Joel Goldenberg: The Rolling Stones' Metamorphosis

The Toggery Five (plus several women), for whom the Stones demoed I'd Much Rather Be With the Boys.

Before we delve into this week's album entry, I want to give my highest recommendation to the recently released documentary David Crosby: Remember My Name. It is directed by A.J. Eaton, while rock writer and filmmaker Cameron Crowe interviews Crosby.

As the movie points out, while Crosby is very famous for being a member of the Byrds, Crosby, Stills and Nash and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, he never had a major hit single.

What he does have are many critically acclaimed albums, a compelling story of survival and regret regarding his extensive drug abuse and past personal and professional relationships (with women and fellow band members, some of whom are still angry with him), and a series of miracles.

As Crosby explains in current day interviews, he is lucky, now at 77, to still be alive, notwithstanding that heavy drug abuse, two or three heart attacks and eight stents leading to his heart. The second miracle is his current outpouring of creativity resulting in several albums in recent years.

But the most convincing miracle is the quality of his voice, which I had the pleasure of hearing live several years ago during a CSN concert at Place des Arts. At a time when many older singers experience severe vocal deficiencies (Paul McCartney especially), Crosby's voice remains youthful and very powerful, as shown in a few present-day concert sequences.

I have had a few Twitter exchanges with Crosby, and he has one of the best accounts out there, answering questions from fans on all sorts of subjects with unflinching honesty, especially regarding the payment pittances artists receive from the Spotify streaming service.

One recent exchange was between Crosby and fellow former Byrd Roger McGuinn. Crosby said in the movie that McGuinn was one of several former bandmates who hates him and won't speak to him.

McGuinn took time to reply, "that's just not true!" I can attest to that, as the two have had some friendly Twitter communications in recent months.

Crosby replied, "thanks, Roger, I must have mixed you up with some other guys."

I saw Remember My Name at the Cinéma du Parc, which I haven't been to in several years. If you have a chance, see a music or sound-oriented movie there — the theatre's system produces exquisite sound, and it really benefited the music in the Crosby documentary.

And now on to Metamorphosis:

•••

Last week, I mentioned several categories of albums that many fans and critics don't like — pre-fame releases of major artists, time-fillers in between albums, and location-related albums, which especially affected the Beatles and Rolling Stones.

But there was one category not mentioned, a first label's attempts to compete with an artist or group's contemporary releases on their second label.

This happened with the Rolling Stones. When they moved from Decca in the U.K. to their own Rolling Stones Records (via Atlantic Records), Decca released a slew of LPs, including hits collections and non-LP B-sides. The situation became so tenuous that the Stones took out an industry ad disavowing the 1970s Decca releases.

The Stones' were managed in the 1960s by Allen Klein, and he gained control of that decade's recordings. Klein didn't pursue the type of exploitation Decca did, but he did release one album of unreleased material in 1975, Metamorphosis.

If I followed the 1979 Rolling Stone Record Guide blindly, I would hate this album, as it received a "worthless" rating.

The album is not absolutely essential, but it does contain many items of interest — versions of the Stones' Out of Time and Heart of Stone that were demos for other artists and on which the only Stone was Mick Jagger; the girl-group sounding I'd Much Rather Be With the Boys, also a demo; the country-ish We're Wasting Time (only on the U.K. version of the album, and in bad fake stereo); a very good version of the Chuck Berry song Don't Lie To Me; a very ominous version of Stevie Wonder's I Don't Know Why, recorded on the day former member Brian Jones died; and bassist Bill Wyman's truly bizarre Downtown Suzie, completely with cow-like grunts.

But my favourite song is I'm Going Down — you can hardly hear the lyrics, but the tightness of the playing is absolutely magnificent.

The album is fairly important for Stones fans to have. The band has now only started in recent years to release rarity collections, including their BBC recordings, but a more definitive '60s unreleased songs collection would be nice.

Next time: Paul McCartney's Band on the Run.

 

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