Top Artists – The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones – Some Girls

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  • Boasting two solid Double Plus (A++) or BETTER sides, we guarantee you’ve never heard Some Girls sound this good
  • It’s got weight, punch, energy and fullness – qualities key to the better sounding pressings
  • Top 100 title, with a surplus of great songs – “Miss You,” “Beast of Burden” and “Shattered,” all sounding shockingly good, thanks to the engineering skills of Chris Kimsey
  • 5 stars: “Opening with the disco-blues thump of ‘Miss You,’ Some Girls is a tough, focused, and exciting record, full of more hooks and energy than any Stones record since Exile on Main St. Even Their rockers sound harder and nastier than they have in years.”

This is the Stones’ last truly great album. All Music Guide gives it the same 5 star rating that they awarded Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, and Sticky Fingers. With hits like “Miss You,” “Shattered,” and “Beast Of Burden,” it’s easy to see why.

Most copies are too thin and grainy for serious audiophile listening, but this one is a different story. It’s not easy to find great sound for The Stones, so take this one home for a spin if you want to hear this band bring these songs to life in your very own listening room.

Not many copies have this kind of clarity and transparency, or this kind of big, well-defined bottom end. The sound of the hi-hat is natural and clear on this pressing, as are the vocals, which means that the tonality in the midrange is correct, and what could be more important than a good midrange? It’s where the music is.


Letter of the Week – “I had NO IDEA there was this much difference between copies.”

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom,   

Wow! this copy of Exile on MS is amazing! It sounded fantastic before my amps even were warm.

The drums sound like they are in the same room as the room with the microphone; the horns sound like……. well like… horns.

The copy I had before was brand new and sucked. This $350 copy is worth the dough and I am surprised. I am tempted to stop buying vinyl at all unless it has been pre-tested by your team (this will be tough). 

I had NO IDEA there was this much difference between copies.

Brian S. 


Thanks for your letter. Now you know what we know, that there is a huge difference between pressings of an album like Exile, and the only way to find the good ones is to play them until you luck into one.


Further Reading


The Rolling Stones – Between The Buttons

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Records We Only Offer on Import Vinyl

  • A killer UK boxed Decca copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them on both sides, and pressed on fairly quiet vinyl too
  • This is classic 60s Stones sound courtesy of Dave Hassinger, working in L.A. (RCA) and London (Olympic + Pye)
  • If you’re looking for the ideal combination of Tubey Magical richness and transparency, this British Decca LP in stereo is one of the few that will show it to you
  • 5 stars – Richie Unterberger hailed it as one of the Rolling Stones’ “strongest, most eclectic LPs” and, according to Robert Christgau, Between the Buttons was “among the greatest rock albums.”

This LP has the British track listing, so don’t pick this one up if you’re looking for great sounding versions of “Let’s Spend The Night Together” or “Ruby Tuesday.” A bummer, but the domestic copies sound awful, so what can you do?


The Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed on Decca

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  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades or close to it on both sides, this Boxed Decca UK pressing showcases the Stones at the peak of their Rock and Roll powers – remarkably quiet vinyl too
  • Having played a number of Decca pressings of this album, including quite a few that were just plain awful, we doubt that any UK LP is going to win a shootout
  • We have a category for records like this: imported pressings that can sound very good, but can’t beat the best domestics
  • “Love In Vain” is one of the best sounding Stones songs ever recorded – the acoustic guitar harmonics and the rich whomp of the snare prove indisputably that Glyn Johns is one of the Engineering Greats
  • Top 100, 5 stars – Jason McNeil wrote that Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed are “the two greatest albums the band’s (or anyone’s) ever made.” [Add Sticky Fingers to complete the ultimate Stones Trilogy.]

This is, in our humble opinion, the second or third best record the Stones ever made. (Sticky Fingers is Number One, and either this or Beggar’s Banquet comes in a strong second.) With this wonderful early domestic pressing we can now hear the power and the beauty of the recording itself, a fact that we consider the very definition of a Hot Stamper.

“Love In Vain” on a copy like this is one of the best sounding Rolling Stones songs of all time. In previous listings, I’ve mentioned how good this song sounds — thanks to Glyn Johns, of course — but on these amazing Hot Stamper copies it is out of this world.


