This is the second in the Four Best Stones Records (in my opinion). What an amazing time these guys had during these years, as the Sixties died and the Seventies were poking their head around the grimy street corner. The band was at the top of their game, fully untouchable and, of course, the voice of their generation (whether they wanted to be or not).
This record picks right up as a natural extension where Beggars Banquet left off, and then it takes things one step further. Of course, with the Stones this can only mean that things take on a bit more of an edge (in places) with more menace and darkness, and that suits me just fine. There’s something plaintive here, too. I can hear in these tracks how the drugs were taking hold, how Brian Jones’ death hung over them, how fame was its own peculiar weight. Turning all of that into something this beautiful was a master stroke, indeed.
The opening knock-out punch of Gimme Shelter again leaves me wondering what could possibly follow such perfection (same as on Banquet), but as always the blues save the day. Their cover of Robert Johnson’s Love In Vain is brilliant. This paves the way for a wild ride through more blues (especially the delicious Midnight Rambler), rock of course, and even some more country stomping with Country Honk (a re-do of Honky Tonk Women). By the time you reach the sweet and sorrowful strains of You Can’t Always Get What You Want, you’re spent. And that song in itself is completely intense. If you really let this record speak to you, you’ll feel like you’ve run nine miles in the summer heat. Of course, it’s so good you’ll just want to plug it back in and do it all over again.
I can’t even imagine being in the room as these records were being made. The talent, the song-writing ability, the electricity in the air, the feeling that damned souls and demons were being conjured up by the delicious sounds… oh man. The hairs stand up on the back of my neck just thinking about it.
Thank the Music Gods that this record is readily available for us to savour. Play it often.