The greatest Rock & Roll Band in the World has not always shown the greatest skill when choosing which tunes to put on albums. After all, these are the folks who sat on ”Start Me Up” for years before sticking it on 1981’s Tattoo You.
So fans’ mouths were set a-watering by the news that the group would reissue its classic 1972 album, Exile on Main Street, with 10 previously unheard bonus tracks from the same era. And if the songs — which have been overhauled to varying degrees by producers Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Don Was — are of lesser quality than, say, Exile high point ”Tumbling Dice,” there are several that certainly deserve to be heard. ”Pass the Wine (Sophia Loren)” is an excellent piece of loose-limbed funk. ”I’m Not Signifying” boasts a nice bluesy swagger. And lament ”Following the River” is a genuine tearjerker, although its shiny presentation — which includes newly recorded Jagger vocals — is far removed from the atmospheric murkiness of the original collection.
Some other songs, including a Richards-sung version of Exile number ”Soul Survivor,” are of more archaeological interest. It also seems rich that the ”super deluxe edition” features a half-hour film containing footage from the forthcoming documentary Stones in Exile, rather than the doc itself. Literally rich, given that the deluxe version, which also includes the original Exile on vinyl, costs more than $100. But the basic package is an essential purchase that rescues a clutch of terrific tracks from their 38-year Exile exile. Original album: A+ Bonus tracks: B