Letter of the Week – “Then I did Street Fighting Man. The BR copy destroyed the other two!”

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Our new customer Michel wrote to tell us how much he likes his Super Hot Stamper pressing of Beggars Banquet.

Hi Tom,

Doing that shootout was really interesting. I had culled the two best I had some months ago which were two old London presses (one TH and one Monarch). So I mixed those two up so I didn’t know which was which, and then the BR copy would be third on the table.

I did Sympathy for the Devil first. I actually preferred one of my copies (monarch) for that track as the tone
of the bass was a little more forward which I really like for that one song.

Then I did Street Fighting Man. The BR copy destroyed the other two!

What a pleasure it was
to hear that song at max volume with everything just right. Turn it up more!

That was definitely the very best I’d ever heard that song in 63 years. Well done BR!

Take Care,


I would agree with you that Street Fighting Man is the better test. It’s easy to be thrown off by one aspect or another of the sound of a particular track. We always use at least two in our shootouts and oftentimes three is better.

The production is heavy on strummed acoustic guitars. Those are a good test for any record.

No Expectations would have been my first choice, but the rockers are important for energy, weight, size and power, so you really have to play a number of tracks to know which pressings get Beggars right.

Thanks for your enthusiatic letter.

Best, TP


We love it when our customers take the time and make the effort to do their own shootouts, especially when we win, which is what happens about 99% of the time.

It is not the least bit unusual for our customers to take another listen and become more aware of the superior sound of the Hot Stamper pressings the second time around.

When we do lose a shootout, we promptly refund the buyer’s money and wish him or her a nice day.

What do we do with the record, assuming the customer had no problem with its playing condition?

We put it right back up on the site to sell to the next customer who might want it. In only two or three cases did it ever come back to us again. Two or three out of thousand and thousands of Hot Stampers sold. Not bad.


Your Shootout Questions Answered – Part Two

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Basic Concepts and Realities Explained

Robert Brook wrote to me recently with some questions about shootouts.

I answered most of them in Part One of this commentary. Here are the questions he posed that remain to be answered.

[I]f you put a shootout together of [redacted stamper] pressings and whatever else you like, does every copy in the shootout grade at least A++ / A++? Are the right stampers that reliable?

I guess I’ve always assumed that even if you put together a shootout with this or any other title, and even if you only include pressings that have won or placed high in the past, at least a couple of them would end up graded no higher than A+ or A+ to A++.

And if that is correct, wouldn’t it be worth buying more UK TML’s to see if any emerge that could win a shootout?

With Revolver, for instance, why not just do shootouts with [the best stampers] if those are the ones that win the shootouts? Why even bother with [later pressings]?


First Question

If I may paraphrase, you’re asking, “do the right stampers always get good grades?”

Yes, almost always. It’s rare for any original Sticky Fingers with the right stampers to earn less than a 2+ grade on either side.

This was not always the case. In the early 2000s, we tried and failed more than once to do a shootout for Sticky Fingers. We just could not get the records clean enough. They were noisy and distorted. (Yes, some of the congestion and distortion you hear on old records is simply grunge in the grooves.)

In 2007 we discovered the Walker Record Cleaning System and started using it in combination with a much more sophisticated machine, the Odyssey. As we refined our cleaning techniques, records like Sticky Fingers got a lot quieter and a lot better sounding. Our first shootout occurred soon thereafter.

I still have the ratings for some of those older shootouts saved on a spreadsheet. Even as late as 2016, there were copies with sides that earned grades of 1+ and 1.5+. That would never happen now.

We’ve made so many improvements to our playback system and room that you might say that “no copy gets left behind.” The wrong stampers, sure, they can disappoint. But it’s been a long time since the right ones did.

In those years, we were just catching on to the fact that blaming the record for the sonic problems we might be hearing was a loser’s game. The better our system got, the fewer problems the records we played seemed to have, a subject we discussed in this commentary for Led Zeppelin IV:

Some Led Zeppelin II’s with RL in the dead wax earn grades of 2+, and those are very disappointing grades considering how much we pay for those copies, often over $1000 and sometimes close to $1500. But an RL-mastered pressing earning less than 2+ is just not in the cards. Sure, an uncleaned one could easily grade out to that, or worse. One that was improperly cleaned could even sound terrible. We’ve had records cleaned by so-called experts that made them sound like CDs. I guess that’s the sound they were going for: quiet and unmusical.

