The Rolling Stones Unlock Their Archive With The Brussels Affair – Perry Schwartz Delves Into It

The Rolling Stones have spent the better part of the last few years reliving what many believe to be the band’s glory years – 1969-1974.  In 2010 the band released a remastered version of the 1972 classic, Exile On Main St., in a rarities edition featuring 10 new tracks and supported by the excellent Stones In Exile documentary.  Later the same year they also re-released a digitally remastered HD version of Ladies And Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones, a concert movie originally released in 1974 and featuring the band on their legendary 1972 tour in support of Exile.

Then, early last week the Stones quietly and figuratively opened the door to what is believed to be an endless vault of unreleased and live recordings from the last 50 years. www.stonesarchivestore.com is a revelation for Stones fans – an online portal with archived photos, articles, videos, tour merchandise and, most importantly, music.

The first item in the archive is an official release of the Stones’ frequently bootlegged 1973 tour stop in Belgium.  Previously traded under the names Europe 73, and Bedspring Symphony, The Brussels Affair is a long-awaited release of the legendary show which captures the band at their peak.

The 15 tracks on The Brussels Affair remind us of the greatness that was the Rolling Stones during the early 70’s.  Touring in support of Exile the band roars on tracks like “Brown Sugar”, “Tumbling Dice”, “Midnight Rambler” and “Street Fighting Man”.  The show also gave the Stones a chance to road-test tracks from what would become their 13th studio release, Goats Head Soup.  As a result, Brussels previews such classics as “Angie”, “Dancing With Mr. D”, and “Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)”.

As with Ladies And Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones, Brussels revisits Mick Taylor’s years with the Stones and his playing on this live recording can best be described as ‘tasty’.  Taylor weaves beautiful lead licks and slide flourishes perfectly between the ferocious rhythm playing of Keith Richards and the back-end groove of Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman.  Mix in Billy Preston on keyboards and a killer horn section led by the incomparable Bobby Keys, and you arguably have the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band at the top of their game.  If you need more proof check out the Brussels version of “Rip This Joint”.

The best part about the release of The Brussels Affair is the price tag – $7.00 for an MP3 download that easily imports to iTunes.  The online vault also gives Stones enthusiasts the chance to browse vintage photos and videos, as well as purchase everything from authentic ’73-period tour merchandise (t-shirts, programs, posters) to a $2,500 limited edition set of signed lithographs.

There’s no indication on the site when the next archive release will take place or what it might be.  On November 21st the Stones officially re-release a rarities version of their 1978 classic Some Girls so one can only speculate that the next vault release might complement that period of the Stones’ career.

One thing that is clear is that the band have been working on Stones-related projects over the last few years and that these developments, coupled with rumors of a recent band meeting/jam session, might indicate a return to the live stage in 2012 to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Rolling Stones.

What would you like to see in the Stones’ vault or as part of the 50th anniversary?

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