Live Licks
The Rolling Stones

1/2005
by Mike D'Ariano


ell, it's been almost eight years since the Stones last serious effort to release new music, which came via 1997's Bridges to Babylon album. In the interim, the boys have released a live album from the subsequent Bridges to Babylon tour (No Security), re-mastered versions of all of their Abkco albums (England's Newest Hitmakers: The Rolling Stones through Let It Bleed . . . e.g. the 60's stuff.), a double CD career spanning greatest hits album (Forty Licks), which featured 36 classics from both the Abkco years and the Virgin/Atlantic years plus four new tunes, and most recently, a double disc live album recorded on the Licks World Tour entitled Live Licks.

The Licks World Tour was unique in the fact that the band designed three distinct concerts to be played at the three different types of venues they were to play. Each city on the tour got a club gig, an arena gig, and a stadium gig. New York saw dates at Giants Stadium, Madison Square Garden and Roseland Ballroom (No matter what anyone says, tickets were never really put on sale to the general public. The industry types scored free tickets and left early. In turn, the shows were partially empty halfway through, while the true fans that paid as much as $5,000 a ticket to scalpers on eBay enjoyed the show while trying not to think about the fact that they paid around $33.00 a minute to be there). The tour was also unique because it was the first major tour the band had ever done without a new studio album in stores to support.

The Live Licks album is unique for a different reason. It is not a three-disc set with each disc representing a different one of the three types of shows. Nor is it a sole complete concert, something the Stones have never done on any of their eight previous live albums. (For the record, it should be noted that both of those ideas were realized on the spectacular 4-DVD set Four Flicks, which was released in late 2003.) No, what makes Live Licks unique is basically that its first disc is 100% un-unique….and it's second disc is 100% the opposite.

What the hell does that mean? Simple. It means that the first disc of Live Licks is made up entirely of new versions of songs that the band has released on previous live albums, and the second disc consists entirely of tunes never before released live.

If you're thinking that the second disc sounds cool, and the first disc sounds kind of redundant, you're thinking the same thing that I am. The second CD of Live Licks is fantastic. Covers of Wilson Pickett's Everybody Need's Somebody To Love and Otis Redding's That's How Strong My Love Is (recorded in the studio by the Stones way back in the early sixties on Rolling Stones Now and Out Of Our Heads respectively) are instant classics. Solomon Burke adds vocals to Everybody Needs Somebody To Love as an extra treat. It defies all logic that Beast of Burden, Neighbours, When the Whip Comes Down, and Rocks Off have never been released live before. They sound great. Finally, a ten minute version of Can't You Hear Me Knockin' steals the show, exactly as it did when I saw them do it in the Garden two years ago.

Interestingly, the album doesn't feature any of the new songs from the Forty Licks album, which the tour was in support of. Most notably absent is the single, Don't Stop. Also missing (and I'm sure other things are as well) is the version of Undercover of the Night, which the band played many times throughout the tour - I thought it was about a thousand times better than the album version - and a cover of the O-Jay's "Love Train" which was also part of their regular show. The reason for these and other omissions is a mystery as there's a full hour's worth of empty space left on the Live Licks CDs. Plus the two discs feature more songs with Keith Richards on vocals than an actual Stones gig - numbers which could have easily been booted to make room for better material (Sorry Keith). Live Licks has three, the band does two nightly.

The first disc of Live Licks is far from essential. In fact, there isn't one song on the disc that is a superior recording than its earlier incarnations. This makes a seemingly worthless disc of stuff you already own seem just that much more unnecessary. I'm not making this up…and to prove it, what follows is the track listing from disc one, and the older live album that I feel offers the better version of each song. You might want to make your own mix CD out of this. I did and it's really enjoyable:

    Brown Sugar – Flashpoint
    Street Fighting Man – Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out
    Paint It Black – Flashpoint
    You Can't Always Get What You Want – Love You Live
    Start Me Up – Flashpoint
    It's Only Rock N Roll – Love You Live
    Angie – Stripped
    Honkey Tonk Women – Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out
    Happy – Love You Live
    Gimmie Shelter – No Security
    (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction – Flashpoint

You'll notice that three of the band's live albums aren't represented in my picks at all. Rock and Roll Circus is absent because only one of the songs listed above appeared on that album, and while it's a great version, it isn't my favorite. Got Live If You Want It is M.I.A. due to the fact that none of the songs on Live Licks are on it. Still Life is not included because…well let's face it, Still Life kinda sucked!

So, to sum things up, Live Licks is one part redundant, slap in the face, let's just throw some crap on there so we can raise the price a few bucks, and one part relevant interesting stuff that you'll want to add to your collection. It's worth owning, but you're right to feel ripped off up to the halfway point. Oh, and just in case you're really into being ripped off, the band was good enough to release the album with two different covers. So if you want to, you can buy an album half full of stuff you already have, and then buy it again . . . by default, buying an album entirely comprised of stuff you already own!


Rolling Stones Live Album Info


While writing the above review, and thinking about the way that the Stones intentionally drew attention to the fact that they were specifically releasing a bunch of never before released live tunes, I decided to take a more in-depth look at exactly how "unprecedented" the track listing of Live Licks was. Guess what . . . it wasn't very unprecedented . . . in fact, Live Licks was actually a big step backwards as far as unreleased tracks are concerned.

What follows is a comprehensive look at the exclusive tracks on all nine of the Rolling Stones live albums including Live Licks. For each album, you'll see the percentage of tracks on the album which were previously unreleased when the album debuted, the percentage of tracks on the album that remain exclusive to it today, and a complete list of those tracks that are still exclusive.