Second Question

With Revolver, for instance, why not just do shootouts with [redacted numbers] if those are the ones that win the shootouts? Why even bother with [later pressings]?

The stampers that tend to win shootouts are hard to find. With only the “right” stampers, it might take us 18 to 24 months to find enough clean copies with which to do a shootout. These days we do Revolver twice a year, at least, and this makes our customers happy, because everybody deserves a chance to own a killer copy of Revolver.

As for the others, there are many reasons we bother with pressings we know can’t win a shootout. As I said in Part One, if the Mastering Lab-cut copies were plentiful and cheap, we would probably put some of them in shootouts. If enough earned good grades, 2+ let’s say, then the time and effort to clean and play them might very well be justified. If too many earned grades of 1.5+, that would not be the case. We would be wasting time better spent on pressings we know to have more potential, a classic case of opportunity costs.

Our customers expect to be knocked out by the sound of our Hot Stamper pressings, and 1.5+ records are rarely going to result in a knockout.

Now in the case of Revolver, some of the UK pressings that will never win a shootout can still earn 2+ most of the time. They are also cheap to find and usually are in very clean condition.

One More Reason

We like to put them in shootouts for the obvious reasons — cheap, plentiful, quiet — as well as one other reason which we only came to appreciate over a much longer period of time.

If I were to play nothing but the one or two stampers that always win shootouts, how would I know what the average UK vintage pressing sounds like? How would I know what the typical audiophile is hearing on his copy of Revolver, even if he’s knowledgable enough to stick with vintage Parlophone pressings?

We need “good, not great” copies to create a baseline, and to show us where the difficult passages may be on any given track.

What does the guitar solo on Taxman sound like most of the time?

How harsh is She Said, She Said as a rule?

We need to know these things and dozens of others.

One of the things White Hot Shootout Winning pressings do is solve all the problems heard on the other copies.

If you don’t hear the other copies, you might mistakenly assume that they have no real problems, or few anyway. Playing the second- and third-rate pressings is what allows you to hear what makes them second- and third-rate.

Once we know the aspects of the mix they have struggled to reproduce correctly, we then compare them to our top copies. This shows us exactly what makes the top copies first-rate. They’re the ones that get everything — or nearly everything — right.


Your Shootout Questions Answered

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More Helpful Advice on Doing Your Own Shootouts

Robert Brook wrote to me recently with some questions.

Hi Tom,

I read your recent post about Sticky Fingers and the European TML reissues you included in shootouts.

It raised a question for me that I’ve been wanting to ask you for a while now.

The fact that the UK TML earned an A+ to A++ grade and that, with just a one copy sample, you wouldn’t consider that pressing to have shootout winning potential, suggests to me that the US pressings you favor will grade at A++ or higher.

In other words, if you put a shootout together of [redacted stamper] pressings and whatever else you like, does every copy in the shootout grade at least A++ / A++? Are the right stampers that reliable?

I guess I’ve always assumed that even if you put together a shootout with this or any other title, and even if you only include pressings that have won or placed high in the past, at least a couple of them would end up graded no higher than A+ or A+ to A++.

And if that is correct, wouldn’t it be worth buying more UK TML’s to see if any emerge that could win a shootout?

With Revolver, for instance, why not just do shootouts with [redacted numbers] if those are the ones that win the shootouts? Why even bother with [later pressings]?


All good questions! I could go on for days with this kind of inside baseball stuff. I’ve been living it full time for more than twenty years, and it obviously interests you because you are actually trying to hone your shootout skills and figure out how many of what pressings you need to get one going, etc., etc.

Not many others are doing what you are doing in a serious way, so how helpful anyone will find this information is hard to know. Under the circumstances, I should have kept my answers shorter rather than longer but I could not resist going into more detail than might have been advisable. Feel free to skim if you like.

Why not put more TML pressings into shootouts?

If they had pressed plenty of them and they’d ended up sitting in record bins all over town for twenty bucks a pop, we could get a bunch in and see if we could figure which stampers, if any, are able to reach the Super Hot stamper level.

