The Rolling Stones: Totally Stripped Review: Totally Enjoyable

During 1994/1995, the Rolling Stones (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood) toured the world behind Voodoo Lounge, which not only found them playing stadiums, but also three small European venues: The Paradiso in Amsterdam in May 1995, and L’Olympia in Paris and Brixton Academy in London in July 1995. Performances from those intimate concerts along with acoustic studio sessions recorded in Tokyo and Lisbon resulted in Stripped, a different type of live album from the band.

Twenty-one years later, Totally Stripped revisits Stripped in updated and expanded versions. The CD delivers 14 tracks, with only one performance, “Street Fighting Man” from Amsterdam, which opens Stripped and closes Totally, the lone repeat. There are songs from each of the three concerts, and the band sounds in fine form throughout.

The CD begins with an early hit for the band, a crowd-pleasing, laid-back cover of Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” with Jagger on harmonica. Watts’ drums stand out as it sounds like he is leading the arrangement on “Honky Tonk Woman,” regardless of how loud the guitars get.

The band demonstrates how easily they could work in different genres. The country elements of the country-rock sound of “Dead Flowers” are accentuated on this stripped-down rendition. On “Faraway Eyes” Wood’s pedal steel guitar, Chuck Leavell’s organ, and the singers evoke “driving home early Sunday morning through Bakersfield/Listening to gospel music on the colored radio station.” And when it comes to gospel music, the Stones will make a believer out of you on “Shine A Light.”

After “I Go Wild,” an obligatory track off Voodoo Lounge, some of the touring musicians reveal their talents on “Miss You” as Darryl Jones’ bass, Leavell’s keyboards, and Bobby Keyes’ sax all get to come to the forefront. Jagger exchanges “ooh”s with the crowd. Afterwards, Jagger reveals (at the Amsterdam concert) they are about to debut their cover of Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone.” It’s a rather straightforward cover, satisfactory but they don’t make it their own.

“Midnight Rambler” really finds the band play with the slightly new arrangement, as the song slows down so much it nearly comes to halt before heading off at a fast gallop. The horn section is so pronounced and integral to the live version of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” it’s hard to believe that it’s not on the original studio version. After a smoldering “Gimme Shelter” with impressive vocals by Lisa Fischer, the band rips the joint with a blistering “Rip This Joint,” albeit after a false start when Jagger loses his way. The horn section again impresses. The album closes out with anthemic “Street Fighting Man.”

The DVD offers a great 91-minute documentary of Stripped‘s creation. Starting in Tokyo, where five tracks would make it to Stripped, viewers get to see the band play Robert Johnson’s “Love in Vain.” Jagger seems unsure of his performance of “The Spider and The Fly” because he has to work at it, but he sounds in fine form. The blues influence in the band during these songs is evident.

Viewers get to see personal dynamics of the band, who are clearly long-time friends. They enjoy revisiting songs that hadn’t been in their repertoire for quite a while since the laid-back, acoustic approach likely wouldn’t go over too well in a stadium setting.

It’s out of Tokyo and off to Amsterdam, although the latter was where the first live recording for Stripped occurred. They soundcheck, and later warm-up back stage with ‘Tumbling Dice.” While only 1,500 gaining entry into the club, it was very cool of the band to allow the concert to be shown in a local park. They aren’t unplugged at the show. Just stripped down to just the musicians and the lights. No effects. No pyrotechnics.

At the Olympia in Paris where they first played in France, they replicated that experience by playing in the afternoon. Jack Nicholson was one of the approximately 2000 who attended. In London at the Brixton Academy they play for 5,000. They close things out with a performance of and talking about “Like a Rolling Stone.”

Even stripped down, the Rolling Stones prove themselves to be a primal rock ‘n’ roll force with these live performances. Strongly recommend for fans of the band.

Totally Stripped is available as a DVD or SD Blu-ray containing the newly-revised documentary of the same name, or on DVD+CD or DVD+LP featuring the documentary and single CD / 2LPs compiled from live shows. Additionally a DVD or SD Blu-ray deluxe edition is available, packaged with a 60-page hard book set containing five discs, which boasts hours of previously unavailable music (three complete shows made available for the first time ever).

Gordon S. Miller

Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of this site.

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