Sticky Fingers  Deluxe Edition Any Good?

Thanks to an reader I got a copy to review of the two LP deluxe edition of Sticky Fingers (Rolling Stones Records 376-484-4).

The packaging is fine, including a real zipper, along with the original inner sleeves. The two records here are very well-pressed at GZ Media in the Czech Republic, though on Amazon there was plenty of bitching about noisy vinyl and even vinyl with glue balls (which strikes me as an appropriate addition to the cover's paper dick).

The first LP reprises the original Rolling Stones Records release. The second record includes on side one a version of "Brown Sugar" with Eric Clapton, an all-acoustic "Wild Horses", an alternate version of "Can't You Hear Me Knocking", an extended version of "Bitch" and an alternative version of "Dead Flowers". Side two contains four live performances from March 14th, 1971 recorded at London's The Roundhouse.

The bonus disc is a "must have" for "completists" only. The "Brown Sugar" with Clapton is okay, the "Wild Horses" not as good as the original, the alternative version of "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" isn't as good as the original either, but by a wider margin. The extended version of "Bitch" rocks pretty well assuming you like that tune in the first place. Best on side one is the alternate version of "Dead Flowers", which sounds as if it was played "live" in the studio. The overall sound on the second disk is blah, made worse by what sounds like mediocre digital reverb.

Since the Roundhouse gig was a tour closer, the band is in fine form though there's nothing particularly illuminating in the performances, nor are most of the mixes anything special sonically. Best is the closer "Honky Tonk Women".

As for the original LP remaster, no one takes credit for the remaster, which is interesting and understandable. I wouldn't want my name on it either, though I'm sure it was Stephen Marcussen, who did similar work on the Exile on Main Street debacle. This one doesn't sound quite as compressed, but when you sit down to listen, the music just seems to float by without creating much of an emotional impact, partly because of the dynamic compression but also because the bass is kind of weak and there's a bit of added edge on top. However, in terms of overall EQ, it's not grossly off the mark.

The Stones fetishists note a slight bit of tape dropout at around 1:18 of "You Gotta Move". It's hardly an issue and if it wasn't pointed out you'd probably not notice it. What you will notice is the overall compression, which results in little in the way of depth and which prevents the music from breathing in its own space. That's why it seems to drift by without carving an impression in your brain. Well at least in mine.

I will say that this reissue met my every expectation: well-packaged and pressed, with little care going into the sound. This should have been cut from tape by someone not interested in a 21st century "revision." I don't know why The Rolling Stones don't give a shit about their legacy on record, but at this point that's the only conclusion I can draw.

When 96/24 files go to guys like Kevin Gray, or Ryan K. Smith or Chris Bellman, they can often obtain good results and it shows someone overseeing production cares. Here, the files were sent via the Internet to GZ Media and "A. Nonymous" cut lacquers. I wonder if anyone actually listened to and approved test pressings.

Draw your own conclusion here:

Here are four short excerpts from "Dead Flowers". One is the original Rolling Stones Records pressing, another is a late '70s/early '80s Japanese pressing, another is the Mobile Fidelity reissue from the 1980's and of course one is from this reissue, but I'm not saying which is which.

Rather than turning this into a voting exercise, just give them a listen and comment on how they sound. Guess which is which if you want. I'll reveal at a later time (not too much later) which is which.

file 1

file 2

file 3

file 4

As for the music (oh yes, the music!), there were some great tracks like "Brown Sugar", "Wild Horses", "Dead Flowers" and especially "Moonlight Mile", some of the rest was less than inspired and overall the record was of a group looking to re-group after ending the previous decade with some of the most powerful records ever made (Beggar's Banquet and Let It Bleed)—not to mention coming off the awfulness of Altamont Speedway ugliness. In retrospect, the extended "Can't You Hear Me Knocking", where The Rolling Stones turn into Santana, was one hot number well worth repeated plays.

Though it was engineered by Glyn and Andy Johns and produced (with affection) by Jimmy Miller, I always though the production on this record lacked depth and atmosphere, though a few tracks, like "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" and "Dead Flowers" came together well.

Overall, this reissue is pretty weak in my opinion and again, I'm left thinking The Rolling Stones don't give a shit about how their catalog gets reissued. As for UMe, it's clear they lavish greater attention on the packaging than on the sound. I'm afraid that The Beatles mono box taught nobody there much of anything.

