We are pleased to debut a new regular column, “Reconfigured.” Here we take liberties with revisionism by reediting, reimagining, and resequencing a particular album or albums in an effort to reconfigure the work into a stronger album.
By the dawn of the 1980s, The Rolling Stones’ best years were certainly behind them. The band’s previous album (1978’s Some Girls) was the most cohesive they’d produced in years, but that kind of cover-to-cover quality would evade the Stones for the rest of their recording career. That much was apparent in the band’s subsequent releases, 1980’s Emotional Rescue and 1981’s Tattoo You.
That’s not to say that the band wouldn’t write some great tunes, of course. In fact, both Emotional Rescue and Tattoo You include some of the band’s strongest material of the entire decade. But in contrast to the lascivious machismo of Some Girls, it was becoming readily apparent that the Stones were now middle-aged men whose spirited youthful rebellion had dissipated into the ether, however reluctant they may have been to admit it.
That reluctance is evident in the Stones’ attempt to maintain the productivity of their youth by releasing an album every one to two years. While there isn’t a necessary correlation between the age and quality of output, history shows that artists can’t perpetually lay golden eggs, and each has their proverbial peak.
With the creative well not running as strongly as it used to, adhering to an annual or bi-annual release schedule will inevitably lead to albums with a lot of holes in them. Both Emotional Rescue and Tattoo You ultimately lack focus. On the one hand, there are glimmers of trying to keep up with musical trends (i.e. “Dance, pt. 1” and “Emotional Rescue”). On the other, there’s an admirable, if mixed willingness to experiment with new sounds (as in “Slave” and “Heaven”). And there’s plenty of material adhering to the Stones’ basic rock formula. So much so in fact, that it produces a glut, with many of the songs sounding essentially the same.
Both Emotional Rescue and Tattoo You performed well commercially; Rescue went gold in the U.K., double platinum in the U.S., and topping the charts on both sides of the pond. Tattoo You gave the group another gold record in the U.K., peaking at the #2 spot in that country. Tattoo was far more successful in the U.S., going quadruple platinum and topping the Billboard album charts.
But both albums always felt rather unfulfilling to me. And so through some tinkering, I present you with a melding of the two into a hypothetical release:
1. Start Me Up
2. Summer Romance
4. She’s So Cold
5. Little T&A
1. Emotional Rescue
2. Black Limousine
3. Let Me Go
4. Hang Fire
5. Waiting on a Friend
The classics are still here: concert favorite (and Windows 95 moneymaker) “Start Me Up,” Keith’s dirty old man ditty in “Little T&A,” the disco-infused “Emotional Rescue,” rocker “She’s So Cold,” and the sentimental “Waiting on a Friend.”
The album cuts still give the boys plenty of room to flex their muscles. “Black Limousine” gets them back to their blues roots much more effectively than the now-cutting-room-floor-outtake “Down in the Hole.” “Slave” adds a dash of experimentation into the mix more successfully than “Heaven,” which may still end up as a b-side. “Summer Romance,” “Let Me Go,” and slacker anthem “Hang Fire” admittedly follow the Stones tried and true formula, and stylistcally could be interchanged with tracks cut from the final lineup of Emotional Tattoo (“Where the Boys Go,” “Neighbours”), but the cuts here are a bit more convincing. One of the elements that made Tattoo You suffer was an overabundance of ballads, which made the album take a nosedive on the second side. Here, the boys show their strengths on both sides, without belaboring the ballads unnecessarily.
Give a listen, and let us know what you think!