The cover photo of this book tells it all. This Jagger-centric book glosses over giant swaths of time, cultural movements, personal interactions and entire albums (!) with horrifying rapidity, yet waxes poetic and covers minute detail for huge sections about the various drug arrests, Brian Jones’ death, and Altamont. It’s very obvious that this author prefers the prurient subjects.
Other band members get far less mention, except Keith but only then for his drug-related problems, and even then mostly only as it relates to Mick. It’s like Bill wasn’t even there (though we get an update about his post-Stones life in the epilogue – wow, thanks). And if Charlie gets mentioned, it’s that he lived quietly and collected antique silver. Thanks for fleshing him out for us! This author has also written a separate book about Mick, but no other Stones, so it’s obvious who gets the most coverage.
The book also hangs huge on the early years, up to the end of the 1960s. For a 501-page book (excluding author’s note and index), it’s only just finished barfing adjectives about Altamont by page 403. The next two decades get covered in less than 100 pages.
Worst (to me), the music is secondary, throughout this telling. The entire raison d’etre of the group, the creation of most of their albums, plays second fiddle to the goings-on and the minute details, for example, of all of Mick’s dalliances and marriages. So much space is wasted banging on about backstage garden parties and which house they bought, and yet, for example, Goats Head Soup gets more mention of its cover art than its music (and even then only about a paragraph), and the entire album of Emotional Rescue gets one sentence.
I’ve read enough about the Rolling Stones in the 3+ decades I’ve been a fan to know most of this stuff already, so I could fill in the incredible number of blanks myself. And yes, it is unrealistic to cover their entire career, and all of the goings-on both musical and extracurricular, in a mere 500 pages, but I wouldn’t blame a neophyte for reading this book and not knowing anything about the music at all when they were finished reading. It should have been titled The Stones: The Acclaimed Tabloid Biography (But Only The Most Salacious Bits About Which I Know The Most).
It all became clear when I read the Thank Yous at the end. This author spent time with the band on the 1981-1982 tour, and was a writer for the Sunday Times from 1965 up, so of course the main bit of knowledge would be the early years. But you can’t print a book about the Stones and just brush off sooooo much. I understand that a comprehensive biography would require multiple volumes, but picking and choosing like this book does is a disservice.
Much as I love the band, I wouldn’t recommend this book.
Yup, this is what I got with my (replaced) $25 Father’s Day Sunrise gift card. STONES!
This set is 2CD of the full show. It’s also got the DVD of the full show! VALUE!
The setlist is classic, of course (same order and track totals on CDs and DVD). Seriously, it’s embarassing how many songs they have from which they can choose, all of them fan faves. Check it:
CD1: Jumpin’ Jack Flash / Bitch / You Got Me Rockin’ / Respectable / Honky Tonk Women / I Got The Blues / Saint Of Me / Some Girls / Paint It, Black / You Got The Silver / Before They Make Me Run
CD2: Out Of Control / Route 66 / Get Off Of My Cloud / Midnight Rambler / Tumbling Dice / It’s Only Rock ’N Roll (But I Like It) / Start Me Up / Brown Sugar / Sympathy For The Devil
You can also go through and see all the ones they didn’t play that night… missing are Satisfaction, 19th Nervous Breakdown, Under My Thumb, Ruby Tuesday, Gimme Shelter, Street Fighting Man, Wild Horses, Angie, Miss You, Beast Of Burden, Mixed Emotions, Love Is Strong… and oh I could go on, and these are not complaints. Just pointing out they could have played for five friggin’ hours and STILL not played half the hits.
Some thoughts (of many):
Take your Gravol before watching the DVD. Ye gods, it’s like watching those horrible Bourne movies with the shaky cam and quick cuts. By the time you get focussed on what’s on screen, it’s gone and you have to re-focus and then that’s gone too…
I think Mick used ALL Of his stage move arsenal in the opening track, Jumpin’ Jack Flash. That was an aerobic workout right there, all the moves in under five minutes. Haha shake that moneymaker, Mick baby!