You'll note that Live Licks with its full disc of previously unreleased songs features 52.1% new stuff – the lowest percentage of unreleased material at the time of release on any Stones live album in history – a full 32.5% less than it's predecessor No Security. I say yeah, yeah, yeah, DOH!

Got Live If You Want It

 

Percent of songs exclusive to the album
when released: 100% (12/12 songs)

Current percent of the album still exclusive
to the album: 50% (6/12 songs)

Exclusive Tracks:
19th Nervous Breakdown
Fortune Teller
I'm Alright
I've Been Loving You Too Long
Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, Standing In The Shadow
Lady Jane
 

 
Rock and Roll Circus*
 

Percent of songs exclusive to the album
when released: 50% (3/6 songs)

Current percent of the album still exclusive
to the album: 50% (3/6 songs)

Exclusive Tracks:
No Expectations
Parachute Women
Salt of the Earth
 
* The album also contains exclusive tracks by other artists like The Who, John Lennon, and Jethro Tull. The tracks by other artists were not factored into the percentages on this album for obvious reasons.
 

 
Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out
 

Percent of songs exclusive to the album
when released: 80% (8/10 songs)

Current percent of the album still exclusive
to the album: 40% (4/10 songs)

Exclusive Tracks:
Carol
Little Queenie
Midnight Rambler
Stray Cat Blues
 

 
Love You Live
 

Percent of songs exclusive to the album
when released: 72.2% (13/18 songs)

Current percent of the album still exclusive
to the album: 50% (9/18 songs)

Exclusive Tracks:
Around and Around
Crackin Up
Fingerprint File
Hot Stuff
If You Can't Rock Me
Mannish Boy
Star Star
Tumbling Dice
You Gotta Move
 

 
Still Life
 

Percent of songs exclusive to the album
when released: 70% (7/10 songs)

Current percent of the album still exclusive
to the album: 60% (6/10 songs)

Exclusive Tracks:
Going to a Go-Go
Just My Imagination
Let Me Go
Let's Spend The Night Together
Shattered
Twenty Flight Rock
 

 
Flashpoint
 

Percent of songs exclusive to the album
when released: 56.3% (9/16 songs)

Current percent of the album still exclusive
to the album: 50% (8/16 songs)

Exclusive Tracks:
Can't Be Seen With You
Factory Girl
Miss You
Rock and a Hard Place
Ruby Tuesday
Sad Sad Sad
Highwire (New studio cut)
Sex Drive (New studio cut)
 

 
Stripped
 

Percent of songs exclusive to the album
when released: 71.4% (10/14 songs)

Current percent of the album still exclusive
to the album: 71.4% (10/14 songs)

Exclusive Tracks:
Dead Flowers
I'm Free
Let It Bleed
Like A Rolling Stone
Little Baby
Shine A Light
Slipping Away
Sweet Virginia
The Spider and the Fly
Wild Horses
 

 
No Security
 

Percent of songs exclusive to the album
when released: 84.6% (11/13 songs)

Current percent of the album still exclusive
to the album: 76.9% (10/13 songs)

Exclusive Tracks:
Corrina
Memory Motel
You Got Me Rockin'
Flip The Switch
Out of Control
Respectable
Saint Of Me
Sister Morphine
Thief in the Night
Waiting on a Friend
 

 
Live Licks
 

Percent of songs exclusive to the album
when released: 52.1% (12/23 songs)

Current percent of the album still exclusive
to the album: 52.1% (12/23 songs)

Exclusive Tracks:
Beast of Burden
Can't You Hear Me Knockin'
Everybody Needs Somebody to Love
Monkey Man
Neighbours
Rock Me Baby
Rocks Off
That's How Strong My Love Is
The Nearness of You
When The Whip Comes Down
Worried About You
You Don't Have To Mean It

When I first uncovered the drop off in unreleased material, for a second I though that perhaps the band was running out of stuff that had never been done. A quick look at the numbers though shows that idea to be way off the mark (the nine live albums contain just under 100 different songs, and the Stones have recorded something like 300 songs). That said, just in case Mick or Keith or Ronnie or Charlie happen to glimpse our humble site, here's a quick list of never before released live cuts I'd like to hear on their next outing. Since the band likes the number 40, I picked 40 songs.

All Down The Line, Anybody Seen My Baby, Before They Make Me Run, Cherry Oh Baby, Dance Little Sister, Dancin With Mr. D, Don't Stop, Don't You Bother Me, Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker), Down In The Hole, Emotional Rescue, Fool To Cry, Good Times Bad Times, Hand Of Fate, Hang Fire, Heart of Stone, I Got The Blues, It's All Over Now, Loving Cup, Luxury, Mixed Emotions, Moonlight Mile, Mother's Little Helper, Out of Time, Rip This Joint, Route 66, Shake Your Hips, She Was Hot, Some Girls, Soul Survivor. Sparks Will Fly, Stop Breaking Down, Stupid Girl, Sway, Sweet Black Angel, Too Tight, Undercover of The Night, What to Do, The Worst, and You Got The Silver.

Finally, looking to the other side of the exclusivity coin, I wondered what songs had appeared the most on the Stones live albums. It turns out it's a four-way tie between Sympathy for the Devil, You Can't Always Get What You Want, Jumping Jack Flash and surprise . . . Satisfaction, which all appear on four different albums. I guess it just goes to show, you can't always get what you want, but you can get three more versions of what you already have.