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Band's best live album gets deluxe treatment

Ya Ya's cover.jpg

There’s no disputing that 1969 was a year of major triumph and tragedy for The Rolling Stones.

Brian Jones left the group in June ’69 and was replaced by guitarist Mick Taylor. Less than a month later, Jones was found dead in his swimming pool, his mysterious death deemed by a coroner to be a drowning while under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

On July 5, two days after Jones’ body was found, Taylor made his concert debut with the Stones during a free concert before 250,000 at London’s Hyde Park.

The band’s subsequent attempt at a freebie on Dec. 6 at California’s Altamont Speedway, though, was marred by chaos and violence, most notably the stabbing death of a black teenager in the crowd.

But between the Hyde Park and Altamont gigs, the Stones rocked New York during a two-night stand in late November ’69 at what was then a relatively new fourth edition of Madison Square Garden, resulting in one of the best concert albums by any rock band ever. In celebration of the 40th anniversary of Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!, ABKCO has given the album the deluxe reissue treatment, and it’s a must for any serious Stones fan.

The package contains the original concert album (released in late 1970), and its 10 tracks show a band on top of its game. By this point in the Stones’ career, Mick Jagger‘s voice had reached a level of warmth and maturity. Keith Richards‘ harmony vocals on “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” which opens the album, are among his best; the main riff on the sinister “Live With Me” never sounded tougher, and that includes the studio version on 1969’s Let It Bleed. Taylor’s fluid leads and meaty rhythm work show that he’s his own man and not trying to be a Jones clone.

A disc of five previously unreleased tracks stands up to the performance and audio quality of the original Ya-Ya’s album, with the highlight being a bluesy take on “Under My Thumb” that segues smoothly into “I’m Free.” All five of these songs are captured in full on a bonus DVD, which also includes funny footage of Jagger and Charlie Watts during a photo shoot on a rainy highway, as well as backstage and off-stage glimpses of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.

B.B. King along with Ike and Tina Turner opened for the Stones on Nov. 27 and 28, 1969, and a third disc in this package is devoted to their performances. King shines brightest on “How Blue Can You Get,” while Tina Turner stakes her claim on Dusty Springfield‘s “Son of a Preacher Man.”

The deluxe package also features a handsome book with insightful text by Ethan Russell and some great Russell photos from that era, including a shot of the original Ya-Ya’s cover.

The Stones have released plenty of concert collections since Ya-Ya’s — some fans would say too many. Ya-Ya’s remains the only one that’s indispensable.

— By Chris M. Junior