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The Stones shine on
Scorsese soundtrack

The Rolling Stones - Shine A Light
(Interscope Records)
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: April 11, 2008
The Stones

Review by Tony Bonyata

I have to admit that when I saw that The Rolling Stones were releasing yet another live album - their ninth in their forty-four years of recording - I wasn't expecting all that much. Perhaps because I thought they'd be waxing nostalgically as they trounce out the best of their Hot Rocks-era hits for the umpteenth time. Don't get me wrong... many of their biggest hits are great timeless songs, it's just that if you've seen The Stones in concert as many times as I have (over half a dozen I reckon), some of these well-known numbers often sound as if they're merely running on fumes they've been played so often. And for The Stones to keep adding many of these songs, time and time again, to their live albums is just downright redundant (although, if there was only one live album from any artist that I had to have in my collection it would have to be their brilliant 1970 Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!, which documented their tumultuous 1969 tour.)

When I learned, however, that their latest Shine A Light live album is actually the soundtrack of Martin Scorsese's documentary film of the same name I was piqued. This was, after all, the man who not only directed some of the most brilliant American movies of the last three decades, but also cut his teeth in the world of concert documentation with The Band's "The Last Waltz," which still stands today as one of the greatest live concerts put to film.

While I've yet to see the movie, the soundtrack from it is lean, mean and virile, which considering that the core group of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood are all well into their 60s, is quite remarkable in itself.

The concert was filmed and recorded during two shows at the Beacon Theater in New York City during their A Bigger Bang tour in the Fall of '06. And while none of the songs are featured from that album, the tracks selected for this release are a perfect blend of a few obligatory monster hits ("Jumpin' Jack Flash," "Start Me Up" and "Brown Sugar") along with many wonderful deeper cuts ("All Down The Line," "Some Girls," the country-fried "Faraway Eyes" and the harrowing Delta blues of "You Got The Silver," where Keith turns in a rough-hewn vocal delivery which marries perfectly with the raw grit of the song).

Like many of their recent tours over the last couple of decades, The Stones have also invited a few special guests into the spotlight. With a high-pitch snarl, The White Stripes' Jack White plays the perfect foil for Jagger's gruff drawl on the rootsy "Loving Cup," while Buddy Guy lends his stinging blues leads and guttural long-snake-moan to an inspired version of Muddy Waters' "Champagne & Reefer," which is quite apropos, considering that Waters not only took Guy under his wing early in his career, but would also influence The Stones when they were just kids on the streets of London in the early '60s. The final special guest is Christina Aguillera, and while I suspected a warbling train-wreck of a duet with Sir Mick on the snotty punk of "Live With Me," she instead turns in a surprisingly passionate, soulful performance that works wonderfully with the song.

With a sterling setlist, intriguing guests and a great audio mix that highlights not only Mick's ageless pipes, but also Keith's searing riffs, Ronnie's leads and Charlie's steadfast rhythms, not to mention longtime touring compatriots Bobby Keys' lively sax, Darryl Jones' bass and Chuck Leavell's wonderful honky-tonk keys, Shine A Light is, perhaps, their greatest live album since Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!

It should be noted that this review is only of the single CD release of Shine A Light. There is also a double disc which features a few more of their bigger hits, such as "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," "Paint It Black" and "Tumbling Dice." While completists will want the whole enchilada, for most, however, the more concise (and cheaper) single disc version will do just fine.

Watch the "Shine A Light" trailer

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