Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Tumbling Dice

Exile on Main St.
Side One, Track Five
"Tumbling Dice" – 3:45

[Save link]

"Tumbling Dice" evolved from an earlier unreleased Stones track called "Good Time Women", which has the same chord changes but a completely different melody:

The recording of "Tumbling Dice" proper took place in four different studios over three years, beginning at Stargroves during the Sticky Fingers sessions. There are at least three different bass tracks, uncountable guitar overdubs, and five different singers overdubbing who knows how many parts. The whole thing is a mess, a glorious, glorious mess.

The key, I think, is the rhythm section. Watts and Wyman (and Taylor on one of the bass overdubs) lock down the laid back midtempo grove, give it strength and direction, and while those sloppy guitars and vocal tracks meander aimlessly, the rhythm section is there to anchor the whole thing, keep it from drifting too far.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Abridged Zeppelin (nonstones)

Unledded: The Abridged Zeppelin I

A few months ago I was reflecting on the fact that whenever I played a Zeppelin album, I spent a large part of the time leaning on the fast forward button. I came to the realisation that over the years my love for Led Zeppelin has become very focused: I no longer have any use for the fantasy elements (maidens and goblins and all that), I hate hearing blues played by white guys in blackface, I can do entirely without British folk music played by a heavy metal band. All I really want from bands like Zeppelin is the riffs. That's all: monster riffs played by six overdubbed guitars that sound like the end of the world.

I began re-imagining what their albums would sound like if stripped of all the elements that I didn't like, left with only those riffs. I began to think that would be one of the greatest albums ever. Unlike most of these flights of fancy, I actually spent a bit of time making this dream come to life. I loaded up Zeppelin I in Audacity, and trimmed out everything about that album I didn't need. Here is what I ended up with: Zeppelin I in 14 minutes, with just the guitar goodness.

1. "Good Times, Bad Times"

2. "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You"

3. "Dazed and Confused"

4. "Your Time Is Gonna Come"

5. "Communication Breakdown"

6. "How Many More Times"

Casino Boogie

Exile on Main St.
Side One, Track Four
"Casino Boogie" – 3:33

[Save link]

On an album with aspirations that encompass nothing less than the entire scope of American blues-based popular music, "Casino Boogie" stands out as a somewhat less than thrilling track. There's nothing particularly bad about this lazy shuffle, but it has virtually nothing to recommend it either. In that way it's a call back to the early days of the Stones, when their albums were chock full of nondescript blues songs[*]. I suppose this is one of those tracks Exile could have done without, except that a big part of the charm of the album is the looseness, the disregard for an organisational plan, that allows the band to experiment in productive ways – but also gives them the freedom to take a break from challenging numbers, and churn out some filler like "Casino Boogie".

[*  when their albums were chock full of nondescript blues songs: Of course, in those days, the mere fact that a British band was performing blues songs with passion, if not ability, was a reason to sit up and take notice.]