I’m not sure what Mick was mumbling in You Got Me Rockin’, but it sure wasn’t “rockin,” more like “you got me rawghbrghlgb.” Haha whut.
Keith, of course, pull out all his moves and played pirate all night. Ronnie (the new guy) smiles like he’s got the greatest job in the world (he does). Charlie is implaccable as ever, and as metronomic now as he was 50 years ago. Friggin’ hero of mine, man. Darryl Jones unobtrusively lays down bass perfection. Chuck Leavell owns the keys (check Respectable, Honky Tonk Women, I Got The Blues, and, well, every tune, dammit), and Bernard Fowler and the ever-gorgeous Lisa Fischer own the backing vocals. Lisa slinky dances in a tight black dress and flirts with Mick. Ah, that’s livin’.
Keith’s piano additions in Honky Tonk Women were a pleasant surprise, and his bluesy You Got The Silver slays. I loved that they did the soul-dancin’ walk down a gangway to a small stage mid-crowd for a rip through the old Route 66, Get Off My Cloud and Midnight Rambler. It turned it into a club gig. And the soul revue run-through of I Got The Blues was lovely…
Ach, there are many highlights. The DVD is fun (if nauseating to watch, motion-wise), and the CDs are fuckin’ great in the car.
Frickin’ fantastic. There’s a sense of occasion when these guys play, not something a lot of bands manage to generate in quite the same way. It’s special, and you know it. There’s also something timeless about these guys. I’m sitting here watching and forgetting that this set was recorded 19 years ago. It could’ve been yesterday. Whatever the case, this set is definitely worth the wait for that damn gift card, I gotta say. Greatness captured!
My lovely wife brought me a gift to wear today (Canada Day). She knows me so well.
Happy Canada Day, everybody!
subtitled: How To Know You Have A Problem And Then Admit It On The Internet
Did I need to buy this?
No. I own all of these songs so many times, on so many Hits collections (not to mention the albums proper anyway) that this disc is 100% completely utterly redundant and unnecessary in my collection.
Did I need to buy this?
Yes. Because Rolling Stones.
|1||Time Is On My Side||2:50|
|2||(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction||3:45|
|3||Get Off Of My Cloud||2:52|
|4||19th Nervous Breakdown||3:52|
|5||Mother’s Little Helper||2:40|
|6||Paint It, Black||3:20|
|7||Under My Thumb||3:20|
|9||She’s A Rainbow||4:35|
|10||Jumpin’ Jack Flash||3:40|
|11||Sympathy For The Devil||6:14|
|13||You Can’t Always Get What You Want||7:28|
|14||Honky Tonk Woman||3:03|
This had sat at work for several days and no one bought it, so I knew I had to be the one to (emotional) rescue the damn thing. It was even still in the shrink wrap!
It has a game board with Stones pictures and logos all over it, and a custom die. Even the category markers (we called them pieces of pie, as kids) have the Stones tongue on them.
There are 400 cards (2400 questions total) covering 6 categories: Hot Rocks, Rewind, Rolled Gold, In Concert, Story Of The Stones, and No Stone Unturned.
The categories cover “the band’s history, music, accomplishments, and more.”
I’m excited to try it out, but my lovely wife refuses to play against me. I wonder why… 😉
Here we have the final episode in this current IOU Series (there may be more, at some future point, who knows?), and it’s a doozy.
I’ve been teasing the incomparable Deke at Superdekes about covering this 2CD/1DVD set for a loooong time now. In fact, it has dragged on so long, I assume he’s given up on me ever reviewing the damn thing… Well guess what, Dekester? HERE IT IS!
Quick! Someone send the paramedics to T-Bay! I think Deke just fell over in shock!
Haha. Now, before I dive in, though, I’d like to thank all of you for taking the time tag along during this IOU Series. Hell, for being Readers of the blog at all! Without all of you I’d just be firing my blather (and James would be offering up his excellent and humourous, professional-quality writing) into the ether to no one. You make this all worthwhile, so THANKS!
