With its recent hugely successful reissue and - depending on how much extra cash you want to shell out - bonus tracks, limited-edition postcards and a 10cc sample of genuine Mick Jagger semen (OK, maybe not), deservedly or not Exile on Main Street continues to be the most lauded and discussed entry in the Rolling Stones' discography.
Stones in Exile traces the album's creation, recording and response. Not surprisingly, the bulk concentrates on the band's crafting/recording and rampant partying done at Nellcồte, Keith Richards' rented estate in the south of France where the band moved en masse in 1971. This was in an effort to escape Britain's repressive tax laws, which forced most bandmembers to cough up an incredible 93 percent of their earnings to the country's kitty. Exiles, indeed!
A generous amount of still photos and video taken from the sessions and time period, some culled from the still never-released film Cocksucker Blues, really put the viewer amidst the elegantly wasted decadence of the band (and the huge coterie of hangers-on) living and working arrangements, including the stifling hot basement and its multitude of rooms where musicians and recording cables were spread out.
And if the "legend" of the days at Nellcồte have in recent years sometimes overshadowed even the music created there - see Robert Greenfield's book Exile on Main St.: A Season in Hell with the Rolling Stones - there is no doubt that fewer rock records have ever been so intertwined with where they were created - even if Exile was partially made and then completed not in the south of France, but in the recording studios of L.A.).
The DVD's greatest strengths are the recent reflective interviews with all five Stones at the time (Jagger, Richards, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, Mick Taylor), and others including the hilarious and blunt sax player Bobby Keys, producer Jimmy Miller, engineer Andy Johns, Richards' then-girlfriend Anita Pallenberg, and even the son of Keef's drug dealer who - then at 8 and a half years old - got to watch the album being made while rolling joints for the band. What a resume entry...
In turn, the doc's greatest weakness is that, oddly, all these reminisces are heard only in voiceovers, robbing the viewer of the chance to glean much from the storytellers' facial expressions and body language. Whether this was done on purpose to keep physical impressions stuck in a gloriously youthful 1972 or not, it's a bad choice for director Stephen Kijak.
Bonus features include extended interviews, Jagger and Watts' return to some of the studios (though not Nellcồte), and thoughts on Exile from contemporary musicians including Jack White, Kings of Leon's Caleb Followill, Sheryl Crow and director Martin Scorsese.
Eagle Rock, 145 mins, $14.98.
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