Instead, they are expensive imports that cost as much or more than the copies that we buy with shootout winning stampers. Some audiophiles mistakenly think that they are much better sounding than we they actually are, an error in judgment which has a number of knock-on effects.

One, it raises the prices for these pressings far beyond what they would otherwise be if only these individuals were able to clean and play them the way we do.

The best early domestic pressings of the album are night and day better sounding.

If you think The Mastering Lab pressings are competitive with the right originals, you could not possibly have heard one of our shootout winning pressings. There is no contest. Why would we waste any money on them?

Two, we don’t carry water for these audiophile record reviewers. They think they know a lot more than they do. They clearly have no idea how to do the work that it takes to find the best sounding pressings.

We do not respect the opinions of those who have little understanding of records and their pressing variations. The faulty conclusions they invariably arrrive at lack evidentiary support because they don’t know how to do what we do and can’t be bothered to learn.

Amazing Originals

Regardless of what these folks believe, by now we’ve heard dozens and dozens of amazing originals. This made us extremely skeptical that any other mastering house could compete with the right original’s sound. It was just too good.

We’re not always correct about these things. We were dead wrong about a couple of famous Pink Floyd albums from the “wrong” country that we’d heard good things about. They have been winning shootouts for many years now. Live and learn.

In this case we simply did our due diligence. We got a couple of candidates in, cleaned them up and played them, so that we could know what we were talking about, with evidence to back up what we say. Beyond that we quickly lost interest.

And, finally, shootouts are tedious and difficult. They require a great deal of mental concentration, which quickly becomes fatiguing and is often frustrating.

However, great sounding records are a positive thrill to play. The more potentially great sounding copies there are in a shootout, the more fun that shootout is likely to be.

Playing too many mediocre copies bogs down and drags out the proceedings, and the TML pressings of Sticky Fingers are not much better than mediocre. They may impress some audiophiles — this is not hard to do, audiophiles in general seem to us much too easily impressed — but after playing scores of copies over the last twenty years, we’re pretty sure we know Sticky Fingers about as well as anyone can know it.

The Evolution of Generalities

The right stampers on the right UK Island labels always win the shootouts for our two most popular Cat Stevens titles, Tea for the Tillerman and Teaser and the Firecat.

Although the domestic copies are cut by Lee Hulko, on the same lathe, from the same tape, they may do well, but they never win shootouts up against the best UK pressings.

In 2006 we had an incomplete understanding of the album. We didn’t know it at the time, but we still had a lot more R&D to do. Dozens of shootouts later, using blind testing, the exact same stampers win each and every shootout we do.

If using scientific methods gives you predictable results, you must be on to something that is fundamentally true of reality.

For this reason, we don’t do shootouts for these two titles until we have acquired a preponderance of clean UK copies with the right stampers. Sure, we put other pressings in the shootout to fill out the numbers, but we must have a sufficient number of pressings with shootout winning potential, and not too many of those without it, before we would want to get a shootout going.

One Stamper Rule

There are scores of records that we play that have one specific set of stampers that always win.

Fragile is one. We cannot do the shootout for Fragile until we find enough clean copies with precisely the right stampers. (And no, they’re not A. If you think they’re A, you have never bought one of White Hot shootout winners. They are never A.)

There was a three year period (2017 to 2020) in which we didn’t do a shootout for Deja Vu because we simply could not find enough copies in clean condition with the right stampers. Knowing the right stampers doesn’t do you any good if you can’t track them down.

Kind of Blue is a shootout we would never do without a least a few clean 6-Eye Stereo pressings, as well as some 360s and the one stamper on the 70s Red Label that we like (which is the hardest of all of them to find). We don’t do Kind of Blue nearly as often as we would like because none of the pressings we need for our shootouts is all that common in audiophile playing condition.

Our last shootout for John Barleycorn took place in 2019. We finally managed to do it again just this week. Yes, it takes four years to find enough of the right stampers to do some titles, Barleycorn among them.

Do the right stampers always get good grades?


The Rolling Stones – How Do the TML Copies Sound?

