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Albums Of The Week: The Rolling Stones | Live At The El Mocambo

The World's Greatest Rock ’N’ Roll Band become The World's Greatest Bar Band with this swaggering, relaxed set from their legendary 1977 underplay at a Toronto dive.

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THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “A legendary event in the incredible 60-year history of The Rolling Stones has finally been released in full for the first time. Live At The El Mocambo marks the first official appearance of the group’s two famous secret concerts at the 300-capacity Toronto club in March 1977.

The two-CD (or four-LP set) features the Stones’ full set from the March 5 show, plus three bonus tracks from the March 4 gig, newly mixed by Bob Clearmountain. Only four of the performances previously found their way onto the Love You Live album released in September 1977, which was dominated by tracks captured on the band’s 1975 and ’76 tours. The full El Mocambo set has never been heard before.

As the Stones took to the stage of the “El Mo,” a fixture of the Toronto music scene since the 1940s, punk and disco were both rearing into full view, supposedly ready to see off a band who had already been at the top of their game for 15 years. Over two nights, in an intimate space in one of their favourite cities, they were about to make that prognosis look foolish indeed.

The Stones in 1978. Photo by Helmut Newton.

The gigs became reality after The El Mocambo was identified as the potential home for a secret booking. A radio contest was organised in which the prize was tickets to see Canadian rock heroes April Wine, supported by an unknown band called The Cockroaches. Guess who they turned out to be… On the nights, naturally, April Wine were the opening act, and so it was that the Stones rolled back the years to the exhilarating club incarnation of their early years. Against all the odds, the band produced two nights of exhilarating music that they still talk about in Toronto, and in Rolling Stones legend, to this day.

It was a setlist for all seasons, from Muddy WatersMannish Boy and Bo Diddley’s Crackin’ Up to staples such as Let’s Spend The Night Together and Tumbling Dice, and back to the blues with Big Maceo’s Worried Life Blues and Willie Dixon’s Little Red Rooster. There was the live debut of Worried About You, not heard in studio form until 1981’s Tattoo You, and more highlights from Honky Tonk Women to Hot Stuff. Some 45 five years on, this is a trip back to the intensity of the Stones’ earliest club days, as revisited by the greatest rock ’n’ roll band in the world.”