Bigrasshopper's picture

Can't seem to play from my ipad. The significance of the Universal logo is not lost my not lost on me. Until someone shows me otherwise, I give them all a wide berth. I'm terrible remembing names, but I was having a conversation with a lady at a used book store record bin who said she was formerly and recently employed at Nashville Record Plant and flat out told me that someone ( sorry ) at Universal had strict instructions for someone (sorry ) at the plant not to reveal sources or engage with our host Mr. Fremer. She said that this guy wanted to communicate but was stifled. I guess they have a lot of pull around there and apparently nothing worth sharing anyway. I know this was pressed elsewhere, but to me that just reinforced my negative impressions of the music label.
Can anyone point out an example of a universal record that they recommend ?

PeterPani's picture

Universal also owns Deutsche Grammophon for classical music. They sell some new vinyl. But all of them sound thin and flat. All to avoid. I always suffer, reading todays magazines for classic, like the most important "The Gramophone". In the main sections no word about analog sound, all about digital carriers. Not even reader letters discussing this. But I know an awfull lot of people, who stopped buying classical music of today, because nobody wants to listen to e.g. Netrebko digital. Nearly the same with jazz. All new digital. Maybe this happens, because Michael is mainly in rock music. We classical music lovers would need a second Michael against/for the classical industry :-) By the way - looking in the classified sections at the back pages of "The Gramophone" lots of little advertisments for used vinyl...

Michael Fremer's picture
Is a UMe project..... it pointed the way forward, but they looked backwards.
BillK's picture

Ever since the complete joke of a vinyl release they did of the Carpenters' "The Singles 1969-1973" in which they didn't even use the tracks from the original album but instead seemingly used whatever they had lying around.

Bigrasshopper's picture

By the way, how's that S&G review coming ? Maybe something on a more positive note going on with that.

Michael Fremer's picture
Working on it..
Auric G's picture

If it sounds as good as sony/legacy Paul simon Graceland and AAA Hendrix reissues, I might be interested.

Big Cap's picture

1. Reissue (midrange sucked out)
2. Japanese (way too much bass)
3. MoFi (most "natural" sounding-especially vocal and snare)
4. Original

Michael Fremer's picture
Be surprised. You had one correct!
Chriswilford1's picture

My experience, Japanese pressings have slightly rolled off bass.

Snorker's picture

At least with regard to this particular Japanese Sticky Fingers pressing, the bass is not rolled at all. And it's far better than on the 2015 remaster. That said, there's no way file #2 is the Japanese pressing.

Martin's picture

As always, I really enjoyed the read.
A shame about the sound. Again, if someone gave a shit, this could have been a great reissue, particularly with all the bonus tracks. I have the original 1971 12" 'unofficial' single of Brown Sugar with Eric Clapton and Cocksucker Blues on the B side. It rocks. Seriously. I've played the album version and the alternate version back to back and had people say they think the alternate is better.
It's a huge shame that someone like Stephen "the Masher" Marcussen is still being given this stuff to master. Bob Ludwig did a terrific job on the '60's stuff, getting digital DSD files to sound listenable on vinyl. Then we get this, squashed mastering sent to the Czech republic to be pressed.
I have a copy of this, though haven't gotten around to playing it yet. I'm waiting for a chance to spend some time and comparing it to some of the other pressings, the TML A3/B3 original, the original US press, the Japanese... Not the MoFi, that's a cartoon of the original.
Sounds like another missed opportunity to put out something significant.

IR Shane's picture

Hello Martin- what country was your TML A3/B3 pressed and manufactured in? A few years ago I looked and looked and eventually found an early German pressing that had a TML stamp. But I could never find a US or UK TML. I'm curious!

And wow, ABKCO did such a nice job restoring the early Stones catalog as DSD and the vinyl that's ripped from those files sounds terrific. It might not be AAA, but those pressings are strikingly comparable to originals. Bums me out that this one didn't make the grade. I LOVE this record and would have loved to get great sound for the main album and bonus tracks.

Martin's picture

It's a german first pressing. The UK press used the same metal and mastering. So, incidentally, does the first french press... Apparently, so the story goes.... When Glyn Johns finished mixing the album, he brought it by The Mastering Lab for Doug Sax to master the international releases. Doug Sax cut the lacquers for the European releases because SF was to be released in Europe slightly ahead of the US - apparently. That first cut was the A3/B3 cut. That, anyway is the story. If really true... dunno. To me anyway, my ears, that TML is the best sounding, best balanced SF of the 7 or 8 different pressings I own. The A4/B4 is a later cut. So apparently is the A2...
I like the first US cut, but I keep coming back to that german pressing if I feel like playing the record...

IR Shane's picture

Ha! I have a German TML, I just need to revisit the stamper numbers, and I'm traveling right now. I just know that I too heard that there was a UK first press that had the TML stamp and I looked and looked and never found one. I started to wonder if it really existed.