And now, let’s zap ourselves back to December 18, 1981, to the Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Virginia, USA…
… and let’s not forget that Tattoo You was the album of the day…
What a glorious spectacle.
Check out this setlist:
CD1: Under My Thumb / When The Whip Comes Down / Let’s Spend The Night Together / Shattered / Neighbours / Black Limousine / Just My Imagination / Twenty Flight Rock / Going To A Go-Go / Let Me Go / Time Is On My Side / Beast Of Burden / Waiting On A Friend / Let It Bleed
CD2: You Can’t Always Get What You Want / Band Intros / Happy Birthday Keith / Little T&A / Tumbling Dice / She’s So Cold / Hang Fire / Miss You / Honky Tonk Women / Brown Sugar / Start Me Up / Jumpin’ Jack Flash / (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
The DVD set list is identical, with the addition of an introduction to the set.
I’ve gotta hand it to these From The Vault releases, they’re friggin’ gorgeous. Quality, in all aspects. Having the full concert on CD so that I can hear it anytime is wonderful, and the DVD is good quality, and mighty fine viewing. Pure class, and a fine historical document.
I was thrilled to see several tracks in that list (above) that don’t get played much anymore (if ever), like Black Limousine (though it did get an airing in the Stripped set), Neighbours (off Tattoo You, makes sense they’d play it then…), Just My Imagination (cover tune, of course, and from Some Girls), Twenty Flight Rock (an cover of Eddie Cochran, which also appeared on the Still Life live set), Let Me Go (from Emotional Rescue), Going To A Go-Go (a cover of the Miracles, also found on Still Life live set)…
Anyway, you get the point. And of course there are a ton of hits here, too. If anything, this is a really, really generous set list. And judging from the DVD, the crowd was having a blast. What a frickin’ party. The band was in full flight, no holds barred. Even the intro is fun… a naked woman talking, telling you all the radio stations on which you can hear the show, with each station call numbers painted on her body. Then we go backstage and watch the band loosening up nd getting ready to head to stage… then it’s Ellington’s Take The ‘A’ Train before Keef and Charlie launch into Under My Thumb… Charlie’s revolving drum set is fun, and Mick’s dancing like a lunatic being electrocuted in a mauve suit…
They blast throught the set, and it’s riveting viewing. Say what you will about these guys and their antics, but when they get into the pocket and start rocking, which they do from the off, here, it’s a whole other animal and must be seen to be believed.
During the band intros, Mick leads the crowd in singing Happy Birthday to Keith (he was 38, that day), and then the band is all served a round of drinks to his health. Keef then launches into a characteristically rough and beautiful version of T&A and the momentum picks right back up…
And then there’s the scene everyone talks about, when mentioning this show. They do Satisfaction as a show closer encore. The band re-takes the stage, Mick resplendently draped in both the Union Jack and the American flag like a cape… the band rips into it, Keef’s guitar sounding raw and glorious… and about a minute into the tune, a fan gets on stage and makes a b-line for Mick. Keef immediately stops playing, shrugs off his guitar and proceeds to bash away at the fan with the heavy end of it until security can get the interloper off stage. Keef then gives Mick a look that says “I got yer back, mate, ” immediately straps back in, finds the line, and plays away like nothing happened. The guitar’s even still in tune! The track takes off to the stratosphere, a mass of balloons with the Stones’ tongue logo on them drop from the ceiling, Mick loses the cape and dances shirtless in bright yellow football pants…
Glory. They’re so young, lithe, already been through the ringer several times, battle hardened and not anywhere near road-weary. No one could even try to say they’d gone half-power at any moment of this gig. And the fans in the place knew the Stones had been in town (and how!), and they’d all been ridden hard and put down wet. In all, a fucking fantastic set.
Two thumbs way up.
And there ya go, Deke. Mr. Books finally made good on his word! 🙂
Thanks again for following along in this series, folks!
