Ostensibly, The Rolling Stones represented the best of the band’s mid-1970s performances with the 1977 double album, Love You Live.  Like most Stones live albums, it had plenty of bright spots, but also like most Stones albums, it didn’t quite measure up to the pinnacle of 1969’s Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out.  Few, if any, can.

Though mostly comprised of tracks pulled from tours in ’75 and ’76, Love You Live also had a few excerpts from two “secret” club shows the Stones got away with at Toronto’s El Mocambo Tavern in ‘77, in front of a shocked crowd of 300.  The premise of the undercover gigs was to recall spirit of the group’s youthful nights at London’s Crawdaddy Club, loading the repertoire with blues standards.  By the time the boys took the stage, instead it’d morphed into a full-fledged Stones concert set, with a handful of blues folded in.  Now, after 45 years, a plentiful rendering of the El Mocambo stint, on two discs, gets its due.  If Love You Live was the smoke, El Mocambo 1977 is the fire.

With a superlative mix from Bob Clearmountain, this is the proud representative of a Stones’ ‘70s experience; an intimate show unleashing a force in the band- as though they’ve got something new to prove- that shows up only more sporadically on Love You Live.  This was a changed group in the previous few years, adding Ronnie Wood, and emphasizing reggae and funk, particularly on the Black and Blue album that had them rolling on the road for much of ’76.  Toronto would be the group’s only slated show for ’77.  Energy levels ran high.

There were legal issues tailing Keith Richards.  And a growing creative schism between him and Mick Jagger.  Toss into the pot touring guests, keyboardist Billy Preston and percussionist Ollie Brown- surely around whom the Glimmer Twins would wish to deliver their best- plus, literally, no room between band and audience, and it’s both combustible and emergent.

There is the hip and cool, slyly passing nod to reggae pioneers Toots and the Maytals’ “Sweet and Dandy” on the outro of the “Tumbling Dice” that closes the first disc.  There’s “Hot Stuff,” assembling itself out of staggering rhythm into an insistent, dirty swank of sweaty, mid-decade disco soul.  Jagger is boozy, bluesy, and sharp, slinking his phrases together with supreme confidence, adding frisky engagement with his 300 new friends.  “Star Star” rides on a jet-pack, free and profane, tearing open the second half.  And there’s Wood taking over “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” and bonding with Richards, who’s, of course, resilient, leading the blaze on the numerous blues cuts.

It may have taken 45 years to get here, but El Mocambo 1977 should now stand as one of the finer live albums ever from The Rolling Stones.