The Rolling Stones

Let It Bleed [Bootleg]

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On the basis of the numbers of copies that were pressed, the mono Decca Records version of Let It Bleed (which only existed in England) is probably the rarest of all the mono editions of the Rolling Stones' classic albums -- so rare, in fact, that its existence wasn't even on the radar screens of most collectors. Thus, the existence of this perfect bootleg edition -- part of a series of superb digi-pak style issues of Stones mono LPs -- doesn't merely save completists lots of money, but also many years of hunting. As to the release itself, this is the punchiest-sounding version of Let It Bleed yet to appear on CD, the original mono mix keeping the rhythm section all together instead of dividing the bass, drums, and percussion as the stereo master did -- "Live With Me," in particular, is a knockout in this edition, its pounding beat punched up all the more by the merging of the bass, drums, rhythm guitar, and piano (the VU meter on this reviewer's amplifier bumping away like a heart patient headed toward cardiac arrest); and the close sound to the mastering doesn't hurt, either. "Let It Bleed" sounds about as good as it ever has, the lead guitar nice and up front in the mix where you can make out every nuance of the playing. Indeed, fans of Keith Richards will have to hear this version of the record just for the way it showcases his playing, but in case that isn't enough, there are the bonus tracks (that bring this CD up to over 70 minutes' running time), which include "Gimme Shelter" as sung by Richards (as well as the ubiquitous Mick Jagger-sung version of "You Got the Silver"). Along with the chronologically related "Loving Cup" and "Sister Morphine," plus "Memo From Turner" and two different mixes of "Honky Tonk Women," the "bonus" section of this disc is pretty well as substantial as the official album portion, with embarrassingly good sound on its tracks.