As a go to for this record, I bounce back and forth between the MoFi and the German TML. The former is more refined on the acoustic numbers, even though it's a little sleepy. It's cut so low in level I have to crank the volume to get it to rock at all on the electric numbers. But when I want to hear Bitch or play the rockin' tracks pull out the German TML.

Thanks for the info!

Snorker's picture

It's the same double-LP set as the subject. I only have the EMI-Toshiba Japanese reissue (ESS 63001) with which to compare, which I believe is what Michael uses here (I bought it after reading his earlier praise of the pressing). Can't You Hear Me Knocking is the most "audiophile" track on Sticky Fingers, so I went right to that with the new disc. Much like Michael, I immediately noticed a lack of deep bass. Also, the top end seems to have been digitally "enhanced" as the cymbals sound completely different. Overall, I didn't find it as horrible as Michael did, but the Japanese version blows it away and will remain my go-to copy.

As to the files, listening through iPhone headphones on my Mac makes a little difficult, but I believe 1 is the new remaster, 2 is the MoFi, 3 is the Japanese and 4 is the US original. Though 3 and 4 are the closest, and I may have those reversed.

StonedBeatles1's picture

It's a much better album and basically puts Sticky Fingers to shame! But what do I know?

As for any Stones reissues since 2003 and beyond, only the Abkco stuff sounds good. Not just good but great! And, no matter what the source be it vinyl (I believe Hi Rez sourced), dual layered SACD/CD, plain CD or Hi Rez (for some reason I think the CD's sound better than the Hi Rez offerings which is bizarre?

With that said, anything on Rolling Stones records distributed by UNI absolutly sucks! I find each release downright annoying. And I'm not an audiophile but one who enjoys dynamics and musicality which these releases are not! They're plain and simply not listenable! I'm tempted to post a link for everything digital pre 2003 but I prefer not to get booted from the site. All I can say is that Rolling Stones records makes me loath Mick Jagger even more so, greedy bastard that he is.

George Harrison once sang "Beware of Abkco" but when it comes to The Rolling Stones music for me it's "Hello Abkco" Beware of Rolling Stones Records and Uni".

atomlow's picture

File 1 - New reissue (lifeless)
File 2 - Original (bass heavy sounds great dynamic)
File 3 - Japanese pressing (a bit pushed - tight bass)
File 4 - Mofi - (Sounds really good, turn it up!)

Since I have a few stones records that are a bit thin I like the bass heavy version File 2. File 4 is my favorite.

atomlow's picture

Michael this is where you save me money and heartache! Can you just review every record on the planet, Analog Planet? Thanks!

Chriswilford1's picture

My thoughts are;
1. Reissue
2. MoFi (these tend to be somewhat warm)
3. Original
4. Japanese

usernaim250's picture

I didn't pull and play my ATCO as reference but from distant memory and speculation:
1 2015
2 mo fi (this is the one I'd stake the most on)
3 original
4 Japanese

Snorker's picture

I think Chriswilford1 and usernaim250 have it right. 3 and 4 sound pretty close to me, but based on Michael's response above to Big Cap, I think 3 is the original and 4 the Japanese (which I do own, but didn't pull out to compare). I'll be truly surprised if either 3 or 4 are the 2015, as I liked those the most! But I'm pretty sure the 2015 reissue is file 1.

firedog55's picture

The above is supposedly made from original stereo master tapes.
I have the SACD/DSD rip and think it sounds quite good. The CD version also sounds good.
If you can't get one of the better sounding pressings, I think the SHM discs are the way to go.

jhannigan's picture

SF is better than Let It Bleed by a long shot. Surprised on the sound rating over the months it's been on the whole positive on audiophile boards. I recently got the EU pressing also looking to hear for myself.

kenkirk's picture

is my favorite Stones Jam of all time. I have always thought Bobby Keys and Mick Taylor showed us what was probably going on after hours when the tapes were not rolling. RIP Bobby. That was one smoking hot solo. About the tracks... 1. is dreadful. 2. is nice. 3. not so nice 4. good. I think #2 is my favorite. Only #2 and #4 sounded good enough to listen thru to the end. But I was thinking about Booby Keys solo the whole time so I probably have it all wrong anyway... :)


Steelhead's picture

I own the original Mofi release. It is one of the few mofi's that the quality control slipped. Pinch warp and audible on the lead in. Numerous pops and ticks and groove noise between cuts. Due to this I bought this reissue. On a sound comparison (not a sit down and direct compare - but the feeling and groove) the mofi absolutely kills it for sound quality. Despite the warts the mofi is the go to at my house.

