Review: The Rolling Stones - Totally Stripped

The Rolling Stones deliver stripped down versions of classic and obscure cuts.
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In 1995, The Rolling Stones were finishing up their hugely successful tour for Voodoo Lounge. The tour saw them play to over six million people on six continents, no small feat to be sure. While in Europe, the band decided to play a series of intimate, stripped-down shows at tiny (by Stones standards) venues. Along those lines, the band also took to the studio in Tokyo and Lisbon to record some not quite unplugged, but still very bare bones versions of several of their songs, many of which had not been performed live in some time. The result was a critically acclaimed live album and documentary, Stripped, and a hit single in the form of a cover of "Like A Rolling Stone."

Now the band has decided to revisit that period with the release of the SDBlu-ray/CD set Totally Stripped. This is no mere reissue however. Only one track is repeated on the CD from the previous version and the documentary has been expanded to 90 minutes. Think of it as a companion piece and a must own for Stones fans.

Totally Stripped begins with the band in a Tokyo studio, doing some of the rerecorded tracks that made up the album. Shot in black and white, we see the band performing "Love In Vain," with Ron Wood offering some killer dobro licks. As the band stated, these were songs they always liked but never thought they'd play again. One such song is "The Spider And The Fly," a track Mick Jagger found difficult to sing because he isn't the same person he was when he first sang it, but also a track that shows the band locked into a tight groove. Keith Richards can sometimes get caught up with playing the Keith character on stage and hamming it up a bit. Here he is laser focused and playing great.

Jagger gives a killer vocal on "Wild Horses," which also includes some great harmonies from Richards. Jagger then takes to acoustic guitar for a strong version of "Let It Bleed." Here we see footage of the band in the studio laughing and having a good time, as well as the performance of the song.

The documentary's next stop is the Paradiso in Amsterdam. We see footage of the band at their hotel and the boat ride they took to the venue. The band goes into a blues jam during rehearsal with both Richards and Wood on slide guitar and there is great backstage footage of Jagger, Richards, keyboard player Chuck Leavell and backup singer Bernard Fowler doing an impromptu "Tumbling Dice" with only keyboard and vocals. The performance is killer and all involved are into it.

Next up is the Olympia Theatre in Paris, the same place they played on their first trip to France in 1964. Here the group gives muscular versions of a pair of Voodoo Lounge tracks, "I Go Wild" and "You Got Me Rocking." The band gives a potent performance of "Jumpin' Jack Flash" complete with horns led by the late Bobby Keys at the end.

The final stop is the Brixton Academy in London where the band rehearses "Can't Get Next To You" without Richards who comically arrives late in grand Keith style. Jagger takes to piano with Wood moving over to pedal steel for the band's classic country number "Faraway Eyes." This is the largest of the three venues recorded for the album, but it still only seats 5,000 people. The documentary ends, appropriately enough, with the band's cover of "Like A Rolling Stone."

The video is presented in 1080i High Definition 16:9 (4:3 pillar boxed). This is a standard definition Blu-ray, given the source material. So while some scenes might be a bit "soft" by today's standards, it is still the best this has ever looked. Audio options include LPCM Stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio.

The Rolling Stones were in fine form during these performances. Producer Don Was said he saw them in the 60s, 70s and 80s and said he felt they were a better live band in 1995 than in any of those years. That's not all hyperbole. The band was tight, focused and playing lean versions of both hits and seldom-heard tracks alike. Totally Stripped is a killer release by this legendary band.