The Rolling Stones, “Goats Head Soup: Super Deluxe Edition”

The Rolling Stones
Goats Head Soup: Super Deluxe Edition
INTERSCOPE/UNIVERSAL
6/10 

Though Bobby Womack’s raw soulful “It’s All Over Now” was the first Rolling Stones 45 I had as a kid, Jagger, Richards, Watts, et al’s amber-toned Goats Head Soup was my first Stones full-length purchase. A quirky sale and a strange record considering its spooky cover, its goofy inside poster (pretty much its name made explicit), its lovely but limp first single, “Angie,” and just how grown up and warm Soup sounded as opposed to other glam-era darling totems of that year: Bowie’s Aladdin Sane, Elton’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy. Only The Who’s Quadrophenia and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon—two conceptual pieces from two bands closer to the rise (and age) of The Rolling Stones—come across as equally melancholy as the Stones did in 1973, imagining their zealously youthful origin stories with a sort of breathless finality. 

The Stones weren’t exactly fatalists on Goats Head Soup (despite the rumbling, grungy “Dancing with Mr. D” and its demonic element, and the moodily mature “100 Years Ago” in its piano demo), yet fading beauty and aged glamor are the twin nails in the coffin of this shockingly melancholy work that, years after its release (and with the requisite folderol of a Deluxe Edition) does manage to maintain some of the tacky glory of the glitter rock epoch, while preparing the Stones for an older, warmer, and wiser (and rocking) future.

Oddly enough, one of the tracks on this Super Deluxe edition that ties Goats Head Soup to the puckering glam of Bowie and T. Rex (something the Stones did so much more fully on their next album, It’s Only Rock ’n Roll, albeit a few years too late) is the song that almost got away: “Scarlet.” Along with the cattily acerbic “All the Rage,” these  two sleek, riff-heavy tracks (the former featuring Jimmy Page just wandering by for a wiry solo) were genetically engineered for the Ziggy Stardust moment with their sashaying swagger. The misogynistic “Star Star” and “Silver Train” probably were intended as glam anthems in the vein of “All the Young Dudes,” but fall cartoonishly short of the mascara-ed mark.

The matching of mood and maturity to music is found in Goat/Stones songs such as Jagger’s wily, sad soliloquy “Winter” and its look at a wretched spring, Richards’ pummeling, druggy “Coming Down Again,” and the album’s lone, horny funkateer, “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker).” The latter, miserably prescient with its take on killing cops, also comes in a demo form with its acoustic guitar intro giving the torrid track another vibe altogether different from what wound up in its place.

Along with the rarities and alternative mixes and cleaner sound to un-muddy its original murk, and a fresh stereo mix sourced from original session files, the reason to invest in this Super Deluxe Soup is the inclusion of the once-pricey (still, actually) Brussels Affair, a live bootleg recorded at the Forest National Arena in October 1973. Exquisitely mixed so as to distinguish every instrument, the always lyrical—and under-appreciated—lead guitarist Mick Taylor turns Goats Head cuts such as the placid “Angie” into an electric elegy and “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo” into something hotter and steamier than the Soup’s initial vision.

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