I’m a Stones fan from way back. You knew this already, from reading these pages… I own all the studio albums, most of the comps, some of the live stuff… And for some reason I never bought this compilation when it finally hit CD (the vinyl was released way long ago, in 1975…). Don’t ask me why I never picked it up, I ‘ve certainly eyed it in the shops many times. Well, at least I had enough foresight to throw it on my Amazon wishlist and, voilà, all these years later and come Christmas morning there it was!
Can I even begin to describe what a pleasure it is to hear these songs? A collection of outtakes and different versions of known tunes, it’s a real keeper. Oh sure, most of these aren’t the “hit” tracks, but as a fan who’s heard some of the nitty and the gritty, these are awesome snapshots of a band that held its creative peak for so long it’s not fair to other groups. Getting to hear these songs now, many of them for the first time is, for me, like finding a Lost Stones disc from the ‘classic’ early years. Which is what it is.
NB #1. One Amazon reviewer pointed out something I hadn’t noticed: this may be one of (if not the) only Stones record with 6 band members pictured on the cover [the artwork of which, you’ll also notice, is a nod to Kafka (of course)]! Cool.
NB #2. I have leaned heavily upon Wikipedia for song details contained below. It’d be nice if you believed I am this knowledgeable just on my own, but it’d all be a lie. However, the opinions contained herein, for what they’re worth, are all mine. Ready? Of course you are.
I like this demo version of Out Of Time (with strings added!), and Don’t You Lie To Me is originally a Tampa Red song, though Fats Domino and Chuck Berry covered it. The Stones covered the Berry version. It’s a rocker as only the Stones can do such a thing. Somethings Just Stick In Your Mind is a mournful, repetitive, slightly cheesy track. Each And Every Day Of The Year plods along a bit, but there are enough elements here to keep it interesting. Trumpet! I like trumpets.
Heart Of Stone is not the album/single version. It has Jimmy Page on guitar! This one’s a bit slower and a bit more… what? Bluesy? Swinging? Swaggering? Yes. I like it. I’d Much Rather Be With The Boys is a tuneful keeper, complete with handclaps. (Walkin’ Through The) Sleepy City is pure west coast sixties, would sound great coming out of a jukebox. And it has a solo on bells. Oh my. We’re Wastin’ Time is a sweet waltz (yes, it’s a bit disorienting) that still sounds like it could’ve been on England’s Newest Hitmakers. Cool guitar solo, here. Try A Little Harder is a chugging little 12-bar rocker with harmony vocals and persistent tambourine.
I Don’t Know Why, originally a Stevie Wonder song, was recorded the night the news of Brian Jones’ death broke (the band was recording Let It Bleed at the time). I’d need to listen to this track another ten times to tell you what I think of what it says. It’s typical of the period, musically, a quiet build into a mid-tempo Stones stomp rocker. This may be the most affecting track here, which is saying something since every track here is a keeper.
If You Let Me is a Between The Buttons outtake, and it’s a simple, pleasing little tune with lots of build and then release, build and then release pacing… Jiving Sister Fanny is pure Stones jangling-blues rock. I love it, even the odd bit where Taylor’s guitar solo kicks in and it’s way louder in the mix than Mick’s vocals. Way louder. Anyway, I could hear the Black Crowes covering this one, easily. Right in their wheelhouse.
Downtown Suzie (originally titled Sweet Lyle Lucie) is a Let It Bleed outtake, and includes Ry Cooder on guitar. It’s an acoustic blues that struggles a bit to hold together in the intro, and with backing vocals that sound tired or bored (or stoned) here and there. Weird. But then it kicks in, complete with bongo drums (I think) and it sounds like a Stones jam around a campfire. Eventually in there somewhere it becomes a typical Stones full-band rocker too… Cool. Family Is a Beggars Banquet outtake, an odd little rocker that switches tempos and dynamics quite often. Memo From Turner (not the version from Performance) features Al Kooper on guitar, and may also contain some Steve Winwood and Jim Capaldi (with Traffic at the time). It’s a cool tune. Mick’s talking more than he’s singing… I don’t have the Performance version here, so I cannot compare. And finally there’s I’m Going Down has Stephen Stills on guitar. It’s a pure Stones rocker. It’s that sound, so indelible and perfect. It’s all a bit lost-sounding, somehow, but it’s pure Stones.
