GRRR Live! captures star-studded New Jersey gig during 50 & Counting Tour
Following 10-plus official live albums and multiple concert releases from their vault, it’s fair to ask whether the world really needs another live collection by The Rolling Stones. After all, what could possibly trump gems like 1970’s Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! or 2017’s Sticky Fingers: Live At The Fonda Theater 2015, to name two of my all-time favorites. Well, GRRR Live!, which was released last Friday (February 10), may be no Ya-Ya’s, but it sure as heck is a great and surprisingly fresh-sounding collection!
The album and concert film mainly captures the Stones’ December 15, 2012 gig at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., which was part of the 50 & Counting Tour to celebrate their 50th anniversary. The tour featured guest appearances from The Black Keys, Gary Clark Jr., Lady Gaga, John Mayer, Bruce Springsteen and Mick Taylor. Since its original airing on pay-per-view in 2012, the show hasn’t been available. The concert has been re-edited and the audio has been remixed.
I’d say, let’s check out some of the goodies! And what could be better than starting us up with a great motto: It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It). Yes, I do! Man, it’s so nice to see Charlie Watts! Mick Jagger once again proves he’s one of the most compelling frontmen in rock & roll. Both Keef and Ronnie Wood evidently had a great night as well! Simply put: The Stones were on fire!
Next up is Gimme Shelter feat. Lady Gaga. Let’s be honest here. Sometimes, guest appearances can be a bit awkward. But holy cow, Gaga surely made Merry Clayton proud! Since I couldn’t find a clip from GRRR Live! that included video (grrr!), I grabbed footage from somebody who was in the audience that night. Unfortunately, it’s cut off at the 5-minute mark and misses the last 2 minutes, but I still thought it’s pretty good!
After that scorching Gaga performance let’s slow it down and set those horses free. Here’s Wild Horses!
Are we ready for another guest appearance? Here are John Mayer and Gary Clark Jr. Ironically, the song is titled Going Down, but I can promise you there was none of that! Both guitarists demonstrated impressive guitar chops. So did Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards. This is solo guitar porn! Again, I’m relying on a clip that’s not from GRRR Live! Best of all, this one isn’t cut off!
Even Doom and Gloom, a Jagger-Richards cowrite I wouldn’t consider ranking among their best tunes, sounds pretty compelling here. The Stones included it on their greatest hits compilation GRRR!, which came out in November 2012.
How ’bout Midnight Rambler featuring Mick Taylor? Ask and you really receive! Yeah, it may not be quite up there with Ya-Yah’s, but it sure as heck nicely shuffles!
Let’s throw in one Keef sang. And, yep, he looked pretty content. Also, check out Ronnie Wood on lap steel – damn! How does all of this make me feel? Happy!
Time to wrap things up. Did somebody say Bruuuuuuuce? Tumbling Dice! The Boss visibly seems to have a ball. I mean, he’s rockin’ with the f…ing Rolling Stones and even throwing in a guitar solo!
Last but not least, here’s a Spotify link to the entire album.
A first look back at 1972, another outstanding year in music
With the 50-year anniversaries of 1971 gems like The Who’sWho’s Next, Carole King’sTapestry, Led Zeppelin’s Led Zeppelin IV, The Rolling Stones’Sticky Fingers and Pink Floyd’sMeddle now behind us, it’s time to take a first look at 1972 albums that are hitting the big milestone this year. And like in the case of 1971, I think the caliber of music released in 1972 is just breathtaking!
Checking Wikipedia revealed an impressive amount of records that appeared 50 years ago. Of these albums, I picked 30 studio releases that are represented in the below Spotify playlist with one song each. Following, I’d like to briefly highlight six of them. I’m planning more in-depth posts timed to their and possibly some of the other albums’ actual 50th-anniversary dates.
Neil Young/Harvest (February 1, 1972)
Undoubtedly, Neil Young’s fourth studio album Harvest is one of his best known and most beloved. With gems like Heart of Gold, The Needle and the Damage Done, Old Man and A Man Needs a Maid, it’s no wonder. Not only did Harvest top the Billboard 200 for two weeks, but it also became the best-selling album of 1972 in the U.S. But Neil Young, who is always good for a surprise, had a different reaction. Feeling alienated by the huge success of Harvest, he decided to release what became known as the “ditch trilogy”: the live album Times Fades Away (October 1973), as well as the studio records On the Beach (July 1974) and Tonight’s the Night (June 1975). While the ditch albums didn’t perform as well as Harvest, let’s just say they didn’t exactly harm Neil’s standing with his fans!
Deep Purple/Machine Head (March 25, 1972)
Machine Head, Deep Purple’s sixth studio release, remains the ultimate ’70s hard rock album in my book. While I literally dig each of the record’s seven tracks, the band’s most commercially successful album is best-known for the classics Smoke on the Water, which is safe to assume must be a nightmare for anybody working in a store selling electric guitars, and Highway Star. Machine Head topped the charts in the UK, Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, Italy and The Netherlands – yes, I had to name them all, hoping Wikipedia’s account is accurate and complete! The thought of a hard rock album topping the mainstream charts is unreal, especially from today’s perspective! In the U.S., Machine Head reached no. 7 on the Billboard 200, making it their highest-charting record there.
