It is funny how sometimes you don’t realize how much you really liked an album that wasn’t super high on your radar when it came out. Don’t get me wrong, I liked The Rolling Stones’ Tattoo You a bunch when it came out and as my college roommate played it a lot… Years later I got more into it eventually and soon enough had my own copy of the album. It was the last Stones studio album I genuinely enjoyed start to finish.
When the Still Life live album came out a year later in 1982, I wasn’t into it. Especially given the kind of music the Stones had pulled off on the 1978 tour supporting Some Girls, that live recording felt somehow overly produced and clean. And I suspect it worked as the album was a huge smash hit for the band. So, when I heard there was a new 40th anniversary boxed set coming out featuring not only Tattoo You but a whole extra album of outtakes and a live album from later in that Still Life tour, I had to hear it.
In the 40th Anniversary Tattoo You deluxe edition boxed set you get an expanded double disc gatefold edition of the original album with a second disc called Lost & Found: Rarities and a three LP version of (as far as I know) a complete show performed at England’s Wembley Stadium in 1982. You also get a wonderful 124-page hardcover book from the tour with many terrific photos from the period and some new interviews. It all comes to you wrapped in a bright red sturdy box with one of the coolest and well done lenticular photos I’ve seen since the Stones’ own Satanic Majesties Request album in 1967.
In today’s listening report, we’ll look at the studio material and tomorrow we’ll get to the live album.
What is there to say about Tattoo You that hasn’t been said by many others already? It is a great album and one many consider the last great Stones album. Rather than retread details, I’ll just cut to the chase and let you know that the new remastered vinyl on the 40th Anniversary Tattoo You deluxe edition sounds very good. This is at least as good as my original US pressing if not quite a bit better. Overall, it is a bit brighter and perhaps a tad cleaner sounding (a wee bit) but its still a raw stones album at its root. The 180-gram discs in the set are dark, well centered and quiet, so those benchmarks check out just fine.
The new music on the bonus disc Lost & Found: Rarities is really the big news here in this new boxed set. Like Tattoo You itself, this new bonus album is a combination of outtake recordings dating back the 1970s era of the band, some of which were only partially completed (as I understand) prior to preparation of this boxed set. This new collection certainly sounds like an alternative view for the vibe of Tattoo You and it frankly stands on its own as, effectively, a genuine “lost” Stones album.
For both hardcore and casual fans, this is a winner. The opening track “Living In The Heart Of Love” is a classic Stones rocker, perhaps offering a bit of tongue-in-cheek nod to AC/DC with that playful opening riff. There are some neat piano sparkles on the bridge section in that song which elevate the tune and the overall production. “Fiji Jim” is a tight little badass ripper. “Shame Shame Shame” is a killer cover of the old Jimmy Reed song which boogies madly. Their take on Dobie Gray’s early ‘70s soul pop classic “Drift Away” is so good it probably should be released as a single — listen for Keith’s classic harmonies on the choruses!
Oddly enough, the early version of “Start Me Up” which ends the album is rather anti-climactic, all things considered. It is cool, but I can hear why it was left in the archive all these years. Some of the more interesting songs on the album however come right before this. These tunes deliver some great hooks and even different sounding song structures for the band at that time. “It’s A Lie” is just a great rocker as is “Come To The Ball” but the vibe on the latter sounds un-Stones-y, if that makes some sense (which is why its kind of cool, ultimately!). “Fast Talking, Slow Walking” is a heartfelt near power ballad which again feels wonderfully just outside the typical spaces the band tended to go, especially with its sweetly introspective lyric.
Not surprisingly, I have spent more time listening to Lost & Found: Rarities than the original Tattoo You album so far in exploring this set. It is that good.
You can find Tattoo You streaming on Qobuz (click here) and Tidal (click here) in CD quality. The streams sound pretty good but the vinyl sounds a lot better, must say, especially on the studio material.
Perhaps the only thing I would have wished for is somehow making the vocals a bit more consistent from track to track in terms of recording textures and overall sound. I’m not sure if anything could have been done given that they were probably recorded at a variety of studios across different periods of the band’s career. Some tracks were begun as far back as 1972! Ultimately, this is a minor detail and not a deal breaker, but don’t be surprised when you listen.
All in all I’m very pleased with this new 40th Anniversary Tattoo You deluxe edition.
Tune in tomorrow when I’ll explore the new live album included in the set.