The Rolling Stones: Goats Head Soup (Deluxe Edition) (Polydor/Interscope/UMe) | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Goats Head Soup (Deluxe Edition)

Polydor/Interscope/UMe

Nov 03, 2020 The Rolling Stones Bookmark and Share


At the tail end of 1972, The Rolling Stones decamped to Jamaica to make the follow up to their monster Exile on Main St. album from the year before. Still tax exiles from Britain, they were partly avoiding coming home and partly looking for new inspiration. The resultant album, Goats Head Soup, has been retrospectively viewed as something of a clunker in the Stones catalog, not reaching near the artistic heights of the albums that preceded it (1971’s Sticky Fingers and the aforementioned Exile). Now, reissued in multiple formats, including a four-disc deluxe version, Goats Head Soup is being hailed as something of a lost classic, the album that simply got overlooked in the Stones’ catalog, having the misfortune of immediately following the masterpiece that was Exile. The truth, as you might imagine, is somewhere in the middle.

To provide a brief run down: The album starts off with “Dancing With Mr. D.,” which, despite a funked up feel has always stuck in this particular reviewer’s craw as representative of lesser Stones. Once you make it past that, the album acquits itself quite well. “100 Years Ago” is an underrated classic. “Coming Down Again” is chilled out bliss. “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)” jams. It’s hard to newly evaluate with fresh ears a track such as “Angie,” which has become so omnipresent, but it certainly is Stones-ian balladry at its best. “Silver Train” is a great blues workout with some wonderful slide guitar. “Hide Your Love” is fine, not offensive, catchy enough but not one of the Stones’ best. “Winter,” however, is severely overlooked in the Stones oeuvre. Criminally forgotten perhaps, but it vastly outperforms the heralded “Angie” as one of the top Stones ballads. “Can You Hear the Music” has a nice laid back vibe but is fairly one note. And “Star Star” often seems most remarkable for the fact that Mick Jagger says fucker over and over and raunchily shouts out to feminine hygiene, Chuck Berry riff notwithstanding.

Revisiting Goats Head Soup today, it is clearly a very good-to-great Stones album. But a lost classic, I’m not so sure. What is classic, however, is the reissue presented here. The deluxe box set contains both an extra CD of rarities and alternative mixes from the Goats Head sessions, a disc featuring the oft-bootleged Brussels Affair concert from October 1973, and a fourth Blu-Ray surround sound disc with audio and three videos.

Addressing firstly the disc of rarities and alternative mixes, what we find is three unreleased songs from the sessions, one demo, a couple instrumentals, and a few alternate mixes. Given that the Stones recorded 30 tracks in Jamaica during their sessions for the album, three extra tracks seems a bit paltry. I know that the band tends to play it close to the vest with releasing material they didn’t initially deem worthy of release, but one would hope they could be a little less precious with their unreleased material. Of the three, “Scarlet,” is pleasant if somewhat rudimentary mid-period Stones, most notable for having Jimmy Page playing lead guitar on a day that Mick Taylor was out sick. “All the Rage” is a jaunty number that features rollicking barroom piano and exhilarating guitar solos that nod to the Stones’ more country-ish work. And “Criss Cross” is Mick Jagger vocal sleaze at its best. The one “piano demo” is of “100 Years Ago,” and this track is perhaps the best of the bonus material, a revelatory exposing of the raw soul of one of the album’s best tracks. Additionally, of the instrumentals included, “Dancing With Mr. D.” is quite possibly (in this reviewer’s admittedly biased opinion) more interesting than the album track.

The real coup of the extras is the Brussels Affair live disc. Fifteen tracks of all older material, with the exception of four songs from Goats Head Soup in the middle of the set, the album is absolutely stunning. The sound quality is perfect and the Stones are at the absolute top of their game. Songs that have become tired almost 50 years on from repeated radio plays are heard here like brand new with an energy and fire that simply jumps from the speakers. Having it as part of this set is a treasure.

For those who splurge for the deluxe box, there is also a few posters, a recipe for actual goats head soup, and a 120-page book with an array of photographs and documents from the time, along with three essays, one on the album’s creation, one on its tour, and one on the album art. It allows one to really dig deep into the story of album, which gives a more nuanced understanding of what has become with time something of a polarizing album in the Stones catalog. (www.rollingstones.com)

Author rating: 7.5/10

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Average reader rating: 6/10



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