A regular Thursday feature of this channel.

Peter Baird


Jeez what a week. Maybe I’m just not looking in the right places, but this is the toughest week for new music I’ve seen since I started doing this playlist. I hold out hope for the new Harry Styles and Art d’Ecco albums, but the pre-releases haven’t grabbed me.

And then on the verge of giving up, a gift from the universe drops into my lap. True, it’s from 1977, but it was just released. And it’s from one of the greatest live bands of all time at the height of their powers. Instead of individually describing the songs I’ve selected from Rolling Stones Live at the El Mocambo I’d just like to highlight a few things I hear listening to these gems.

First is the sonics and the mixes. They are first-rate. You can actually hear Bill’s bass. There are almost no effects forward in the mix, just Mick’s voice, Ron and Keef’s guitars, Bill and Charlie chugging away, and Billy Preston (yes, Billy Preston) on keys. It’s a great balance, no notes.

Second, the band. I listen to these tracks for how the boys constructed their groove, and I’ve got a few observations. Charlie defers to Keith for initial tempos and tempo shifts (inadvertent or not) within the songs. Keith, on the other hand, is listening closely to Ron and weaving and changing the registers he plays his Keith signature licks in to see what Ron will do. Ron in turn is listening to Keith and actively filling in the empty parts in real time, soloing when asked. Bill spends a lot of time laying out, and when he does play he nearly always is looking for counterpoint to what Keith is doing. And Bill never thinks about time. Ever. He just trusts his long partnership with Charlie will park the beat in exactly the right place.

Finally, the full package. Mick’s singing takes that constantly congealing and melting groove and makes it stand up and live. Dance Little Sister and Tumbling Dice are all the illustration anyone needs that Mick is the greatest interpreter of Mick and Keith lyrics.

Thanks to my buddy Brian Beirne for insisting I listen to this album now instead of a month from now.