The Rolling Stones' greatest album is also the best record ever made about the rock & roll life: a double-LP blur of songs about rushing between beds and gigs, high times and emotional whippings, literally cut on the run in France, then Los Angeles, in 1971 and '72. "Rocks Off," "Torn and Frayed" and "Let It Loose" are the Stones at the peak of their blues-and-danger era, Mick Jagger pleading and sneering through a hypnotizing chaos of jellied reverb, blowzy horns and Keith Richards and Mick Taylor's tangled-snake guitars. It was a long haul to that nasty perfection — "Loving Cup" was first recorded in 1969; "Sweet Virginia" was a salty-country leftover from Sticky Fingers — and the outtakes unearthed and, in some cases, retouched for this reissue reveal more (not a lot but enough to be grateful for) about the process and detours. "Good Time Women" is "Tumbling Dice" as an infant — the chorus is there, but the funk is not. "I'm Not Signifying" is a fine New Orleans R&B uproar, but there was already plenty of electric gris-gris on Side Three. The highlight of the bonuses is a striking variation on the closer, "Soul Survivor," sung by Richards instead of Jagger in an enraged bray, as if the guitarist just got up from a vicious beating. I would gladly pay extra to hear a tape of the two debating which version to use.
From The Archives Issue 1105: May 27, 2010