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Reviews and Commentaries for Sticky Fingers

A listing for an early domestic Hot Stamper pressing for Sticky Fingers will typically be introduced like this:

If you have never heard one of our Hot Stamper pressings of the album, you (probably) cannot begin to appreciate just how amazing the sound is.

A landmark Glyn Johns / Andy Johns recording, our favorite by the Stones, a Top 100 Title (of course) and 5 stars on Allmusic (ditto).

After hearing so much buzz about it, we finally broke down and ordered a German TML pressing about a year ago. Having played scores of phenomenally good sounding copies of the album over the past fifteen or so years, we were very skeptical that anyone could cut the record better than the mastering engineers who inscribed Rolling Stones Records into the dead wax on the early pressings. (I could find no mastering engineers credited.)

Well, the results were not good. As we suspected would be the case, we were not impressed in the least with what The Mastering Lab — one of the greatest independent cutting houses of all time, mind you — had wrought.

Their version is not really even good enough to sell. It might have earned a grade of One Plus, just under the threshold for a Hot Stamper that we would put on the site these days. Decent, but no more than that.

Wait, There’s More

We subsequently learned that it is the British TML pressingss that are supposed to be the best.

So we got one of those in, an A3/B4 copy.

Better, but good enough? Barely.

Here are the notes for the copy we played. For those who have trouble reading our writing, I have transcribed the notes as follows:

Side One

Track one:

Weighty, a bit veiled or smeary. Backing vox kinda lost.

Track three:

Very full, rockin’ but not the sparkle/space.

Kinda compressed.

Not as huge.

Side Two

Track two:

Not as rich, clear.

A bit pushy/dry vox.

No real space.

Thick drums

Track one:

This works better.

A bit hard, but full and lively.

This Sound?

Is this the sound audiophiles are raving about?

It shouldn’t be, but apparently it is.

However, it’s not as though we haven’t run into this issue hundreds and hundreds of times before. Audiophiles and the reviewers who write for them regularly rave about one Heavy Vinyl pressing after another being The Greatest of All Time, yet we have never found a single instance in which this was true for any of the modern reissues they have seen fit to crown.

Not one.

Three Little Words

Our explanation for the mistaken judgments audiophiles and reviewers make so consistently has never been all that complicated. As you may have read elsewhere on this blog:

More evidence, if any were needed, that the three most important words in the world of audio are compared to what?

No matter how good a particular copy of a record may sound to you, when you clean and play enough of them you will almost always find one that’s better, and often surprisingly better.

You must keep testing all the reissues you can find, and you must keep testing all the originals you can find.

Shootouts are the only way to find these kinds of very special records. That’s why you must do them.

Nothing else works. If you’re not doing shootouts (or buying the winners of shootouts from us), you simply don’t have top quality copies in your collection, except in the rare instances where you just got lucky. In the world of records luck can only take you so far. The rest of the journey requires effort.

This bit of boilerplate for Heavy Vinyl pressings seems a perfect match for the TML recuts on regular-weight vinyl we played. The reason for that is not hard to appreciate: good records tend to do a lot of the same things well, and bad records tend to have the same faults.

As a general rule, this pressing will fall short in some or all of the following areas when played head to head against the vintage LPs we offer:

If you would like to hear what you’ve been missing, there’s a chance we have a Hot Stamper pressing of the album in stock. Click here to see.


Getting the Wife On Board Is Key to Audiophile Happiness

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More Reviews and Commentaries for Sticky Fingers

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hi Tom,

My wife and I had a sort of meditative / semi-religious experience the other night when we were a bit woozy just from a long day and we sat and listened to Can’t You Hear Me Knocking. It was almost transcendent.

I was playing her the record for the first time to show her the money wasn’t wasted. That convinced her.


Dear Andrew,

A very good strategy. You have to hear the record to know what the value of it is. I Got the Blues would have been my first choice, but being woozy is a big help too no matter what track you play.

Best, TP

Andrew had earlier noted to my main man Fred (who runs the business now) how bad the MoFi Sticky Fingers sounded.

Anyway, I told [Fred] how worthwhile it was to finally have a good copy of Sticky Fingers. I have three other copies, including the MFSL (it’s embarrassing they even released the record to begin with.)

