A still from Kenneth Anger’s “Invocation of My Demon Brother”
When reviewing the newest Blu-ray release from the Rolling Stone’s “From the Vault” concert series, one must take careful pains to point out that even when one is recommending it to the consumer, so should there be an extreme caveat issued: Hyde Park Live 1969 is not exactly the Stones at their in concert zenith. Not by a longshot. Never the tightest group live at the best of times, here the Stones sound like a ramshackle bar band covering their own songs.
Still, if you are a Stones freak—and even if this does happen to be a substandard performance, because that’s what it basically is—you have to have this one. It’s not like this show’s charms, or lack thereof, have ever been a secret, everyone knows that it was a bad performance, but this is also the highest quality that you’re ever going to see this show in, and I for one am glad to have that in the collection. It’s the definitive release of the Rolling Stones live in Hyde Park, 1969 (or as likely as we’re ever likely to get, this being the Granada TV “Stones in the Park” special and not the entire concert, which is annoying) and it seems like it was “kind of” mixed for 5.1, although the audio is somewhat of a moot point considering the ragged musicianship. It was $13. Hell, I’ve paid $20 for a shitty VHS bootleg of this show, so I’m happy to replace it.
But if it sounds like I’m damning Hyde Park Live 1969 with faint praise, well, I sort of am, and it does sorta suck, but at the same time, I’m glad to own it because it’s a somewhat essential historical document of the Rolling Stones, this being their inaugural outing with new guitarist Mick Taylor. The band had not played live onstage for a long time, they’d hardly had any time to rehearse with Taylor and they are… rusty, to put it kindly. In spots they rise to the occasion—like the extended “Sympathy for the Devil” with all the African drummers—but some of it just sounds like a bluesy catterwaul. (My wife asked “What the fuck is this? This is horrible.” When I told her it was the Stones, she scrunched up her face and said “It sounds like they’re a high school punk band.”)
Here’s a clip of “Satisfaction” from Hyde Park Live 1969 that’s actually not half bad: