Live Stones in the Disco Era -- Not Their Best
Socrates Stewart | Owings Mills, MD | 03/25/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The Rolling Stones always embraced contradictions and usually made them work, but when it comes to what "Love You Live" represents, the irony is how can a band that has been the ultimate "must have" tickets issue live albums that are not too exciting.
"Love You Live" follows the Stones true live masterpiece, "Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out." Gone is the raw power of the band being a self-contained unit with occasional piano from Ian Stewart. Gone is Mick Taylor whose guitar virtuosity made some of the songs so memorable. Put in its place a sense of showmanship and glitter plus some obvious stylistic concessions to funk and the glitz scene of the mid-to-late 1970's. Help driving the sound in that direction is Billy Preston playing with the band on most of the album. Some of it works. Some is a disaster. Some just sounds dated.
Right from the beginning, the new world order appears as the openning number, "Honky Tonk Woman," becomes a much tamer, campier number. Sounding like the Stones Las Vegas Review, the second number melds "If You Can't Rock Me" with "Get Off of My Cloud" strongly highlighting Billy Preston who swaps lines with Mick on the "Cloud" portion. The third cut is much more geniune and is Keith Richards' debut on lead vocals on a live album with a very fast-paced and rockin' version of "Happy." It's also the first number where Ronnie Wood, his first tour with the band, starts to become noticeable. "Star Star" and "Hot Stuff" are just crappy live versions of new songs since their last live recording. Thus ends what would have been side one of the double LP set. What would be side two is pretty much all throw-away material starting with what sounds almost like a roller-rink organ led version of "Tumblin' Dice" a total mutation of the the original. The next three songs are total duds, "Fingerprint File," "You Gotta Move," and "You Can't Always Get What You Want." "Fingerprint File" being perhaps their worst live performance ever.
The real joy of the album is what would be side 3 on the original LP, the "El Macambo" side. The Stones play a small club in Toronto and are definitely up for the task playing a series of great blues and R&B classics. Keith and Ronnie seem to be finding their groove as Billy Preston's roll is reduced to a more typical Stones piano player function. They rip through "Mannish Boy," "Crackin' Up," "Little Red Rooster," and "Around and Around." "Crackin' Up" almost seems to suggest a reggae arrangement rather than attempting to follow Bo Diddley's orginal approach.
The final four tracks are typical Stones crowd pleasers, tunes they've played in every concert for decades now. "It's Only Rock n Roll," "Brown Sugar," "Jumpin' Jack Flash," and "Sympathy for the Devil" come blasting through in arena rock fashion. Instrumentally, they definitely rock but there's no sense of passion. Jagger's vocals for "Brown Sugar" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash" are downright silly in places as he slurs the lyrics almost in a self-parody fashion. One might hear, "Brah Show-wah" and "Jumpa Ja Fa, ya can ga-ga-ga." "Sympathy for the Devil" is absolutely dredful, not as bad in someways as later versions with the sampled percussion, but in many ways,this version is just as mechanical and sounds dreadfully noisy.
Universal's remastering is competent and makes the album louder than the earlier Virgin remaster that was perfectly adequate. There is absolutely no reason what-so-ever to buy this recording if one already has the Virgin release. In fact, apart from the El Macambo recordings, there's really no reason to buy this album at all except for the real Rolling Stones completists. Ironically, though this album represents material recorded in the mid- 70's, on the basis of this effort came the first suggestions that the Rolling Stones were truly getting old. This album is over 32 years old!!!"