Live Licks

THE ROLLING STONES: Live Licks (Virgin) For years now, The Rolling Stones have had the following schedule: record an album, tour, release a live album documenting the tour. Even though the last album (Forty Licks) was a greatest hits record (with the obligatory new tracks added on, of course), the band went out tour in its support. The thing that made these shows different from the rest was the way they performed in three different settings (clubs, arenas, and stadiums)--giving fans a rare opportunity to see three drastically different shows on the same tour. So, true to their tradition, Live Licks is the latest live release from "the world's greatest rock 'n roll band." There are a good number of great performances, a few that should've been left off, and a lot that are sadly missing from the CDs. Disc one contains most of the 'standards,' while disc two (the better of the two) contains mainly album tracks, cover songs, etc.

Starting with a poorly mixed "Brown Sugar" (Ronnie is hard to hear) and a sloppy "Street Fighting Man," disc one gets off to a mediocre start. The performances pick up over the next three songs "Paint It, Black," "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and "Start Me Up." The live version of "It's Only Rock 'n Roll" has never been able to match the studio version, and it doesn't here either. After a nicely done "Angie," disc one goes down the tubes with the talentless Sheryl Crow--once again, ruining a perfectly good rendition of Honky Tonk Women. I'll never understand why the band keeps inviting her back for more. Keith drops the key on "Happy" this time. Some of the shows had the band doing the song in the same key as the album--not here. Maybe Keith can't always hit the notes anymore. Lisa Fischer always does an outstanding job on Gimme Shelter, and doesn't disappoint a bit.

Once again, the band drops the key for "Neighbours." A better idea (as is the case later on disc two with "Beast of Burden") would've been to drop the song completely. With all the material that they could've used from the tour, why include inferior cuts like these? The rest of disc two makes up the majority of the highlights on Live Licks. "Monkey Man" & "When the Whip Comes Down" are both outstanding, energetic cuts. But the coolest things on disc two are the cover songs: "That's How Strong My Love Is," The Nearness of You" (with Keith on vocals), "Rock Me, Baby" (too bad they didn't use one of the performances with Buddy Guy) and the song the band used to open their concerts with back in the old days, "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love" (featuring Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Solomon Burke on vocals).

Considering all the songs played on the tour, Live Licks is a mixed bag. Those of you who own a DVD player (doesn't everyone by now?) would be better off picking up a copy of the Four Flicks DVD (3 complete shows - one each from the club, arena, and stadium venues, plus a documentary). With over 60 tracks, it's a much better representation of the tour--plus it looks and sounds great. The only catch is that Four Flicks is only available at Best Buy stores.

Editor's note: Live Licks is also available with a topless cover.

© 2004 Steve Marshall
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