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As rock 'n' roll works of art go, Exile On Main St is right up there. This is an album one can get lost in for days and weeks even. To say that it stands alongside The Beatles' 'White Album' wouldn't be mere hyperbole, for both take on a new meanings with each listen.
While we have a few minor quibbles with the remastering of the original 18 tracks - Tumbling Dice, for example, sounds far too polite with its grit and muck washed away - the overall impact of the recording hasn't been lost. As was the case with a couple of The Beatles' remastered discs from last year, what we now have is a record that's been given a non-lethal shot of steroids. It's punchier, more in your face - and to some new listeners, this could possibly be considered a plus.
The bonus disc of previously unreleased cuts is a fine curio, but nothing on it is mind-blowing or essential. Even the alternate take of Soul Survivor - a fun listen once or twice - doesn't hold a candle to the original.
So, bottom line: Do you part with your money for the reissue, or do you really splurge for the Super Deluxe Edition which throws in two 30-gram vinyl albums of the set, a DVD of the making of Exile and a 50-page collector's book with photos?
Whichever way you want to go, you can't go wrong. Some albums mold and enrich you; they help inform your musical personality in ways both tangible and intangible. Exile On Main St does all of that and more.
As for the remastering, think of it this way: A dab or two of fresh paint is sometimes necessary to preserve The Last Supper's timeless qualities. It would take a hydrogen bomb to destroy it
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