Great album.

john ryan horse's picture

I too hate the harsh compressed sound of this classic album remaster. The Mofi is dull and lifeless - no SNAP from the opening notes of BS all the way through. The first US pressing is pretty fine imo. Never thought CYHMK was a Santana cop, just a jazzy jam with an interesting rather dark (emotionally, & of course lyrically) feel, Keys' sax late night on a wet highway, Charlie & Bill's supergroove, Taylor's solo good but somehow not of a piece w/ the rest of this song. 'I Got The Blues' runs from depressed & exhausted to finally deep, passionate. Some songs overheard but really every one classic, including the Moroccan influenced 'Bitch'. Stick w/ original Atco vinyl or 1994 Virgin CD

john ryan horse's picture

Actually I think all the Stones studio albums rate a B plus or A except Steel Wheels and It's Only Rock 'n Roll. Bridges To Babylon was quite adventurous & underrated.

john ryan horse's picture

The Stones have screwed up their legacy in the past 15 years. They should have stared playing smaller venues & colleges a la Dylan, which would attract audiences that don't head for the beer stand when Keith steps up to the mic or they begin playing a newer song. Also a younger demographic. Alas they don't want my advice. The SF 'deluxe' has little interesting bonus material, excluding (as Martin points out) 'Cocksucker Blues' and the UK ep 'Let it Rock.' Oh, and an alternate 'Sway' that was on the b-side of early pressings of 'Wild Horses'...The 'Some Girls' redo included a full 12 track album's worth of outtakes from SG and 'Emotional Rescue' that actually stands as a fine album w/ an identity of its own. SF is yet another missed opportunity, and I always thought the Stones had no interest in dealing with their archives, or the past in general. Jagger is totally uninterested in talking about their old albums unless he's promoting one. I don't think he remembers making them, unless that's just a pose.

Mistermuse1's picture

1. Reissue
2. Mofi
3. Jap
4. Orig

estimatedprophet's picture

2. Reissue
3. Japanese
4. Original

ProbFrank's picture

New Reissue

Martin's picture

but here goes:
File 1: the Reissue
File 2: the MoFi
File 3: the US press
File 4: the Japanese press

hi-fivinyljunkie's picture

For once I am saying ignore this review especially if you want the bonus material. So it's not as good as an original but the recording is only 8/10 anyway? I expected this to sound as MF describes but to my ears and surprise it's not over compressed and superior to other reissues of this title. The Hoffman forum members are generally positive and I have to agree with them.

kozy814's picture

6/10 in sound is a D grade. I would say that this LP sounds measurably better than that. For digital files that are not overly compressed on a clean sounding pressing, I think we have a vinyl edition here that can fit the bill until a VG+ or better orig can be procured. With those being next to extinct in the used record bins, people should be pretty satisfied with this while they hunt for their clean orig.

john ryan horse's picture

I think the Stones & Jimmy Miller were going for an 'American' sound for SF, a different feel from Bleed or any previous abums going back to Aftermath. Three songs were recorded at Muscle Shoals, and they seemed to want an Atlantic/soul mix, what with the addition of horns and in tribute to their new distributor.

john ryan horse's picture

To me the new vinyl sounds like the 2009 master

dasacco's picture

1. Japan
2. Mofi
3. Original
4. Reissue

Dylan's picture

In my opinion there's nothing wrong with this repress. Ok, my original Dutch copy contains more depth in bass and drums, but I think this repress has a lot of great listening experience on its own. Jaggers voice is much better integrated in the sound than on the original lp. As Michael points out correctly the original lp lacked depth and atmosphere. So don't expect a better sound in 2015. It just has a slightly different sound. I wouldn't call this compression or a 21st century revision. I think Michael's review is far too strict. This repress doesn't sound so much digital or flat to me at all. it just has a different 'attitude', a restoration in sound without losing it's soulful, authentic feel. Really.

DDManace's picture

1. Reissue
2. Original
3. Japanese
4. MoFi

or, if i overestimated the Japanese:)
1. Reissue
2. MoFI
3. Original
4. Japanese

wyatt72's picture

1. MoFi
2. Japanese
3. Reissue
4. Original

whatever is the correct answer, n° 3 sounds the most compressed to me cheers

carter9000's picture

What's the verdict?

My guess:

1) Reissue
2) Mofi
3) Original
4) Japanese

Michael Fremer's picture
But I don't know the URL off the top of my head. Search "Sticky Fingers" and you'll probably find it. I can't look now...
carter9000's picture

Only got one right.