I was checking out the MFSL copy again and I think the thing that really caught my ears in the past was the bass on Can’t You Hear My Knocking during the last three minutes when they do the Santana breakdown. Then you kinda notice it as a dull thud on other songs also. But I think that was the worst offender, especially since everything drops out.

I was rereading the articles about your business to see what I could gleam about how you clean the vinyl. I still can’t believe the criticism since A) they’ve never actually heard one of your records and B) you offer a no questions asked money back guarantee. That just screams legitimacy. A con man who offers a 100% refund. I don’t think so.

I think these remasters and half speed remasters are bullshit and cashing in. That’s the con. Those people wouldn’t be so pissed off if you didn’t win people over who actually take the time to listen. To me it’s like hearing the perfect balance and placement of a great remastered CD but with all the depth of vinyl.

You are a good arbiter of what’s a good pressing by most any definition, at least from the two albums I have. And the Sticky Fingers really impressed me as I have 3 other copies.

They did a really nice job of remastering Joni Mitchell’s 70’s albums on CD and if you have a good CD player with good D to A conversion, it sounds pretty damn good. But it will never have the depth and 3-D space of a record. Not even close.

You capture the best of both worlds is how I think of it. Spending $200-$400 for some of these records is a no brainer. And Sticky Fingers was well worth the money. It’s kind of amazing people calling you out without listening.


It is indeed shocking how bad the bass is on MoFi’s records, and yet it is the rare audiophile that seems to notice. I cannot for the life of me understand it.

I appreciate the fact that you took the time to do your own shootout. That’s when a record like MoFi’s Sticky Fingers really shows just how awful it is.

As for our records being judged by people who have never heard them, to paraphrase Jonathan Swift, we’ve given up reasoning those folks out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into.

Of course that doesn’t keep us from writing about it.

If you are able to judge records by their sound, not whatever hype may surround them, you are well on your way to putting together an audiophile quality record collection.

If, however, you believe you are able to judge the sound of records you’ve never played, then it’s more than likely that things will not work out well for you.

We have a number of sections devoted to thinking about records critically, the best of which is probably this one:

Further Reading


Listening in Depth to Sticky Fingers

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Reviews and Commentaries for Sticky Fingers

Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series with advice on what to listen for as you critically evaluate your copy of Sticky Fingers.

Here are some albums on our site you can buy with similar Track by Track breakdowns.

Side One

Brown Sugar

If Brown Sugar makes you want to Turn Up Your Volume, you have a good copy! It’s a song that tends to be just plain irritating on most copies. You need a properly mastered, properly pressed, properly cleaned pressing and a pair of big speakers to play at the level the Stones wanted you to, which is LOUD.

One reason the Turn Up Your Volume Test is such a great test is that the louder the problem, the harder it is to ignore.

Wild Horses

Demonstration Quality Sound! Listen to those choruses. When have the Stones’ voices been recorded better? Never! None more times.

Can’t You Hear Me Knocking

My favorite test track for side one. The Stones have never been better. If you have a copy with rock solid bass and a transparent midrange, you have yourself a real Demo Track here. (Assuming you have the big speakers with plenty of power needed to play it.)

You Gotta Move

Side Two


Drop the needle on Bitch if you have a great copy and want to see what’s great about the sound of this album. It’s got everything you could ask for: big deep bass, huge lively vocals, meaty guitars and all the life and energy you could possibly want.

When you place the needle on the edge of this side (and have your volume plenty high, of course) nothing will prepare you for what you are about to hear.

I Got The Blues

One of the best sounding Rolling Stones songs of all time. In previous listings I’ve mentioned how good this song sounds — thanks to Glyn Johns, of course — but on these amazing Hot Stamper copies it is OUT OF THIS WORLD.

The organ solo that the late Billy Preston launches into midway into the track gets my vote for the most intense 8 bar keyboard solo of all time. I can hear every note of it in my head as I write this, it’s that powerful and memorable.

Listen also for the interplay between the two guitarists at the opening of this track. It’s pure magic. This is the Stones at their zenith. They’re still a great rock band these days, don’t get me wrong, but they’re not the great rock band that made this album. That was thirty years ago. Like the saying goes, you’re not getting better, you’re getting older.

Sister Morphine
Dead Flowers
Moonlight Mile