Review – Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! The Rolling Stones in Concert–40th Anniversary Deluxe Box Set & Let It Bleed–The Rolling Stones, Altamont, and the End of the Sixties, by Ethan Russell

On November 26 & 27th, the classic Rolling Stones live album Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! The Rolling Stones in Concert celebrates its 40th anniversary, and to mark the event ABKCO Records released two new box sets.

There is little argument that the Madison Square Garden concerts in 1969 marked a high point in the Rolling Stones career. The lineup included a young Mick Taylor replacing the late Brian Jones, and the song list included work from the recently released Beggars Banquet LP and soon to be released Let It Bleed disc, and explored the blues in a more directed way. The guitar interplay between Taylor and Richards set new standards for the band, and the Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts rhythm section laid down a tight, pulsing backbone.

Which brings us to the newest incarnation of the classic Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! release. From the moment you open the packaging of the Deluxe version, there is little doubt that ABKCO approached this project with respect. It's evident in the discs, a postcard reproduction of the original tour poster, and a booklet featuring Ethan Russell's wonderful photographs of the tour, as well as commentary by Russell, Lester Bangs, and fans.

Russell was the art director for the ABCKO Deluxe Edition project, which drew upon his recently published book Let It Bleed–The Rolling Stones, Altamont, and the End of the Sixties, which the booklet was drawn from. Viewed in its own light, it is certainly one of the best rock and roll books we've seen. Russell's photographs of the tour, with essays and recollections, are tightly edited by his longtime collaborator Gerard Van Der Leun into a vibrant whole. The reproductions are first rate, especially for a trade edition, and the layout and design compliment an insider's view of what many consider rock and roll's penultimate year, 1969. The book coupled with the audio discs, provides a fascinating view of the decade through the decidedly surreal filter of life on the road with the Stones. When you think of a year that started with a dream and ended in a rock and roll tragedy, Russell's documentation becomes all the more vital.

With the ABKCO 2002 SACD reissue campaign the Stones finally had a first-class remastering of their seminal early years, and the care put into those discs was evident, no matter if you listened to the normal 16 bit CD version, or the high-bit SACD layer that added even more nuance and musicality. One of the nicest things to come out of the reissues was the pronounced and detailed bottom end, which lost much of the muddiness of earlier versions, and for the first time you could really hear and appreciate how vital and tightly packed the Wyman-Watts-Richards engine was.

I posed the question to ABCKO concerning the audio differences between the 2002 release, and the new one, and the answer was that this was indeed a new remastering of the album. Since Sony is pushing Blu-ray, they have limited SACD production, this release doesn't contain the high-resolution content, but comparing the sound between the 2002 and 2009 mixes it does appear that there are differences, with an emphasized bottom end, which seems louder and punchier. Comparing the SACD mix to the CD release is like comparing apples and oranges, so when listening to the two, I concentrated on the CD versions.

Disc one replicates the original 10 track release on LP, Disc two features 5 unreleased tracks from the concerts, disc three includes the opening sets by B.B. King, and Ike and Tina Turner, and finally a DVD with footage of the concert by the Maysles Brothers rounds out the set.

There have been grumblings from folks feeling that the entire audio set could have been brought down to two discs, dramatically the lowering the price, which is certainly a valid point. I think that view doesn't properly address the need to keep the historic record intact, as well as add to the legacy. By preserving the original release's track list, they provide an up-to-date remastering of the classic album, similar to Apple and EMI's decision to not tinker with the Beatles' releases. Sure, you can pack a lot of music on a disc, but for serious fans the historical accuracy is just as important as saving a few bucks by using every available byte. With disc two containing the 5 unreleased tracks, the Stones are kept separate from the other acts, but the short track list leaves one wanting a lot more music! With disc three we finally get to hear what primed the crowd, first-rate performances from B.B. King and Ike and Tina Turner.

The DVD is a nice addition and provides a visual reference to the unreleased tracks, since they are the same songs as on disc two. There are some fun bits at an airport, and a great sequence during the photo shoot for the cover of the album, however some of it has been available for a while on the Criterion DVD release of Gimme Shelter by the Maysles.

Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! The Rolling Stones in Concert–40th Anniversary Deluxe Box Set is a carefully thought out, lovingly crafted tribute to one of the greatest live rock and roll albums, and recommended for the hard-core Stones fan in your life. The presentation, packaging, and audio are all first rate, and for fans who have chased poor quality bootlegs for the unreleased tracks, their inclusion makes up for lost time.

Another reason to consider this set is simply how cool it is! Want to make a Stones fan really happy? Just add a gift-wrapped copy of Ethan Russell's Let It Bleed  -  The Rolling Stones, Altamont, and End of the Sixties with the Deluxe Box Set. They are both Mac Edition Radio Gift Guide picks.

Harris Fogel, Posted 11/28/2009

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