Today, the Rolling Stones release another live album: Licked Live In NYC, recorded at New York’s Madison Square Garden in January of 2003, while on their 40th-anniversary tour. It comes less than a month after Live At El Mocambo, a live recording of a surprise set that the band did at the 300-capacity club El Mocambo in Montreal in March of 1977; calling themselves “The Cockroaches,” they were actually opening for April Wine!
There’s been something of a deluge of Rolling Stones live recordings available in the past few decades: some released by ABKCO Records (who owns most of their catalog from the ’60s), Universal Music (who distributes everything on Rolling Stones Records, the lalel the band set up for themselves and has put out their music since 1971’s Sticky Fingers. And finally, Mercury Studios, formerly known as Eagle Rock Entertainment, licenses live recordings and other special products from the band.
So we listened to a lot of live Stones music to share with you our favorite commercially available concert recordings. Of course, there’s nothing like the real thing, so yeah, we’re hoping that the Stones return to the U.S. this year or next to play more shows.
Recorded: December 11-12, 1968
Lineup: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts
STANDOUT TRACKS: Welllllll…. There are some great moments, but the best ones aren’t from the Rolling Stones. The Stones curated this event, yet the easy highlight was the Who’s performance of “A Quick One, While He’s Away,” as well as John Lennon’s “Yer Blues,” featuring Yoko, Eric Clapton on guitar, Keith Richards on bass and Mitch Mitchell of the Jimi Hendrix Experience on drums. As for the Stones, “Jumping Jack Flash” and “Sympathy For The Devil” are great, but this was the end of their era with Brian Jones, and if you watch the film, you can see why.
Recorded: April 5, 1998
Lineup: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts with Darryl Jones (bass, backing vocals), Chuck Leavell (keyboards, backing vocals), Bobby Keys (saxophone), Andy Snitzer (saxophone, keyboards), Kent Smith (trumpet), Michael Davis (trombone), Bernard Fowler (backing vocals), Lisa Fischer (backing vocals), Blondie Chaplin (backing vocals) and, Leah Wood (backing vocals on “Thief In The Night”) and special guest Bob Dylan.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Like A Rolling Stone” with Bob Dylan, “Sister Morphine”
It’s fun hearing Mick Jagger (the consummate showman) and Bob Dylan (who doesn’t care about showmanship at all) meet in the middle for a stadium-sized version of Dylan’s revolutionary 1965 classic. And druggy ballad “Sister Morphine” (from ‘Sticky Fingers’) was a daring touch.
Recorded: January 2003
Lineup: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts with Darryl Jones (bass), Chuck Leavell (keyboards), Bobby Keys (saxophone), Andy Snitzer (saxophone), Kent Smith (trumpet), Michael Davis (trombone), Bernard Fowler (vocals), Lisa Fischer (vocals), Blondie Chaplin (vocals) with special guest Sheryl Crow
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Thu and Thu,” “If You Can’t Rock Me,” “Monkey Man,” “Let It Bleed,” “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” “Honky Tonk Woman”
This writer was at this show, which was a blast. The album doesn’t have too many live tracks or surprise guests, but Stones fan Sheryl Crow geeking out about singing onstage with her idols was worth the price of admission.
Recorded: March 25, 2016
Lineup: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts with Darryl Jones (bass, backing vocals), Chuck Leavell (keyboards, backing vocals), Bernard Fowler (backing vocals, percussion), Matt Clifford (keyboards, French horn), Tim Ries (saxophone, keyboards), Karl Denson (saxophone), Sasha Allen (backing vocals)
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “it’s Only Rock N Roll (But I Like It),” “All Down The Line”
In 2016, there weren’t too many places that the Stones hadn’t played, but Cuba was one of them. This show has a specific vibe: they were playing a free concert for an estimated 500,000 fans… and you can assume that most of them had never been to a Rolling Stones concert, or even any large scale concert, in their lives. So while *you* might have been tired of seeing the classics over and over, this audience surely was not.
