The Rolling Stones

Aftermath [UK]

(CD - ABKCO Records #719477)

Review by

The British version of Aftermath was released earlier than its American counterpart and had several differences beyond its cover design: it runs more than ten minutes longer, despite not having "Paint It Black" on it (singles were usually kept separate from LPs in England in those days), and it has four additional songs -- "Mother's Little Helper," which was left off the U.S. album for release as a single; "Out of Time" in its full-length five-minute-36-second version, two minutes longer than the version of the song issued in America; "Take It or Leave It," which eventually turned up on Flowers in the U.S.; and "What to Do," which didn't surface in America until the release of More Hot Rocks more than six years later. Additionally, the song lineup is different, "Goin' Home" closing side one instead of side two. And the mixes used are different from the tracks that the two versions of the album do have in common -- the U.K. album and CD used a much cleaner, quieter master that had a more discreet stereo sound, with wide separation in the two channels and the bass not centered as it in the U.S. version. Thus, one gets a more vivid impression of the instruments. It's also louder yet curiously, because of the cleaner sound, slightly less visceral in its overall impact, though the details in the playing revealed in the mixes may fascinate even casual listeners. It's still a great album, though the difference in song lineup makes it a different record; "Mother's Little Helper" is one of the more in-your-face drug songs of the period, as well as being a potent statement about middle-class hypocrisy and political inconsistency, and "Out of Time," "Take It Leave It" (which had been a hit for the Searchers), and "What to Do," if anything, add to the misogyny already on display in "Stupid Girl" and "Think," and "Out of Time" adds to the florid sound of the album's psychedelic component (and there's no good reason except for a plain oversight by the powers that be for the complete version of "Out of Time" never having been released in America). The British version of Aftermath (which was also released in mono on vinyl) has been available intermittently on CD since the late '80s as an import, and is worth tracking down.

[The Rolling Stones' London/ABKCO catalog was reissued in August of 2002, packaged in digipacks with restored album artwork, remastered, and released as hybrid discs that contain both CD and Super Audio CD layers. The remastering -- performed with Direct Stream Digital (DSD) encoding -- is a drastic improvement, leaping out of the speaker yet still sounding like the original albums. This is noticeable on the standard CD layer but is considerably more pronounced on the SACD layer, which is shockingly realistic in its detail and presence yet is still faithful to the original mixes; Keith Richards' revved-up acoustic guitar on "Street Fighting Man" still sends the machine into overdrive, for instance. It just sounds like he's in the room with you. Even if you've never considered yourself an audiophile, have never heard the differences between standard and gold-plated CDs, you will hear the difference with SACD, even on a cheap stereo system without a high-end amplifier or speakers. And you won't just hear the difference, you'll be an instant convert and wish, hope, and pray that other artists whose catalog hasn't been reissued since the early days of CD -- Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, especially the Beatles -- are given the same treatment in the very near future. SACD and DSD are that good.]

blue highlight denotes track pick