[Today: Going into exile with The Stones and A3...]
These albums share more than just the obvious freaks-R-us album art and similar name-scheme: both feature outstanding music that’s awash in gospel spirit, greasy lyrics, and grimy production.
The Stones’ classic was recorded in the south of France, where the band had holed up in exile from England’s tax code. Most of the album was created in the basement of Nellcôte, a lavish mansion rented by guitarist Keith Richards (it was easier for the band to go to him than to wait for him to show up somewhere else). The music was piped from the basement out to the group’s mobile recording unit, and mixed on the spot. According to Richards, the house was Gestapo headquarters during WWII, complete with swastikas on the heating vents. That atmosphere seeped into the music, which finds the Stones at their boozy, debaucherous best on 18 perfectly sequenced songs spread over two records. ‘Rocks Off’ and ‘Rip This Joint’ start the party strong, ‘Sweet Virginia’ and ‘Torn And Frayed’ downshift midway through into the heavy blues rock of ‘Ventilator Blues’ and ‘I Just Want To See His Face’ before the final salvation of ‘Shine A Light’ and ‘Soul Survivor’. Misunderstood and widely panned upon release, Exile is now generally considered to be the band’s finest hour.
Alabama 3 are an interesting musical case study – British electronica artists affecting fake southern drawls and preaching for god and against drugs, over a bed of fat electronic beats. Reverend Larry Love (aka Rob Spragg), D. Wayne Love (aka Jake Black) and company released Exile On Coldharbour Lane in 1997 to an indifferent public. But their self-described “sweet, pretty Country/Acid House music” caught the ear of Sopranos producer David Chase, and ‘Woke Up This Morning’ became the theme for the opening credits of one of the most successful television programs of our time. That big break hasn’t translated to wide-spread recognition or multi-platinum sales, probably because of their curious mixture of sounds and influences (Hank Williams + Techno is not a blueprint for success. Go figure). Few listeners could be bothered to figure out that the band’s persona – and lyrical content – is one big gag, but the music here is truly divine.
Listen: Rip This Joint [Stones]
Listen: Converted [A3]
Listen: Let It Loose [Stones]
Listen: Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness [A3]