The box set celebrating The Rolling Stones’ 1973 album, Goats Head Soup, is nothing short of a perfectly assembled collection: four discs, four tour posters, a 120-page book stuffed with never-before-seen photos, and, naturally, a recipe for the aforementioned potage. All in all, it’s an undeniable treat; with the real delicacies as they should be: the original album’s new and sonically authoritative stereo mixes, and the 15-song live disc from an October ’73 date in Brussels.
Thankfully and with some relief, those new stereo mixes of the proper record, courtesy of Giles Martin and Craig Silvey, are magnificent. Terrifically balanced and warm, they are resonant, crystalline, and wide, capturing all of the nuances of the original. At the time of its creation, Goats Head Soup found itself positioned in the unenviable shadow of the Stones’ arguable masterwork, Exile on Main Street; a most difficult spot for a follow-up, if there ever was one. Yet, Goats Head, recorded at Dynamic Sounds Studio in Kingston, Jamaica had its own underdog charm- not by being a sequel to the flawlessly ragged roll of Exile, but by chasing a darker, colder muse, belying its Caribbean backdrop. And, does any album containing “Angie,” “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker),” and “Silver Train,” really require any further justification to be feted?
As for the second disc of rarities and alternate mixes, there is “Scarlet,” with Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page guesting on guitar (mythically recorded in Ron Woods’s basement, but without Wood or contemporaneous guitarist Mick Taylor). It’s a smoking, funky little groove and a real gift to behold after nearly 50 years on the shelf. Also, there are nuggets “All the Rage” and “Criss Cross,” as well as the skull and bones tracks from the Goats Head sessions, and a few Glyn Johns ’73 mixes; just enough of a look under the skin to be intriguing.
The third disc, titled Brussels Affair, is ferocious. The Greatest Rock-And-Roll Band in the world, indeed. Fans of The Allman Brothers Band, Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, and/or David Bowie could put up a valid counterargument in ’73, certainly, but spin this frayed, growling, sexually perspiring 80-minute street gang soundtrack, including the proto-punk blister trip through “All Down The Line” and “Rip This Joint,” jamming on the funk train that is “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker),” and a “Midnight Rambler” that rivals the Get Yer Ya-Yas’s Out template, and hear the Stones plant their Union Jack at the summit.
The fourth disc- the Blu-Ray version of the album- is expectedly pristine, with three videos: “Dancing with Mr. D”; “Angie”; and “Silver Train.” The replica tour posters, appropriately vibrant and provocative, are rolled and packaged cleverly into the box’s spine. And a book that, if not for its secured inclusion in the box, could be a proud coffee-table addition, with dazzling photography and the detailed story of the album and tour. With this expanded release, Goats Head Soup takes its deserved place following Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, and Exile on Main Street on The Rolling Stones’ elevated and exalted mantel of esteem.