuck Berry and the Sex Pistols.
Only two songs don't get a rework done, "Tumbling Dice" and the closing "Jumpin' Jack Flash". It seems the Stones tried to keep the original atmosphere on those two numbers, and the result is as satisfaying as you can expect it to be. It's great that no punk feeling or sound has been brought up on these songs, since they have a unique style that could be easily messed up by adding a rougher element to them. Specially on the thrilling "Tumbling Dice", where all the magic there was on the studio recording (except for the female choir) remains and still amazes.
To conclude this review, this is definetly a live album to give a listen to. Maybe it's not as polished as the critically acclaimed Get Yer Ya Ya's Out!, but it manages to add a new edge to great tunes and still keep the soul in each one of them. A perfect showcase of The Rolling Stones on one of their highest moments.
LET IT ROCK: 8 / 10
ALL DOWN THE LINE: 9.25 / 10
HONKY TONK WOMEN: 6 / 10
STAR STAR: 2.25 / 10
WHEN THE WHIP COMES DOWN: 10 / 10
BEAST OF BURDEN: 10 /10
MISS YOU: 9 / 10
SHATTERED: 9 / 10
RESPECTABLE: 7.50 / 10
FAR AWAY EYES: 8.50 / 10
LOVE IN VAIN: 7 / 10
TUMBLING DICE: 10 / 10
HAPPY: 4 / 10
SWEET LITTLE SIXTEEN: 7 / 10
BROWN SUGAR: 1 / 10
JUMPIN' JACK FLASH: 10 / 10