Whew! I’ve played this disc three times since I received it as a gift and I love it. It’s a real gift, though, to be able to add (to me) unheard early Stones to my collection. Yes, I’m way behind the times, but I consider myself lucky to have this one here, now. I will play it often, for sure.
Hooray! Thanks heaps, Mom!
Here the Stones embody their blues roots, the old Chess records, those jangly guitar blues. It’s all over this muddy Delta swamp of a record and I love it dearly. Time has proven this to be a total gem of a record. The instruments and vocals seem mixed in together, at times indistinguishable from each other, other times distinct, all of it glorious. Set aside the stories from the recording and drug use at the time, let the messy nature of this beast stand on its own… this is a better record than most people could ever even dream of making.
So, to business. The first disc is the album in its entirety, hosed off a bit but not too much, and it’s sounding great. Those guitars still give me goosebumps. Love the horns, the harmonica, those shuffling yet precise drums… damn. This is a Stones juke joint, plain and simple. I know you’ve heard this album a million times, so I won’t bore you with a track by track analysis. Just know that the remaster sounds pretty damn good.
The second disc, as if the first isn’t enough to make you delirious, has some extra tracks from the period. Pass The Wine (Sophia Loren) has a great soul groove and stands well on its own. But it doesn’t quite match the feel of Exile itself. Plundered My Soul comes closer, but it’s definitely a b-side. I’m Not Signifying is a fantastic piano and harp blues that plods along with a loose shuffle, one of the highlights of this extra disc. Following The River is a lovely piano ballad, but they were right to leave this one off the record as well. Dancing In The Light is a fun, blues-drenched ramble that might have worked on the album. So Divine (Aladdin Story), with its Paint It Black-ish guitar line, chugs along well enough but is another one rightly left as a b-side. It almost sounds like an afterthought. Then we get two alternate takes of album tracks: a slinky, spare and almost tentative Loving Cup, and a shuffling Soul Survivor that doesn’t quite work (those vocals are pretty terrible). Rounding out the disc, Good Time Women is another true Stones blues rocker. Love those playful guitars. And bringing up the rear is Title 5, an instrumental which picks up the pace considerably and plays with amp effects.
All in all, this set is so fucking fantastic, you need to run out and buy it RIGHT NOW. If you were to only own one Stones record, you couldn’t go far wrong with this one. Sure, none of the huge hits are here, but you can listen to Classic Rawk radio for those. This is the Stones at their peak, drenched in blues, flirting with the devil every chance they get, and loving every minute of it.
Robert Pollard – The Crawling Distance
Hooray! New Pollard again! Frankly, my raving about a new Pollard effort in these pages is redundant, by now. So just consider this notice that this album is released and you should definitely buy it! This 10 song collection has all the trademark sounds of the master at work: the brit-rock vocals, the odd lyrics, the interesting structures and key changes. It’s all here. The man is unstoppable.
Pavement – Brighten The Corners: Nicene Creed Edition
Whomever had the idea to re-release all the Pavement records with all kinds of extra goodies thrown in deserves a medal. They’re gorgeous. This most recent addition to the series has so much extra stuff it’s boggling: a re-mastered original album, b-sides to several EPs, compilation appearance tracks, radio sessions, studio outtakes, photos, essays, you name it. There’s enough in this 2 disc set to keep a person occupied for weeks, and it’s all fantastic.
Man, I miss Pavement. I know it had to end, and I know we’ve been fortunate that a couple of the members have carried on with other projects, but a part of me still really misses the magic these guys created. Sets like this are a nice reminder of what once was.
TV On The Radio – Dear Science
Here we have a dance-y, trance-y, indie homage to 80’s pop music. It’s got drum machines, falsetto vocals, the works. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, as far as it goes, I enjoyed this record for the creative effort that it is. I ultimately sort of held it at a distance, though, since it’s really not my cup of tea. I honestly did enjoy it, but I doubt I’d play it often. Man, talk about a backhanded compliment. Lots of people like this stuff. If you do, power to you. Get out your jelly shoes, hair crimper and neon stretch pants and rock it often. Whatever floats your boat.
