DVD Review: The Rolling Stones - From The Vault: L.A. Forum (Live in 1975)

The Stones archive series continues with this official bootleg of L.A. 1975.
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1975 was a pivotal year for The Rolling Stones. Longtime lead guitarist, Mick Taylor, had left the group after the release of their most recent album, It's Only Rock 'N' Roll, putting the group in a bind for their upcoming tour. Enter Faces guitarist, Ronnie Wood, a friend of the band's and a contributor (albeit billed as inspired by, instead of a songwriting credit) to the song "It's Only Rock 'N' Roll (But I Like It)."

The band took to their Tour of the Americas, so called because it had intended to make stops in Central and South America. Those shows never happened, but the U.S. tour did. A July stop at the L.A. Forum was filmed and makes up the DVD, The Rolling Stones - From The Vault: L.A. Forum (Live in 1975).

Like the Hampton 1981 concert before it, the Los Angeles show had long been available as a bootleg. What is presented here is the video in the best possible quality with newly remixed audio. The results are clearly the band's efforts to beat the bootleggers and are a welcome addition to any Stones fan's collection.

After the dramatic show opening, where the lotus flow stage opens, revealing the band, the group launches into a ragged, yet rocking, version of "Honky Tonk Women." The band offers an extended version of the song as Mick Jagger growls out the lyrics. This is the Stones in one of their most debauched periods. The stage is peppered with open bottles of whiskey, Jagger's vocals on many songs were rough and the band could alternate between brilliant and brutal, often in the same show. There's also an exciting air of danger to these performances that is certainly lacking from today's rock shows, including the Stones' own performances.

After a high-octane version of "All Down The Line" featuring some killer slide work from Wood, the band goes into a medley of "If You Can't Rock Me/Get Off My Cloud." The old and new song work well together and extra percussionist Ollie E. Brown really adds to the breakdown, locking into a great groove with Charlie Watts.

Billy Preston takes to organ during a killer version of Richards' "Happy" that also includes Ian Stewart on piano. Wood's slide playing here mimics Taylor's original licks. Jagger takes to guitar while Bill Wyman switches to synthesizer and Wood moves to bass for the funk workout of "Fingerprint File." It's an exciting live track that finds the band going into new territory musically.

Jagger's vocals improve on the ballads "Angie" and "Wild Horses." The former is a blusier take on the song while the latter has a heavier approach than its studio counterpart. Preston, a star in his own right, is featured on two tracks, "That's Life," an upbeat, bluesy romp and "Outa-Space," a hard funk track. The band is on fire on "Outa-Space" in particular as Preston shows off his dance moves on stage.

The band closes the show with a series of the so-called warhorses, pushing the tempos on all of them. Highlights include an aggressive "Midnight Rambler" and a version of "Jumpin' Jack Flash" with a more rhythmic intro than the studio version.

While the picture is decent by 1975 standards (and thankfully in its original 4:3 aspect ratio), fans should not expect modern production values. The audio, which includes Dolby Digital Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS Digital Surround Sound, sounds great, especially given its age.

The Rolling Stones seem to be opening the vaults with these releases, which can only be a good thing for fans. For fans expecting the safe, polished Stones of more recent tours, this DVD will be a surprise. The Rolling Stones - From The Vault: L.A. Forum (Live in 1975) shows the band at its most dangerous. Rough around the edges, but exciting all the same.