Recorded: December 19, 1989
Lineup: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts with Matt Clifford (keyboards, French horn), Chuck Leavell (keyboards, backing vocals), Bobby Keys (saxophone), Arno Hecht (saxophone), Paul Litteral (trumpet), Bob Funk (trombone), Crispen Cloe (saxophone) , Bernard Fowler (backing vocals), Lisa Fischer (backing vocals) and Cindy Mizelle (backing vocals) with special guests W. Axl Rose, Izzy Stradlin’, Eric Clapton and John Lee Hooker
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Salt Of The Earth” with Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin’, “Sad Sad Sad,” “Mixed Emotions,” “Undercover of the Night,” “Boogie Chillen” with John Lee Hooker and Eric Clapton
By 1989, the Rolling Stones had lost their sense of danger, and fair enough: they had been around for 25 years. But having Axl and Izzy join them, at the peak of Guns N Roses’ popularity, was a reminder of what a dangerous band they’d once been; it was a great moment to see members of both bands jamming together. Meanwhile, the Stones seemed to enjoy playing multiple radio hits– “Sad Sad Sad,” “Rock In A Hard Place,” and “Mixed Emotions,” the last time a new Stones album enjoyed that kind of popularity.
Recorded: July 6 and 13, 2013
Lineup: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts with Darryl Jones (bass, backing vocals), Chuck Leavell (keyboards, backing vocals, cowbell on "Honky Tonk Women"), Bernard Fowler (backing vocals, percussion), Lisa Fischer (backing vocals, percussion), Bobby Keys (saxophone), Tim Ries (saxophone, keyboards), Matt Clifford (French horn on "You Can't Always Get What You Want"), Voce Chamber Choir (choir on "You Can't Always Get What You Want") and London Youth Choir (choir on "You Can't Always Get What You Want") and Mick Taylor (guitar on “Midnight Rambler” and “Satisfaction”)
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Gloom and Doom,” “Gimme Shelter, “Midnight Rambler”
The show had a vibe: 44 years after the Stones played two concerts at Hyde Park (two days after the death of Brian Jones), they returned with a somewhat bigger production. Those shows were Mick Taylor’s first gig with the band, and he joins them at ‘Hyde Park Live’ on “Midnight Rambler.”
Recorded: December 19, 1981
Released: 2012 (through Google Play)// 2014 (as part of a CD/Bluray collection) Lineup: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts with Ian Stewart (piano), Ian McLagan (keyboards, backing vocals), Ernie Watts (saxophone), Bobby Keys (tenor saxophone on "Let it Bleed", "Brown Sugar", "Tumbling Dice" and "Honky Tonk Woman")
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Just My Imagination,” the audience singing “Happy Birthday” to Keith as he launches into “Little T&A,” “She’s So Cold,” “Hang Fire” and “Start Me Up”
Nearly 20 years into their career, the Stones were touring on yet another hit album, ‘Tattoo You,’ and had lost none of their swagger, even as their business team was turning arena tours into a multi-million dollar business. Of course, Keith probably would have played for nothing.
Lineup: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts with Darryl Jones (bass), Chuck Leavell (keyboards), Pierre de Beauport (electric piano on “Thief in the Night”), Bobby Keys (saxophone), Andy Snitzer (saxophone, keyboards), Kent Smith (trumpet), Michael Davis (trombone), Bernard Fowler (vocals), Lisa Fischer (vocals), Blondie Chaplin (vocals), Leah Wood (backing vocals on “Thief in the Night”), Johnny Starbuck (shaker on “Out Of Control”) and special guests Dave Matthews, Taj Majal and Joshua Redman
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Memory Motel” with Dave Matthews, “Out Of Control,” “Saint Of Me,” “Thief In The Night”
By the late ‘90s, the Rolling Stones didn’t need to make great albums: their albums were basically the centerpieces for a huge marketing campaigns that were really about massive tours. But their new album, ‘Bridges To Babylon,’ had two classic stadium jams: “Out Of Control” and “Saint Of Me.” Another new song, the Keith-sung “Thief In The Night,” is an intimate jam, which still sounded great in huge venues. And one of the few Mick-Keith duets, “Memory Motel,” becomes a trio with special guest Dave Matthews (at the height of his popularity) and it never feels overstuffed.
Recorded: various dates in 1966
Lineup: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts with Ian Stewart (piano)
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Under My Thumb,” “Get Off Of My Cloud,” “Not Fade Away,” “Fortune Teller”
This isn’t the most well-recorded performance, but the energy makes up for it. “Under My Thumb,” is a particular highlight - it sounds a lot tougher, stripped of the marimba and its studio arrangements.
Lineup: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts with Darryl Jones (bass), Chuck Leavell (keyboards), Bobby Keys (saxophone), Andy Snitzer (saxophone), Kent Smith (trumpet), Michael Davis (trombone), Bernard Fowler (vocals), Lisa Fischer (vocals), Blondie Chaplin (vocals) with special guests Sheryl Crow and Solomon Burke
STANDOUT TRACKS: Really, all of disc two: the rarely played gems (disc one is new live versions of often-played classics). But the ten-minute “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’,” “That’s How Strong My Love Is,” “The Nearness Of You,” “Worried About You,” and “Gimme Shelter” are all amazing.
