The Rolling Stones


Amidst the late-’70s rise of punk and new wave, the Stones felt irrelevant; they were still a mammoth touring entity, but their brightest days seemed behind them. Released at last, these secret gigs at Toronto’s 300-seat El Mocambo might alter that perception.

By March ’77, the Stones had settled on Ronnie Wood as the permanent guitar replacement for Mick Taylor, and with startling fidelity, this tape delivers Wood in the left speaker, Keith Richards in the right. Fire up “Dance Little Sister” to hear the Stones stripping it down to elemental rock and roll, while Keef and Woody’s tone is just over the line of overdrive, thanks to their newfangled Mesa/Boogie combos. “All Down the Line” lets Ronnie show off his considerable (and underrated) slide chops.

Solid crowd-pleasers are present; “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Tumbling Dice,” and a too-fast “Brown Sugar” – but there are better cuts. Masters at reinterpreting other styles, the Stones nail the Caribbean feel of “Luxury” and reggae of “Crackin’ Up,” plus the crackling Chicago blues of Muddy Waters’ “Mannish Boy.” As such, El Mocambo reminds us that behind the arena-filling juggernaut was a richly gifted band. There’s no hype here – just bar-band soul.

This article originally appeared in VG’s July 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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