The Rolling Stones’ “Their Satanic Majesties Request” album is an outlier in the band’s canon. The music was a clean break from the Stones’ trademark blues-based hard rock, so it wasn’t well received by fans and critics when “Satanic” was released in early December, 1967. It followed the Beatles’ “” by five months, and where the Beatles album kicked off the Summer of Love with its buoyant psychedelia-infused tunes, “Satanic” had a darker, trippier hallucinatory haze. Admittedly the “Satanic” tunes are nowhere as memorable as those on “Pepper,” but the Stones’ use of African, Arabic and Indian instruments, electronic instruments, distorted guitars and densely mixed audio collages outpaced Pepper’s mix, which sounds tame by comparison. I think time has treated “Satanic Majesties” well, maybe because it feels and sounds more like a group effort. All five members’ contributions shine, and Mick Jagger and Keith Richards don’t dominate like they do on every other Stones album.
Nearly a half century has passed since its original release, so on September 22 we’ll have a “Their Satanic Majesties Request 50th Anniversary Special Edition“ set that will include Michael Cooper’s original 3D lenticular cover photograph, with the band decked out in full psychedelic regalia. The new 3D cover is sharper and clearer than my original LP’s cover art, but the original’s version’s depth is deeper, more 3D. Fun fact: “Satanic” cover photographer Michael Cooper also shot the Beatles “Sgt. Pepper” cover!
It’s a four-disc set with two 180-gram LPs (one each in mono and stereo), and two (again, mono and stereo) SACDs, and a skinny booklet, all housed in a lavishly finished, thick cardboard album-size set.
Comparing my original American stereo LP with the new LP, the differences were far from subtle. The original LP sounds thin, there’s no bass to speak of, dynamic range is limited, and the stereo soundstage is rather flat. The new LP is richer, warmer, livelier and more three-dimensional sounding. It’s in every way superior to the original LP. I don’t have an original mono LP to refer to, so I can’t speak to how the 2017 mono version is better or different.
The original “Satanic” SACD was released in 2002 in stereo only, the new one is maybe a little better, but the differences between old and new ‘Satanic” SACDs are slight.
Fifty years on, I’m guessing few ‘Stones” fans own copies of “Satanic,” but it’s worth a listen, if only because you’ll hear the band in such a different way. As for the 50th Anniversary set, I’m sure audiophiles and hard-core Stones fans will spring for a copy. Everybody else can search out used LP or CD copies, or stream the album to get a taste of “Satanic Majesties.”