The Rolling Stones are out on their (likely) final tour and the time may be right for revisiting their back catalog on SACD. Why? Because -- I am guessing here -- a lot of people who bought the reissues back in 2002 are now either trading in their SACDs for newer remasters or compilations. Maybe it is coincidence, but in the last two weeks I have found three SACD editions of Rolling Stones albums in the used racks. What HAS been surprising that the stores selling them we're not aware of what they had! This spells a big potential win for the record collector and audiophile Stones fan!
I mean, really now, it's not entirely surprising that a young generation of new store clerks who don't know about SACDs -- and care even less about The Rolling Stones -- might consider these tasty discs a standard CD.
In fact, these audiophile grade recordings take a somewhat attuned eye to figure out that the discs are actually SACDs. There IS fine print at the bottom of the actual discs that say they are "hybrid SACDs" but you can also quickly ID them by checking if the discs are gold colored versus standard silver issues. Chances are if it is gold it is an SACD. And as far as I know they always came in a cardboard digipak type sleeve, but don't hold me to that...
How do they sound? Great! Beggars Banquet was my first find and was a massive revelation -- so much so that I have already parted with my quite nice US pressing on LP. The guitar sounds are wonderful with lots of amplifier-driven tones coming through super clearly.
Their Satanic Magesties' Request clears up a lot of the psychedelic mush that is common to US pressings I've heard. Never my favorite Stones album, on SACD many great tracks shine brightly, such as "She's a Rainbow" and "2000 Light Years From Home." The only reason I will still keep my original pressing is that I have the 3-D cover, which is still really neat (the cd does not have that element on it, alas).
Finally, I picked up a copy of Metamorphosis which is a dubious Stones album at Best anyway because it collects lots of outtakes and unreleased versions of popular songs and present them in a rather mishmash fashion.
I never bothered to buy this album back in the day as my college roomate's copy left me really flat -- it sounded murky. I chalk that up to crummy mid-seventies vinyl pressing issues. On SACD, however, Metamorphasis is reinvented and many subtle details I don't remember hearing (pedal steel!?) jump out of the speakers. Tracks like "Jiving Sister Fanny" smoke and the acoustic guitar on songs like Family are really just lovely.
How do you find the Stones on SACD online? It's not easy and in fact it's downright confusing because the folks running the Stones catalog have been extremely cautious -- and diligent -- so that there's almost no mention of SACD online at retail. So, my advice to you, dear reader, is to get out of your cocoon, go out to your favorite record stores and look for them
I have picked these up in stores for $10 or less a piece in recent weeks although I have seen some stores selling for much more, in the range of $30 to $40 each! Amoeba has some going for about $20. So keep your eyes peeled see what you can find.
Mark Smotroff is a freelance writer and avid music collector who has worked for many years in marketing communications for the consumer electronics, pro audio and video games industries, serving clients including DTS, Sega, Sony, Sharp, AT&T and many others. Mark has written for EQ Magazine, Mix Magazine, Goldmine/DISCoveries Magazine, BigPictureBigSound.com, Sound+Vision Magazine and HomeTechTell.com. He is also a musician / composer who's songs have been used in TV shows such as Smallville and Men In Trees as well as films and documentaries. Mark is currently rolling out a new musical he's written. www.smotroff.com