Danny Michel – Welcome Home (1997-2007)
I can sum this up quickly: Danny Michel rules, as you all already know, and this set is the perfect collection of a decade of his amazing songs, played on acoustic guitar. Every track is a gem. Seriously, head over to zunior.com and get this so you can check this out. You won’t regret a single second of it.
Rolling Stones – Shine A Light
Watching this movie, I realized for the millionth time that, dammit man, I love this band. I don’t care how old they get, or how corny their song lyrics can get sometimes, or that watching Mick Jagger perform is akin to watching a skinny little man being electrocuted. It’s that sound, that magic that is the Stones in flight. It’s jangly, it’s messy, it’s bluesy and it fucking rocks.
Scorcese had his work cut out for him, capturing this spectacle, at which he both succeeds and fails. We’re treated to incredible footage from great angles, and the picture quality is fantastic. But it’s mostly like watching a strobe-light being swung around the room. Too many camera-switches makes it impossible to actually enjoy a lot of the footage. It’s a shame. In his panic to give us everything, Scorcese hurt my eyes and offered up only fleeting flashes of greatness.
Nevermind, the music is phenomenal, the guests are interesting, and that one of a kind Stones energy is definitely present. And that’s all that matters.
*NB: There’s more favourites coming up next, so be ready!
Let the ‘Favourite Record’ fun begin!
This little project has quickly become an interesting sociological experiment. Responses to my little query have varied greatly. Some people know what their favourite record is without hesitation. Others say one thing, then quickly ask if they can change their answer. A couple of people have just said whatever new record they’re listening to right now, not their all-time favourite (and to be fair, the question does not actually specify any such restrictions).
Still others say there are far too many and then get bogged down in trying to chose. I’ve even had a couple of people choose just a song they like, which doesn’t count. A few folks knew which song they liked but not the name of the record it’s on, and one person admitted that her friends just give her copies of stuff they like and she plays those without really knowing or caring who the bands are. Very interesting, indeed.
I fall into the category of the person who thinks of one right away and then can think of a zillion others that would also work (as you’ll soon discover, below). There’s just too many great records. Honestly, I’d need several crates for discs I’d take to a deserted island…
Anyway, shall we get to it?
(takes a deep breath)…
01 MINE: Rolling Stones – Exile On Main St.
None of you will be surprised by this. I’ve already reviewed this disc in these pages and raved about its wonders and depths, its messiness and glory. Of course, being a music geek like I am, a million other records came crashing in behind that first thought, like Guided By Voices’ Bee Thousand, Black Flag’s Damaged, Metallica’s Master Of Puppets, Sloan’s Twice Removed, and then there’s… well, suffice it to say, I could think of countless others that could just as easily have been my instinctive response to this challenge, but Exile it was. Fair enough. It is, indeed, a bloody brilliant album. I love it to pieces.
02 MY LOVELY WIFE: Miles Davis – Kind Of Blue
Once upon a time, I played trumpet quite a bit. During that time I got a glimpse, in my own completely mediocre way, of what might be possible on the instrument. Then I heard Kind Of Blue, and I realized that I knew nothing.
My lovely wife chose this as her favourite record, which just goes to show that she consistently has impeccable taste (ahem)! This record is deservedly held aloft as a jazz immortal, as unimpeachable. And talk about tone. It’s a sound every horn player only dreams is possible. As a document of a staggering mind’s explorations in its prime, this album is almost inhuman. Of course, you’ve all heard it, so you know that words are inadequate. Damn. Yeah. Own this. Love it.
03 THAIN: Depeche Mode – Violator
I have to admit, I’ve never been a big fan of electronic music. Yes, I was a child of the 80’s and therefore it was categorically impossible to avoid this type of music, and I even owned People Are People on cassette at one time (though I rarely played it… thanks, Columbia House), but it hasn’t ever really been my thing.
