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Positive Feedback ISSUE 3
october/november 2002


Editor’s Choice Recordings: More about the Stones on SACD - A Batch of Five plus One!
by David W. Robinson


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Apologies for the delay!

As you might guess from Issue 2, I’ve been spending quite a lot of time with the Stones re-issues on SACD. Of the 22 titles that have been released, I currently own 20 of them. It goes without saying that this is a bloody monumental listening project… day and night, slaving away at listening to really great rock ‘n roll, spending hours in musical delight—yes, it’s a damned dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it1

(Heh heh!)

For the less subtle and humor-challenged among our readers… that was a JOKE, son!

Actually, it’s been an exceptional time. This set of SACDs reveals things in the Stones recordings that I’ve never noticed before… the list is longer than I could possibly make right now. What I can say is that I’m hearing instruments in the background that I’ve never heard before… and back walls of studios… and percussives all over the place… an a sense of ambience on both mono and stereo tracks that leaves me so overwhelmed at times that I’m lost somewhere between bemused and floored.

I have the MoFi Stones box set as well as some of the Brit and European pressings; as a group, these SACDs on my reference hot-rodded Sony SCD-1 are more revealing than anything that I’ve heard to date. (Pace, brother vinyl lovers! This is not a slam on vinyl; it is a compliment to the quality of the analog and DSD mastering that has been done in this series.) The ability of SACD to deliver master tape quality sound when properly handled by a master engineer like Bob Ludwig with quality analog and DSD gear has been made quite clear in the case of these vintage tapes.

Don’t believe me? Get thee to a fine SACD player and check out the following "five plus one" Editor’s Choice HOT SACDs from this series…

(By the way: for those of you needing to understand how such raves can have something less than "10/10" in some categories, please read/re-read my notes in "The Higher End" this month: ‘Nuff said.)


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The Rolling Stones, 12x5
ABKCO Records SACD 94022

Disc type = Hybrid SACD
Disc provenance = analog masters to DSD, mastered by Bob Ludwig

This is a great earlier recording from the Stones’ discography; vintage early rock sound quality, with some shockingly good, (read, "before we could afford to screw it up") clean and honest recordings. Want a revelation? Check out " 2120 South Michigan Avenue," (Yowzah! Incredible!) "Time is on My Side," or "Confessin’ the Blues." Raw, young, and in this DSD iteration, devastating. Don’t let the vintage sound and jagged feel put you off; early Stones do NOT sound any better than this!

Despite the limitations of the original recording: Jump! Get it!

A Ye Olde Editor’s "highest recommendation!"

Sound = 7 or 8/10 (varies); Performance = 9-10/10 (varies); Music = 10/10


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The Rolling Stones, out of our heads
ABKCO Records SACD 94292

Disc type = Hybrid stereo SACD
Disc provenance = analog masters to DSD, mastered by Bob Ludwig

One of my all-time favorite Stones recordings, period. Of course, I have to confess that it was the first Stones LP that I bought, way back when I was all of 12 years old. (It was the second LP in my "collection" (ha!); the first was The Beatles Second Album, another recording that I can probably still sing, word-for-word, all the way through.

How is the SACD? In a word: smashing! Every song on this SACD is fresh, new, and stripped of any grubbies… crisp, clear, and laid bare for longing ears to drink in once more. I have no favorites here; they’re all old friends of mine. Sheesh, with songs like "Satisfaction," "The Last Time," "Play With Fire," "Good Times," "Hitch Hike"… you just can’t go wrong!

Complete no-brainer… if you want an earlier Stones title, this is one of the exceptional ones.

A Ye Olde Editor’s "highest recommendation!" Yeah! Enthusiastically!

Sound = 9/10; Performance =10/10; Music = 10/10


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The Rolling Stones, Between the Buttons
ABKCO Records SACD 94992

Disc type = Hybrid stereo SACD
Disc provenance = analog masters to DSD, mastered by Bob Ludwig

Another fine SACD, with some overlapping songs from Flowers. Well known for controversial (at the time) songs like "Let’s Spend the Night Together," this recording knocks you out with master tape feeling brought to "Ruby Tuesday," "Cool, Calm & Collected," "Yesterday’s Papers," and "My Obsession." The sound is less vintage than the early stuff, with some noticeable variation from track to track… different studio sessions/equipment/etc.

