All Alone: The Re-Release of Exile on Main Street

MainStreetI’m not one to complain but I have a blog so it comes more naturally now.

First thing: I love Exile. It’s probably my second favorite Stones album after Aftermath. And, for the most part, I love remasters and re-releases. Bonus tracks, a new way to hear everything, crisper/clearer, sure some albums don’t need it but a lot of times it can help an album rather than hurt it.

I had bought it the first week but it took me a while to listen to it. I gave it to my dad because I knew he’d want to take it with him to work in the morning and play it there. A few weeks later, driving to Home Depot with my dad he puts on the new Exile. He like a few of the bonus tracks, such as the alternate take of Loving Cup, so we started to listen. And my very first reaction was, “Why the hell are Mick’s vocals so loud?”

After all of the previous Stone’s re-releases and remasters earlier in the decade were a huge hit with me. I picked up almost all of them, even the one’s I didn’t want, UK and US. Those “new” recordings sounded amazing so I could only expect more of the same. And it’s not to say that the new version of Exile doesn’t sound great, but it’s just a much different feeling. I guess this next point is my main issue with the album, but it was part of the album which I enjoyed the most. Mick’s vocals were always subdued on Exile, so much so that you had to listen closely in order to hear what was being said. I always took that as a great statement, putting the vocals closer with the music, using the voice as an instrument rather than spouting poetics or whatever.

But I suppose it can also be heard as indecipherable and difficult. Mick’s vocals have been “properly” mixed for better or worse. That very, almost minuet, “correction” has almost completely killed the album for me. I can’t listen to this re-master because I just don’t find it to be as engaging as it once was. It used to feel deeply layered to me, sounding like the Stones were forcing you to listen, and now it just seems…bland, to me. I’m sure some will love this new release, but it’s just not for me.

It’s the musical equivalent of digitally inserting Jabba into A New Hope for me. I could probably sit through it a few more times, but I’d rather just turn it off and put on the original.