The Rolling Stones/Exile on Main St. (May 12, 1972)
While I prefer Sticky Fingers, there’s no doubt Exile on Main St. is among the top albums by The Rolling Stones. Many Stones fans regard the double LP as their best record – hey, I won’t argue, it’s great rock & roll, and I like it! Some of the highlights include Rocks Off, Rip This Joint, Tumbling Dice, Sweet Virginia, Happy and All Down the Line. Given Keith Richards’ frequent no-shows to the recording sessions since he was, well, stoned, while Mick Jagger and Bill Wyman oftentimes were absent as well, supposedly for other reasons, it’s a near-miracle to me how great this album turned out. That being said, initial reactions among critics were mixed, but as is not uncommon, opinions subsequently changed.
David Bowie/The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (June 6, 2022)
Of course, there was no way this upfront section would skip my favorite David Bowie album of all time. The British artist’s fifth studio release, revolving around a bi-sexual alien rock musician who becomes widely popular among teenagers before his fame ultimately kills him, is a true glam rock gem. Similar to Deep Purple’sMachine Head, I feel there’s no weak song on this record. Starman, Suffragette City, Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide and the title track are a few of the amazing tunes that come to mind. The Ziggy Stardust album climbed to no. 5 in the UK and also charted in various other European countries. In the U.S., where there was generally less of an appetite for glam rock, the record still reached a respectable no. 21 on the Billboard 200.
Curtis Mayfield/Superfly (July 11, 1972)
Curtis Mayfield is another longtime favorite artist of mine, so I’m more than happy to call out Superfly. His third studio album appeared as the soundtrack of the Blaxploitation motion picture of the same name. Rightfully, this record is widely considered a classic of ’70s soul and funk music. In addition to the title track, some of the other tunes on the album include Pusherman, Freddie’s Dead and Eddie You Should Know Better. Superfly was hugely successful in the U.S., topping both the Billboard 200 and the R&B chart. It also became Mayfield’s highest-charting album in the UK where it reached no. 26. Side note: It seems to me music listeners in the UK were into glam rock but not so much into psychedelic soul and funk.
Santana/Caravanserai (October 11, 1972)
The final album I’d like to highlight in this section of the post is a less obvious choice for me. I absolutely love the first three studio albums by Santana, which make up the band’s so-called classic period. I find the combination of Latin rhythms and rock electrifying. On Caravanserai, Carlos Santana and his band went in a very different direction. The album mostly features jazz-like, improvisational instrumentals – definitely posing a challenge for a guy like me who digs catchy hooks and great vocals, especially harmony singing. But sometimes it’s good to push beyond your comfort zone. Musically, I think there’s no question Caravanserai is an outstanding record. Given its radical departure from Santana’s first three albums, it did remarkably well in the charts. In the UK it peaked at no. 6, matching its predecessor Santana III, which previously had been the band’s highest-charting album there. It did even better in The Netherlands, climbing to no. 3, again matching Santana III. Elsewhere, Caravanserai reached no. 8 in the U.S., no. 10 in Norway and no. 16 in Australia.
Following is a playlist featuring the above tracks, as well as tunes from 24 other albums that were released in 1972. Since Spotify, unfortunately, doesn’t have Status Quo’sPiledriver (neither does Apple Music!), I included a pretty good, more recent live version of Paper Plane. Again, I have to say 1972 was another amazing year in music!
Today, Keith Richards turned 78 – wow, that’s kind of hard to believe! And that The Rolling Stones are still out there rockin’. In fact, they just recently wrapped up their No Filter Tour in Hollywood, Fla. Based on clips I’ve seen, they still sounded great!
While I suppose the most iconic guitar riff Richards has written is for (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction and it definitely remains cool, I’d like to celebrate his birthday with another great riff, which is my favorite: Jumpin’ Jack Flash. The tune was first released as a non-album single in the UK on May 24, 1968. The U.S. release followed a few days thereafter on June 1.
Here’s what Keef told Guitar Magazine about the riff in an interview published in December 2020:
Jumping Jack Flash comes from this guy, Jack Dyer, who was my gardener – an old English yokel. Mick and I were in my house down in the south of England. We’d been up all night; the sky was just beginning to go gray. It was pissing down raining, if I remember rightly.
Mick and I were sitting there, and suddenly Mick starts up. He hears these great footsteps, these great rubber boots – slosh, slosh, slosh – going by the window. He said. “What’s that?” And I said, “Oh, that’s Jack. That’s jumpin’ Jack.” We had my guitar in open tuning, and I started to fool around with that. [singing] “Jumpin’ Jack…” and Mick says, “Flash.” He’d just woken up. And suddenly we had this wonderful alliterative phrase. So he woke up and we knocked it together.
On the record, I played a Gibson Hummingbird [acoustic] tuned to either open E or open D with a capo. And then I added another [acoustic] guitar over the top, but tuned to Nashville tuning [tuned like a 12-string guitar without the lower octave strings]. I learned that from somebody in George Jones’ band, in San Antonio in ’63. We happened to be playing the World Teen Fair together. This guy in a Stetson and cowboy boots showed me how to do it, with the different strings, to get that high ring. I was picking up tips.
And since it’s so much fun, let’s wrap things with a live version from the excellent Sticky Fingers- Live at the Fonda Theater 2015. Released in September 2017 as part of the Stones’ Vault Series, the album, in my view, reaches the iconic Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! The Rolling Stones in Concert from September 1970.