No problem, though; the sound sucked me in, and the feel of analog relaxed me again and again. Rick Gardner, Jennifer Crockand I are in agreement: these SACDs are hellaciously good, and make you wonder where the open reels are!

No lie.

Surprise! Another Ye Olde Editor’s "highest recommendation!"

Sound = 8 or 9/10 (varies); Performance = 9-10/10 (varies); Music = 10/10


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The Rolling Stones, Flowers
ABKCO Records SACD 95092

Disc type = Hybrid stereo SACD
Disc provenance = analog masters to DSD, mastered by Bob Ludwig

What an outstanding recording! A fine collection of Stones music (some overlap with Between the Buttons, though), including some favorites of mine: "Ruby Tuesday," "Let’s Spend the Night Together," "Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?" "Mother’s Little Helper"… and a track that’s worth the price of admission all by itself in my humble opinion: "Lady Jane."

"Lady Jane" is one of the best Stones recordings of this period; the sense of warmth, timbre, detail, and "there it is!" is bloody amazing… it’s one of the major treasures of my listening with these SACDs. Lord help us, it is—to use an oft’ misused label—a real "reference recording." Check it out; see if you don’t agree with me!

This is an excellent recording, despite some track-to-track variations in sound quality, and is an easy disc to love. "The Boys" really had some juice back then; this will put you in the front row of their studio sessions, for sure.

Ye Olde Editor therefore gives this a "highest recommendation!"

Sound = 8-10/10 (varies); Performance = 10/10; Music = 10/10


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The Rolling Stones, Beggars Banquet
ABKCO Records SACD 95392

Disc type = Hybrid stereo SACD
Disc provenance = analog masters to DSD, mastered by Bob Ludwig

Beggars Banquet is from the later ‘60’s…late 1968, to be more precise. Don’t think it ever sounded this good to me before, though; this slam is simply dunked, pure and simple. It avoids being overly produced, and reaches some serious honesty. The DSD re-mastering on SACD is simply a revelation, friends.

Enjoy songs like "Sympathy for the Devil" (no, I don’t have any, but this track is moving anyway!), "No Expectations" (this one really blew me away!), "Street Fighting Man" (excellent!), and "Stray Cat Blues"? Powerful percussives, clearly extended; decent bass; some sense of studio ambience; and to the extent possible with this sort of production, a sense of imaging/layers.

They’ve never sounded this good to me. Period.

This is late "honest Stones."

Like that?

Get this!

Ye Olde Editor issues another "highest recommendation!"

Sound = 8-10/10 (varies); Performance = 10/10; Music = 10/10


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The Rolling Stones, Let It Bleed
ABKCO Records SACD 90042

Disc type = Hybrid stereo SACD
Disc provenance = analog masters to DSD, mastered by Bob Ludwig

What can I say? This is one of the all-time smashes of the Stones, never surpassed by them in my opinion. The group was going through death and changes… styles and sound shifting… and from the midst of it came this true rock masterpiece.

There isn’t a poor song in the bunch… I won’t even bother to recite the track list. (If you don’t know it…you need to get to work, amigo!)

The sound is warmer, richer than the early stuff; the production values are more polished; the music is all over the rock block. The SACD brings the master tape to my listening room that nothing else I’ve heard does. You could sit an listen to rock classics like this for hours on end… Lord knows, I did!

Jennifer Crock and Rick Gardner agreed with me again on this one: this SACD is the best that we’ve ever heard Let It Bleed sound.

True reference grade, friend reader. Absolute must-have. "Desert Island Recording." "Recording To Be Buried With." And all that….

Don’t have an SACD player yet? What the honk are you waiting for?!

Ye Olde Editor’s "highest recommendation!"

Sound = 10/10; Performance = 10/10; Music = 10/10


As a final note: Astute readers will have noted that I haven’t covered any compilations yet. This is due to the fact that I wanted to get out the word on original recorded collections, before the Stones’ tendency to re-package… and re-package… and re-package their work took over.

I’ll try to make some brief recommendations as to which collections may get the most "bang for the buck" among those of you preferring that approach.

Me, I prefer original recordings to compilations (unless the compilation is an excuse for improved mastering!)… but to each, his or her own, eh?

Finally, I’ll also try to give you my impressions of the various "live" Stones SACDs, as well, though that will take more time.

Heh heh!