What does it sound like?:
What a difference 20 years makes. Back in the mid-90s the Unplugged craze was in full swing and the Stones were already the butt of threadbare old geezer jokes in the dad mags. Yet here they are as 50-somethings, suspiciously black of hair and (relatively) youthful of countenance running through semi-unplugged versions of their early and mid-period material.
Recorded in 1995 at studios in Tokyo and Lisbon and small live venues in Amsterdam, Paris and London during breaks in the Voodoo Lounge tour, Totally Stripped showcases the band at their bluesy, rustic best. Since Ronnie and Keith play their electric guitars for much of the show, it’s not a true unplugged performance by any means, but with acoustics always at hand, it’s probably as close as we’ll ever see. Freed from the theatricals required by the giant stadium stages and without the need to run around so much, Mick delivers a fine, focussed performance, although he still does that annoying Kermit the Frog flapping hands routine almost throughout.
The original Stripped CD arrived like a breath of fresh air in late 1995 and it’s still my favourite, ahem, “recent” Stones album. That’s probably because it’s the only one I own released beyond what is undisputedly their last truly great studio record, 1978’s Some Girls (other opinions are also available). The DVD features most of the live performances from the CD together with interviews and studio/backstage footage.
Watching the Stones at work is a fascinating experience. A band doesn’t survive this long without good reason and despite some less than great recent studio albums, the Stones can usually turn on the magic in a live setting, especially a small theatre. Ronnie and Keith’s guitars blend so well together it’s often hard to tell who is playing what and the overall effect is greater than the sum of its parts.
Old favourites such as Not Fade Away, Street Fighting Man and Love In Vain are dusted off to great effect, while mid-period gems Angie, Sweet Virginia and Wild Horses sound better than ever. The jewel in the crown here though is Like A Rolling Stone. “We’d always wanted to record it, explains Keith, “but because of the name, the time never seemed right”. In 1995 the time was right, the name had always been perfect and Dylan’s song provided the best possible ending to the proceedings.
What does it all *mean*?
In 1995 Ronnie Wood had the best haircut in rock. Fact.
Goes well with…
It’s slightly less polished, but this could be a warm-up for 2008’s Shine A Light movie
Might suit people who like…
Great ensemble playing and a mesmeric front man