Friday, May 13, 2011

At The Cinema: The Rolling Stones Under Review – The Mick Taylor Years: 1969-1974

Ask people who their favorite Rolling Stones guitarist is and you’ll frequently hear the name Brian Jones. Now, I too have a whole lotta love for the tragic Jones, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that it is indeed Mick Taylor who played a pivotal instrumental role on several of my favorite Stones records (Sticky Fingers, Exile On Main Street, Goat’s Head Soup, and in bits on Let It Bleed). “The Rolling Stones Under Review – The Mick Taylor Years: 1969-1974” puts that era under a microscope, and highlights this period of unparalleled musical excellence and creativity, giving a hearty dose of credit for this period to Taylor’s skill with his guitar playing.

The movie serves as an interesting history of the Stones, and to a certain extent the times as well, full of photos and live performances and commentaries by industry types and writers and peers (and even Mr. Taylor himself) offering their insights into this crucial period in the Stones’ story. We begin at the end of the Jones era, right on the back of the peerless Beggar’s Banquet record when Brian Jones spiraled out of control and was eventually thrown out of the band, not long before his death. Interesting nuggets of information are all over the place, including the names of several of the candidates for Jones’ replacement: Ry Cooder, Ron Wood, and Eric Clapton. Impossible to know how different the band might have been had any of those three been invited into the Stones camp at that moment in time, though it is fun to let the mind toy with the idea (and as we all know, Mr. Wood did indeed eventually end up a Stone). Mick Taylor was but a tender 20 when he joined the band, having reached the end of his time with John Mayall’s Blues Breakers. Mayall himself suggested Taylor to Mick Jagger. Serendipity brought the band and Taylor together, and the fit couldn’t have been more perfect. For a brief few years, anyway.

Going chronologically through each record Taylor touched, the film serves up the goods in both fact and opinion. The contributors tend to disagree on things like the best Stones record, but all seem to share the opinion, as do I, that Taylor was a hugely valuable piece of the Stones during quite probably their most important creative period. Also peppered rather liberally throughout are stories about the drugs, the women, and the general wackiness that accompanied life with The Rolling Stones, such as that unfathomably debaucherous swirl of time recording Exile On Main Street while tax exiles in France and all that messy Anita Pallenberg hullabaloo. My one bone of contention with the film is that it frequently deviates from Taylor and his impact on the band, relegating him to supporting cast status while the emphasis, as the time ticks by, hones in more and more on the relationship betwixt the other Mick and Keith. I will say, though, that even when focusing more on Jagger & Richards the flick is still mostly absorbing.

The Rolling Stones Under Review – The Mick Taylor Years: 1969-1974” is a pretty captivating hour and a half (plus bonus features!). For Rolling Stones nerds like yours truly, it proves time well spent.

(Note: There appears to have been a tweak to the name from 1969-1975, which I suppose is because Taylor left the band in December of 1974. But my copy says 1974, and so that’s how I reference it.)



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