When the Stones began touring again in 1989, they were promoting ‘Steel Wheels.’ The next two tours supported albums as well: ‘Voodoo Lounge’ and ‘Bridges To Babylon.’ But the 2002-2003 tour was mostly a look back; it celebrated the band’s 40th anniversary. They were still one of the most popular touring acts in the world (and still are, 20 years later). They were just having a blast playing … and, to be sure, making millions. The aforementioned deep tracks here are amazing, especially “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’,” where they teach all of the jam bands how to keep things exciting even when a song lasts ten minutes.
Recorded: October 29 and November 1, 2006
Lineup: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts with Darryl Jones (bass), Chuck Leavell (keyboards), Bobby Keys (saxophone), Kent Smith (trumpet), Michael Davis (trombone), Bernard Fowler (vocals), Lisa Fischer (vocals), Blondie Chaplin (vocals) and special guests Buddy Guy, Christina Aguilera and Jack White
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Loving Cup” with Jack White, Muddy Waters’ “Champagne and Reefer” with Buddy Guy, “Live With Me” with Christina Aguilera, “Tumbling Dice.”
The Stones often try to beef up their live albums with guest appearances; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. On this live album/video, it worked really well. Jack White was something of an heir apparent to the Stones’ blues rock throne in the 2000s, and in very Jack White fashion, he dusted off a deep cut. Aguilera, meanwhile, showed that she’s a powerful vocalist – and performer - and that unlike many of her peers, she could bring it to the stage and go toe-to-toe with Mick Jagger. “Champagne and Reefer” was a furious blues jam; Buddy is one of the few guests that the Stones geek out over playing with (the geeking out is usually the other way around). And there’s a beautiful moment at the end of the song where Keith Richards gives Buddy his guitar, saying, “It’s yours.”
Recorded: various BBC sessions between 1963-1965
Lineup: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts with Ian Stewart
STANDOUT TRACKS: Chuck Berry covers “Come On” and “Memphis, Tennessee,” “Cops and Robbers,” “Hi Heeled Sneakers,” “I Wanna Be Your Man”
The Rolling Stones have been around for so long - six decades! So, it’s hard to imagine them as a young group… and, indeed, when they were young men, the very idea of a “rock group” was almost a novelty. So, it’s fun to listen to these BBC recordings from back when they were just starting out. For the 1963 recordings, they had been together for just about a year. They’re not the most polished (or well-recorded) performances, but they’re a lot of fun.
RELEASED: as a film in 1974; as a live album in 2017
LINEUP: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Mick Taylor, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts with Nicky Hopkins (piano), Bobby Keys (saxophone), Jim Price (trumpet) and Ian Stewart (piano)
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Bitch,” “Love In Vain,” “All Down The Line,” “Rocks Off”
This is the band at peak swagger, as they’re touring to promote their classic ‘Exile On Main Street’ album. They had released a masterpiece… and they knew it.
RECORDED: November 1969
LINEUP: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Mick Taylor, Bill Wyman, and Charlie Watts with Ian Stewart (piano)
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Mightnight Rambler,” their cover of Robert Johnson’s “Love In Vain”
Most live albums have a little bit of studio “nipping and tucking” going on, polishing off the rough edges of the performances they are documenting. ‘Get Your Ya-Ya’s Out!’ had a bit too much: Mick Jagger recorded overdubs on nearly every song. Except, thankfully, “Midnight Rambler,” and this version of that song is the definitive one. For that reason alone, we rank ‘Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out’ very highly. “Love In Vain” also doesn’t have the overdubs, and it’s also excellent if less epic than “Midnight Rambler.” And if you’re going to spring for a copy of this album, though, splurge a bit and get the box set: it includes opening acts: B.B. King and Ike & Tina Turner.
