Saturday, June 6, 2015

Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones (1974)

          The musical adventures of British bad-boy rockers the Rolling Stones are more than sufficiently documented on film and video, so it’s to be expected that some of their visual recordings are more interesting than others. For example, Gimme Shelter (1970) is hypnotic because it captures the chaos of the band’s tragic Altamont appearance, whereas Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones lacks commensurate historical significance. Yet Ladies and Gentlemen is arguably the best snapshot of guitarist Mick Taylor’s time with the band. A replacement for troubled founding member Brian Jones, Taylor was the most polished musician ever to be a full member of the band, with the possible exception of indefatigable drummer Charlie Watts, and the way his arcing slide-guitar notes energize tunes from one of the Stones’ most creative periods is wonderful to behold. The presentation of this movie is disappointingly straightforward, with the camera trained almost exclusively on the musicians and way too much screen time consumed by lead singer Mick Jagger’s loose-limbed antics. However, the muscular attack formed by the band’s legendary rhythm section—in tandem with Taylor’s licks and the jabs and stabs of a horn section—has undeniable power.
          Filmed over four nights in Texas on the Sticky Fingers tour, Ladies and Gentlemen is fairly light on vintage tunes, favoring such then-recent cuts as “Bitch,” “Dead Flowers,” “Happy,” and “Tumbling Dice.” In fact, Jagger and co. seem a bit bored when charging through older tunes including “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Street Fighting Man.” You can’t blame the lads for being jazzed about their Taylor-era sound, with its fluid melodies and sharp stings, though the Stones’ early-’70s affinity for country-and-western colorations is an acquired taste. Throughout this very short movie, which has been augmented with supplemental material for broadcast exhibition, theatrical re-releases, and video packages, Jagger leads the way with his duck lips and rooster hips, a preening dandy powered by arrogance and sex. If his routine meets your criteria for an ideal front man’s stage persona, rest assured Ladies and Gentlemen captures Jagger at an especially vital moment. Still, because the piece has a clinical feel, even with the band’s storied blend of loose grooves and tight musicianship, it’s hard to imagine anyone but a diehard Stones fan finding all 83 minutes of Ladies and Gentlemen compelling.

Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones: FUNKY

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