The Rolling Stones

The Best of Knebworth Fair

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On August 21, 1976, the Rolling Stones headlined England's Knebworth Fair festival -- an all-day outdoor event that also included appearances by Lynyrd Skynyrd, Todd Rundgren's Utopia, Hot Tuna, 10cc, and the Don Harrison Band. Not surprisingly, the Stones' Knebworth set was bootlegged. In late 1976, the little-known bootlegger RSVP Records released part of their set on the rare LP Knebworth Fair. And in 1996, Midnight Beat assembled this collection of Knebworth performances, which is far from a straight reissue of RSVP's old Knebworth Fair LP. Many of the songs that were on the RSVP album are also on The Best of Knebworth Fair, including "Route 66," "Wild Horses," "Honky Tonk Woman," "Little Red Rooster," "Hot Stuff," and Chuck Berry's "Round and Round." But several songs that are on this CD weren't on that LP, most notably "Street Fighting Man," "Midnight Rambler," and "Tumbling Dice." And some of the songs that were on the LP aren't on this CD, including "Satisfaction," "Let's Spend the Night Together," "Dead Flowers," "Hand of Fate," and "Fool to Cry." Although enjoyable, The Best of Knebworth Fair is far from essential. The sound quality is generally decent, but it isn't great and wouldn't impress an audiophile. The more obsessive collectors will be disappointed to know that Midnight Beat only provides part of the set; completists would have preferred a two-CD set that contains the Stones' Knebworth set in its entirety. Nonetheless, Midnight Beat's choices aren't bad; if some sacrifices had to be made, "Midnight Rambler," "Tumbling Dice," and "Street Fighting Man" are better picks than "Hand of Fate" or "Fool to Cry" (both from the decent but not mindblowing Black and Blue). Again, The Best of Knebworth Fair is imperfect and far from essential, but the collection does have more plusses than minuses.

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