Music Review: The Rolling Stones - From the Vault: L.A. Forum - Live in 1975 (DVD + 2CD)

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Eagle Rock Entertainment presents the July 12, 1975 stop at the L.A. Forum during the first Rolling Stones tour to feature guitarist Ron Wood (still introduced by Mick Jagger as part of Faces). Billy Preston played keys throughout. He’s featured in a solo showcase, funking out on “That’s Life” and “Outta Space.” Saxophonist Trevor Lawrence sears on an extended solo that climaxes a 15-minute “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Jagger and Keith Richards share a mic for the most gloriously sloppy version of “Happy” imaginable. Just a few of the highlights found in the two hour and 38 minute concert.

The Stones weren’t touring to support an album, but they tear through then-recent obscurities like “If You Can’t Rock Me” (which segues into a heavily reworked “Get Off of My Cloud”) and “Fingerprint File,” both from 1974’s It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll. The blues is heavy on a sing-along run through of “You Gotta Move” and a show-stopping, 15-minute “Midnight Rambler.” Late in the show, “Rip This Joint” threatens to fall apart as they rock it at breakneck speed. Preston’s presence thickens the funk influence as the concert proceeds. Indomitable rhythm section Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman manage to anchor even the loosest jams, always keeping the ragged unruliness of Richards and Wood in check.

In other words, it’s classic Rolling Stones throughout a set list that numbers some two dozen tunes. The show was shot on video (standard definition, of course) and is presented in 1.33:1. While it isn’t visually flashy, it’s a throwback to a time when unnecessarily hyper-kinetic editing was not the norm. Not everyone gets a ton of screen time and there are hardly any close ups. But there’s a distinct (and welcome) de-emphasis on audience shots. Primitive as the visual style might look by today’s standards, we get to simply focus on the band. And the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix is excellent.

Eagle Rock has graciously released L.A. Forum - Live in 1975 in several different configurations. The DVD is available on its own, but the three-disc version that includes the entire concert spread over two CDs is highly recommended. (The following night’s concert, boasting the same set list, was issued as an digital download through Google Music in 2012.) The fidelity of the CDs is perfect. Think about this—what do you revisit more frequently: a live album or a live DVD? If you’re anything like me, the album is the go-to choice most of the time. And this particular concert works like gangbusters as a live album. For the vinyl buffs, there’s also a DVD plus triple-LP version available.

In addition to L.A. Forum, the recently-launched From the Vaults series also includes Hampton Coliseum - Live in 1981. Can’t wait to see what other treasures the Stones have awaiting us.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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