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Ghost Canyon

'Stones in Exile'
(DVD / NR / 2010 / Eagle Records)

Overview: In the spring of 1971 the Rolling Stones departed the UK to take up residence in France as tax exiles. Keith Richards settled at a villa called Nellcôte in Villefranche-sur-Mer and this became the venue for the recording of much of the band s masterpiece Exile On Main Street. 'Stones In Exile' tells the story in the bands own words and through extensive archive footage of their time away from England and the creation of this extraordinary double album, which many regard as the Rolling Stones finest achievement.

DVD Verdict: At just about an hour, "Stones in Exile" seems to wrap up just as it's getting going, and as a consequence it leaves a lot of biographical territory unexplored ("Hello, Gram Parsons?").

And yet, this is so much better than I was expecting. Aside from opening and closing segments featuring interviews with celebrity fans of Exile on Main St. the bulk of the movie is a well-choreographed montage of clips (footage from "C.S. Blues" and "Ladies & Gentleman..." plus home movies) and photographs (largely by Dominique Tarle, whose book "Exile" is about $1,000 beyond most fans' price ranges).

I had no idea there was so much period material out there, and the filmmakers structure it with the songs perfectly. The resulting whole does a great job of putting "Exile" into the context of the Stones' history as well as the era in which it was made. Interview audio from the band as well as Jimmy Miller, Marshall Chess and Bobby Keyes (who, decades after the fact, still sounds elated to have been there) round out the reporting. And the film also occasionally just sits back and lets songs play out.

I'm frequently disappointed in music docs, and as a longtime fan of "Exile" I was prepared to be let down (much as I was with the recently released "sweetened" extra tracks on the "Exile re-release). But this movie gets so much right, I can't begrudge its brevity. I've seen much longer documentaries that were a lot worse. [CQ] This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of: Extensive additional footage including interviews with all the band members, footage from Csucker Blues and Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts returning to Olympic Studios and Jaggers country house Stargroves, where a lot of the early work on the album was done.