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Posted by Keef on May 28, 1999 at 20:17:17:
For anyone who truly thinks that Keith's rhythm playing is as good or better now than it ever was, I offer this challenge. Listen to these live recordings of a few Stones' classics and do a little comparing between "then and now."
Brown Sugar: First of all, forget about Mick Taylor or Ron Wood. Just listen to what Keith is doing. First, listen to Keith's non-stop rhythm strumming from the '73 Perth show, the Brussels show of the same year, the '71 Leeds show, and even the performance from Love You Live. Next, listen to ANY performance of the same song from ANY post '78 tour--'97 St. Louis, '89 Atlantic City, etc. I'll take the pre '78 version any day.
Honky Tonk Women: Listen to the incredible live versions from Ya Ya's, Brussels '73, Leeds '71, or the last really good rendition on Love You Live. Name one version from the past 20 years that compares. He barely plays this wonderful riff anymore. He just plucks the strings in a lazy manner usually with a cigarette dangling while kicking his legs. Where's the strumming?
Street Fighting Man: Incredibly powerful version from Ya Ya's. Also great on Brussels and Leeds. Just listen to the "weak" version during the Steel Wheels tour. The only good version I've heard in 20 years is the acoustic one from Stripped.
Jumping Jack Flash: Forget about Taylor's great lead lines and just listen to Keith from the incredible Brussels version. He's laying down that rhythm like a jackhammer. Other great version include Ya Ya's and Love You Live. The recent versions of this song from Bridges and NS sounded better than any others I've heard in a couple of decades, but still no match for the pre '78 performances.
Gimmie Shelter: We all know how great this one is on '72 Philadelphia, '73 Perth, '73 Brussels, etc. The Steel Wheels version was bubble gum music compared to those older perfomances. They improved it for the past couple of tours, but Keith's playing is no longer the driving force behind the song. Jagger is pushing it now with his "top of his game" singing.
Tumbling Dice: Brussels, Perth, and Love You Live renditions were all great. Present day version with over the top horns, keyboards, and lack of focused Keith rhythm playing has reduced this song to a band minus Keith jam.
Happy: Keith used to sing AND play this one. Just listen to this one from Brussels, Perth, and Love You Live. Chainsaw riffing with no pauses, no gaps, no down time. Just Keith strumming away.
This are the songs that I think have suffered most because of Keith's "coasting" style of play. Performances of these great songs during the past 20 years or so just don't stand up to those older ones. Songs recorded after '78 have nothing to compare them to, so they sound much better since we've only heard them played in the "lazy" Keith style. Other songs like Memory Motel, Moonlight Mile, Fool To Cry, etc. etc. sound great because the original studio versions really didn't feature any buzzing rhythm guitar work. If only Keith would play those seven or eight previously mentioned songs with the same focus and rhythm intensity that he once did, all the talk about Ronnie vs. Mick Taylor would cease. Everyone would be so amazed at how great it sounded, all that would be forgotten.