However, Thain said this was her favourite record, so I gave it a spin. And yes, the synth/electronic thing is certainly there, but there is a depth of movement underneath the surface that is far more worthwhile than the melody lines. This record creeps up behind you, places a soft hand on your shoulder and creepily relishes when you jump. It’s dark, it’s full of need and awareness, it has a slinky elegance all its own, and it’s very, very real. Impressive.
04 STU: Tom Waits – Rain Dogs
For those of you who aren’t aware, Stu runs the Vinyl Diner, the best record shop in Saskatoon (and one of the absolute best I’ve ever had the pleasure of prowling anywhere), and so he’s even more of a music fanatic than I am. It is thus understandable that he sent me not one response to this challenge, but thirteen! The list was impressive, and all his choices impeccable, the result of many considered hours of listening and constant contact with a wide variety of styles. I can’t review them all, so I just chose this one at random from his list.
Tom Waits gets a lot of play in our house. His rough yet warm growl, his uncanny songwriting ability, the dirt and grime on every surface of his creations… they all add up to a superlative artist who truly stands alone in excellence. Rain Dogs is a fine example, and one of his more popular records. From start to finish, it plays like a greatest hits collection and, trust me, no one else in 1985 could have even dreamed of creating these masterpieces. Totally perfect.
There’s tons more, too. I’ll get to them as quickly as I can. I hope you’re having as much fun reading these as I am trying out all your favourites and writing about them!
I now enter into dangerous territory, because this is quite possibly my favourite record of all time. For a music fan on a scale such as the one by which I live, that’s a massive claim to make. Suffice it to say, if someone asked me that Deserted Island question about which 5 albums I’d take, this one would spring to my mind first over all others, by any band.
Anyway, I say this is dangerous territory because such albums should, if you ask me, be completely avoided by armchair reviewers and music fans like myself. I’m way too close to the subject, have too much invested in it. When an album is in your life so deeply, it’s probably wrong to try to tell others why this is so. It just doesn’t seem possible. Or perhaps I’m just afraid I’ll run out of adjectives.
Exile On Main Street sews up the Four Best Stones Records (in my opinion) series, and it does it with grandeur, style, a razor-sharp blade in hand and dirt under its nails. There are no tracks that are less than perfect, and as I said in my review of Sticky Fingers, it’s the natural extension of the Story Of The Stones as it was told by the band (via their music) as they straddled two decades.
Everything about this record just makes sense. It’s a full buffet of the styles they love to play with; blues, folk, rock, country, soul, you name it. It’s all here and it’s all inimitably their own. The musicianship is flawless, even when it hits points of sounding like it’s going to fall apart. But unlike the others records in this series, the vocals sound buried back into the mix with the instruments. You wouldn’t think this would have much of an effect, but it surely does here. With everything on a more even level, what emerges is a true group effort, and a swampy briliance that sums up the feel of the entire affair.
Much has been made about how this album was generally confusing to the people who bought it when it came out. Lots of people hated it (including Lester Bangs, who later recanted) and still today there are some who call it overrated. It was an ambitious double-album and, compared to their other recent records, there were no Huge Hits. The closest it came to that would probably have been Tumbling Dice, which disappointed the people who wanted another Satisfaction or whatever. It was too challenging for average listeners, I guess. Fools.
A long time back, I reviewed a book about the making of this record, and so we all remember from that review that that process was an entire story unto itself. But this end result of all of those elements is the culmination of the most fruitful and beautiful period in the history of the Stones. Here is where they made their stand, here is where everything finally came together and made sense. Here is a challenge to every other band who might dare to pretend to such heights. Hell, even the Stones themselves have never, in my opinion, quite gotten back up there since (I’m sorry to say).
I’ve been playing this record for many years, and I always feel like I’m greeting an old friend when it starts to play. The kind of friend who’s been through the wringer enough times (and crashed on your couch as a result) to know where you keep everything in your kitchen cupboards, and to know that they’re welcome to help themselves to whatever they find there (and they always do). And still, after all that time, my ears pick out new little riffs, bent notes or drum shuffles that I maybe didn’t take notice of before, that make it sound fresh and new too. That, to me, is the perfect album right there. It’s the unexpected blooming in the middle of such familiar, brilliant sounds.
