The Rolling Stones Under Review, 1975 – 1983: The Ronnie Wood Years, Part I (2012) – By Cary Conley

Much like any band that has been around for multiple decades, the groundbreaking musical group The Rolling Stones has had its ups and downs. They’ve survived personnel changes, breakups, and feuds as well as drug and alcohol addiction, and in this fourth installment of the continuing series of unauthorized documentaries, we learn they even survived disco.

The late sixties and early seventies were very good to The Rolling Stones as they released a string of number one albums. But by late 1974, as they traveled to Munich for recording sessions for their next album, legal problems and Keith Richards’ heroin addiction became too much for founding member and guitarist Bill Wyman, who quite immediately prior to the Munich recording sessions. While many musicians were used for these recording sessions, the group finally settled on The Faces guitarist Ronnie Wood. Wood already had a history with the band, playing live with Richards and working on the writing and recording of the single "It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll". After helping The Stones record two albums, he agreed to join the band for their upcoming tour, committing to Richards and The Stones and allowing his own band, The Faces, to dissolve.

But while Wood was a great fit for The Stones, the time period was awkward for the band. As they moved farther away from their bluesy roots and tried to compete with the new fad, disco, their string of number one albums was finally broken. And though this period was a turbulent one for the band (as it was for many bands), The Stones continued to release albums and singles, transitioning from a popular recording band to becoming one of the most popular live acts of the time.

The film traces The Rolling Stones from Wyman’s departure and Wood’s entrance in early 1975 to the release of the hit album Tattoo You in 1981 and the resulting tour that followed. Along the way, the film addresses the turbulence both within the band as well as outside of the band, with commentary from several major music critics of the era. There is also rare footage of The Stones, including Mick Jagger and the infamous blow-up penis that was taken on tour. Expert analysis of various Stones singles and fascinating stories about the band are included.

I am only a passing Stones fan and don’t own a single recording of the band and I came into this series during the fourth installment; however, the documentary is of such quality that it not only captured my attention and kept me interested until the end, but it also created a desire to listen to The Rolling Stones. Isn’t that what a good music documentary should do?

The DVD, which is being released on MVD Entertainment Group’s Sexy Intellectual label, is nicely packaged. While extras are thin, they are also unnecessary as this 115-minute documentary thoroughly covers the material. The DVD streets on November 20th. For more information, go to MVD’s website here.