The Rolling Stones
‘Their Satanic Majesties Request’
Rampant, madcap clutter defines “Their Satanic Majesties Request” like no Rolling Stones album before or since. “It just got freakier as we went along,” Mick Jagger said in 1968, as quoted in the packaging of this elaborate 50th-anniversary reissue of the album. There are no particular revelations; it’s a new remastering in multiple configurations — vinyl and CD, stereo and mono — but without any additional material. Released in December 1967, “Satanic Majesties” was the Rolling Stones’ clear rejoinder to the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” six months earlier, down to using the same artist (Michael Cooper) for its cover and hiding images of the Beatles in the photo collage. It was produced by the Stones themselves after their manager-producer Andrew Loog Oldham quit, leaving the band to indulge any and all studio whims: free-for-all jamming, horn and string arrangements, endless percussion overdubs, spoken-word interludes that probably seemed droll at the time. As the drummer Charlie Watts noted, “It was so druggy — acid and all that.”
On release, the album was rightly tagged as the Stones’ attempt to jump on the psychedelic bandwagon, piling on instruments and feigning flower-power bliss in songs like “Sing This All Together” and “She’s a Rainbow” (which, contrived or not, still sounds euphoric). The Stones themselves treated the album as a dead end and decided they needed no frills.
But 50 years later, “Satanic Majesties” also has some enduring charms. Bill Wyman’s song “In Another Land” is a pointed sendup of twee psychedelia, as its sweet harpsichord-backed verse gets a rude awakening in the chorus, and “On With the Show” bristles with sarcasm. “2000 Light Years From Home” makes the solitude and claustrophobia of space travel palpable. And two songs that never quite joined the Stones canon but should have — “Citadel” and “The Lantern” — glimpse a more complicated spirit of 1967, torn between recognition of a troubled world longing for sanctuary and a stubborn hope that things will work out. “Please,” Mick Jagger sang like he meant it, “Carry the lantern high.”
‘Brown Sugar: Deluxe Edition’
Fans of D’Angelo’s 1995 debut album, “Brown Sugar,” have always wanted its slinky, sensual grooves to go on even longer. Now they do, on an expanded reissue that adds an entire disc of remixes (resurrected from 1990s singles) and delves into the album’s construction with a handful of a cappella and instrumental tracks. A supremely seductive album, “Brown Sugar” is a panorama of desire, yearning, druggy pleasures and, in one song, murderous jealousy. Following the example of Prince, D’Angelo played nearly all of the instruments himself but created leisurely, spontaneous-sounding tracks that feel like a band jamming deep into the night, working at the intersection of R&B, jazz, hip-hop and — particularly in the finale, “Higher” — gospel.
“Deluxe Edition” takes apart “Brown Sugar” itself. The a cappella track reveals layers of loops, lead lines and muttered asides; the instrumental highlights D’Angelo’s improvisational digressions on organ, while an alternate version of “Brown Sugar” has D’Angelo on electric piano pushing the harmonies toward Miles Davis’s “Bitches Brew.” Most of the remixes, from 1990s 12-inches and CD singles, nudge the songs toward hip-hop in ways that DJs probably found useful for live club mixes: adding guest raps, turning up the bass, stripping away cushions of instrumental harmony, making the tracks more repetitive. They have their moments; DJ Premier’s remix of “Lady (Just Tha Beat Mix featuring AZ)” brings out the alpha-male boasting within the song, and “Cruisin’ (Wet Remix)” reharmonizes the song to make it more moody. Yet most of the remixes sound far more dated than the original album ever will.
Out of Neil Young’s bottomless archives comes “Hitchhiker,” an album’s worth of songs recorded on Aug. 11, 1976. He was contemplating war, loneliness, journeys and homecomings. It was a solo session, with just Mr. Young on guitar and harmonica or, for one song, piano, and like many of Mr. Young’s other sessions, it was shelved, leaving all but two of the songs to trickle out over the decades. “Hitchhiker” itself, an autobiography using drugs as milestones, didn’t emerge until Mr. Young released a solo electric version in 2010. Many of the songs were new in 1976, but Mr. Young already inhabited them fully; his voice was strong and sure and his guitar parts were clearly thought through.
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