Recorded: March 4 and 5 1977
Lineup: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts with Ollie Brown (percussion), Ian Stewart (piano) and Billy Preston (keyboards and vocals)
Standout Tracks: “Hand of Fate,” “Mannish Boy,” “Crackin’ Up,” “Around and Around”
Some of the songs on this album were previously released on the not-at-all-essential live album, ‘Love You Live,’ which was mostly performances from their stadium concerts. The El Mocambo songs were great, but they featured studio overdubs. On this new live release, it’s essentially a full show, culled from two “secret” gigs at the 300-capacity El Mocambo in Toronto, under the guise of ‘The Cockroaches,’ playing on the bill with Canadian band April Wine. Unknowing radio contest winners were likely stunned to find out who the Cockroches actually were!. The Stones, meanwhile, were in uncharted territory: more than a decade into their career, they were still together and still relevant. While they played a few ‘60s favorites, they drew a lot of their set from their new albums, ‘It’s Only Rock and Roll’ and ‘Black and Blue.’
Released: 2012 as part of the super-deluxe version of the ‘Charlie Is My Darling’ filim//2014 as a digital release
Lineup: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts
Standout Tracks: “Off The Hook,” the album-closing version of Solomon Burke’s “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love” and a 30 second bit where Charlie Watts introduces “Little Red Rooster” (“Little Red Rooster” itself is also pretty great, and it’s wild to hear a screaming teenage audience going crazy for a Willie Dixon blues classic).
The fidelity on these live recordings isn’t perfect, but it captures the band when they were about three years old playing to an audience that is losing its mind for the group. Not only were they a new band, but the very idea of rock bands was something of a new concept; it’s an era that will never be repeated. We should be grateful that this document of that time even exists.
Recorded: July 18, 1978
Released: 2011 (as part of a CD/Bluray set)// 2017 (as a standalone CD)
Lineup: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts with Ian Stewart (piano), Ian McLagan (organ, electric and acoustic pianos, backing vocals) and Doug Kershaw (violin on "Far Away Eyes")
Standout Tracks: Chuck Berry’s “Let It Rock,” which opens the show; the new songs from ‘Some Girls,’ including “When The Whip Comes Down,” the extended live jamming on “Miss You” and the country parody “Far Away Eyes.”
Ronnie Wood’s first album with the Stones was 1976’s cool but uneven ‘Black and Blue’; he was one of three guitarists (other than Keith Richards and Mick Jagger) on the album. He, Wayne Perkins and Harvey Mandell were all playing on the sessions while auditioning for the band. But 1978’s ‘Some Girls’ was the Stones’ first with Wood as a member and was an instant classic. It was a number one album in the U.S., and it boasted “Miss You,” which topped the pop charts; the album clearly demonstrated that the Stones would endure disco (even as they appropriated it on “Miss You”) and punk rock (their own take on that movement was “When The Whip Comes Down”). Wood fit seamlessly into the band and gave them a new lease on life after Mick Taylor’s departure; you really hear how much he and Keith Richards love playing together on this album.
Recorded: October 17, 1973
Released: 2011 (via Google Play and the Stones’ website)/ 2020 as part of the deluxe and super-deluxe versions of the ‘Goat’s Head Soup’ reissue
Lineup: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Mick Taylor, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts with Billy Preston (keyboards, vocals), Steve Madaio (trumpet, flugelhorn) and Trevor Lawrence (saxophone)
Standout Tracks: “Gimme Shelter”: this song is always a highlight, but it’s cool to hear how they arranged it before they had a female singer in their touring band. The new ‘Goat’s Head Soup’ songs are amazing, including “Dancing With Mr. D,” “Angie” and the X-Rated “Star Star.” Two other recent tunes, “All Down The Line” and “Rip This Joint,” also rock with fury.
It was heavily bootlegged for years, and then the Stones decided to release it as a limited boxset… which they sold for $750 to $1,500, depending on how “deluxe” of an edition you wanted. Happily, it’s now a bit more affordable, as part of the ‘Goat’s Head Soup’ boxsets. It’s still a bit pricey, but definitely worth it. There aren’t enough live releases from Mick Taylor’s era with the band, and we’re grateful that this one is now available. By ‘73, the Stones had been around for over a decade, were successful rock stars, but they were still young and they still felt dangerous. We’ll say it right here: we love the Stones’ somewhat polished shows from 1989 through today, but there’s still a real magic to hearing them as a garage band who are burning up the stage.
Recorded: November 22, 1981
LINEUP: Mick, Keith, Ronnie and Ian Stewart joined Muddy Waters and his band for this epic show, which also saw guest appearances by Buddy Guy and Junior Wells.
STANDOUT TRACKS: The whole thing… especially once the Stones hit the stage, really, but “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “Mannish Boy” and “Champagne and Reefer” were definite highlights
It’s not technically perfect, but all the same, be grateful that someone had the presence of mind to record this.