Exile on Blues St.

Exile on Blues St.

Various Artists

Telarc

Thus continues Telarc’s series of blues covers, and in this case, it almost makes sense. The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street was a blues album, after all. Recorded in a funky basement by strung-out tax exiles, Exile has grown in stature to become one of, if not the, essential Stones record. From greasy delta blues (“Shake Your Hips”) to full bore rock (“All Down The Line”), this is sum total of Keith Richards’s particular talent. A talent defined by his ability to bring together influences ranging from the blues to Chuck Berry to country (icon Gram Parsons was a guest of Richards around this time, and it shows), and create a magical hybrid from it all. He never has been the “greatest” guitarist around — if such a thing even exists — but he has been the greatest Keith Richards-style one walking (or stumbling, take your pick), and that alone has spawned thousands of wannabes, some of whom appear on this disc.

By the term “wannabe,” don’t think any negative connotation is being advanced. For the ten tracks here, artists from Tommy Castro to Jimmy Thackery give their best shot at “Keithness,” but none hit it. And how could they? I imagine none of them are in mental or physical states comparable to Keith in ’72 (i.e… junkie, poor and really, really bad teeth…), and without those factors, they don’t have the grit and funk of the master. Listening to the original album on vinyl is akin to watching television with gauze over your eyes. The record is murky, dense and strange. It was panned upon release, but much like a time release drug, it has stayed around and grown stronger over the years, and after a dozen or so listens, all becomes clear. Not the sound — it stays as dirty as intended — but the genius of said grit is revealed. It is a heavy, desperate record, one intended for a late night, coming down again headphone listening audience. “Sunshine bores the daylights out of me” (“Rocks Off”) indeed. And that’s the problem with anyone playing these songs today. In a clean, sterile studio, you can’t help but make a “proper” sounding record. And Exile on Main Street was many things. But “proper?” Never.

Telarc Records: http://www.telarc.com/

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