Exile On Main Street is my desert island disc—literally. Years ago, I was stranded for two long weeks on Vinalhaven, a frigid little island off the coast of Maine, with only three classic rock cassettes and a boom-box to keep me sane: Neil Young’s Decade, Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland, and Exile On Main Street. I played the hell out of all three of those double cassettes. But when I was finally back on the mainland and wheeling south to Boston, it was “Exile” that still rang in my ears.
It is safe to say that the remastered re-issue of Exile released on May 18 in three formats is a reason to celebrate. And the Stones don’t disappoint; they know how to throw a party. You can spring for the original with remastered sound, a “deluxe edition” of the original with an extra disc of outtakes—some of which are “sweetened” with new vocals and instrumentation; or a “super deluxe edition” package which adds a bonus DVD containing rare Stones footage from 1972, vinyl, and a collector’s book.
The best value is the two-disc option. The bonus disc of outtakes from the Exile sessions, while perhaps not essential, adds depth and heft to the package. And although some of these outtakes have been kicking around on “bootlegs” for years, they have never sounded this good. I know because I have a couple of those bootlegs stashed away.
It has long been reported that Exile is Keith Richards’ album and that Mick Jagger never liked the “grungy mix” on Exile, because it buried his vocals. That may be so, but in truth, Mick may be Exile‘s secret star; “Rocks Off,” “Shine a Light,” “Sweet Little Angel,” and “Loving Cup,” are among Mick’s finest moments on record and he is positively sanctified on “Just Want to See His Face” and “Ventilator Blues.”
So spread the word, Exile On Main Street is back in all its ragged glory, and it is better than ever. This may the Stones’ finest moment on vinyl or any other format, and for the price of a designer martini, you can own the original rock and roll cocktail—with a bonus disc on the side.