I. Love. This. Record.
With only a brief break between album releases to thrust the (sometimes) great Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out live album into the maelstrom, the Stones returned with the Third in the Four Best Stones Records (in my opinion). Sticky Fingers is so much more than the album cover that stirred up all that talk. It’s a masterpiece, and possibly the best opening salvo a new decade (the 70’s) has ever heard.
By now the Stones were unquestionably Unto Themselves in every possible way (and had been, for some time). Everything about them was huge, worthy of a tale or three. Lesser mortals would have crumbled, withered and blown away in the fiercely competitive wind that constantly blows through rock and roll, let alone what their lifestyles were doing to them mentally and physically. So, we should all kneel down and give thanks that they somehow held on through their own personal hells to keep going. And going. And going…
Anyway, Sticky Fingers serves up a delicious opening round knock-out count with Brown Sugar, which in typical Stones fashion is about slavery and racial tension, sex and the loss of virginity, all with a delightful snarl and insouciance that is by now their trademark. Welcome to our new album, indeed. But unlike Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed before it, something else is afoot on this record. The blues are still prevalent (and worthy), as are their flirtations with country (Wild Horses is still one of my favourite Stones tracks ever) and their staple rock and roll. But…
This new element isn’t malaise or boredom, and it isn’t sheer exhaustion. No one could muster such performances if they were so apathetic or weary. No, I tend to think that what lurks behind every note of this record is a series of little glimpses into how the drugs had changed the landscape for the band. It’s obvious in the lyrics of most of these songs, but it’s in the feel of the record too. There’s something that tugs the corners down, makes everything that much more of an effort. Of course, the effort is entirely worth it.
Played on its own, this is a completely harrowing record. Taken in context with the albums made just before and after it, it makes a little more sense and it’s a natural lead-in to their next record (my favourite) Exile On Main St. It’s almost as though, listening to these records, what you are hearing is their autobiographies hidden in every note, which makes sense when you consider that albums like these don’t get made unless you pour your absolute heart and soul into every track.
Worth every penny.
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.
I’ve been holding back on reviewing the Rolling Stones on this site because I find it very difficult to get the right words to match what I think of them. You see, I love the Stones, and I hate them sometimes too. Some of their songs/albums are absolute gems, some are weak money-grabs, and some are completely unlistenable sins against Rock Itself that should never have seen the light of day. Even then I still give them points for trying.
However, Beggars Banquet is an absolute gem. Made at a point in their career when the initial tsunami of fame had given way to an altogether new one, the Stones turned back to their roots in the blues and put down some of the finest songs committed to record.
Drop this in the player and let Sympathy For The Devil work you over. It swirls and offers hope and malice and euphoria all on the same serving platter. It conjures images and tells stories and leaves you gasping. When it’s all over, even though I’ve played this CD enough times that by rights it should be worn out by now, I always get that tingle of trepidation, wondering ‘How in the hell are they gonna follow that?’ What song could possibly step in to please you as much as that first track? And every time I laugh at myself, because No Expectations is the perfect slide-guitar follow-up. And frankly, the rest of the record just makes sense in the same way. It flows.
Sure, the only other single on here is Street Fighting Man, but it hardly matters. The rest are equally worthy. By the time you reach Salt Of The Earth, you’ll have fallen in love ten times. This is honest music, and it’s sexy as hell. It hurts, it aches and it preens. It nods at the past and calmly asserts the new order at the same time. It won’t leave your player for weeks and you won’t mind at all.
Even better, this is the first in the string of Four Best Stones Records (in my opinion). This is the beginning point of a very fertile and absolutely amazing musical period for the band, one which has never been duplicated, except in a lot of talented musician’s wildest wet dreams.
Do yourself a favour. Go dig out your copy and give it a spin. It’ll be better than anything else you’ve heard in a long, long while.