ROLLING STONES REVIEWS:
England's Newest Hit Makers (1964)
England's Newest Hit Makers (1964)
Album Score: 11
By far, the best thing about these guys is they have attitude, and it doesn't sound they're just blowing off steam. I'd imagine there were quite a few British rock bands in this early period who spent their evenings in night clubs, going nuts all over their instruments... Unfortunately, the only thing they came out with is a bunch of sloppy nonsense. Alternately, there were tons of British rock bands who were neat, and clean and always playing the right notes, but they were sterile. The Rolling Stones, on the other hand, took the best these two factions had to offer and melded it into this awesome debut album. The album is full of R&B covers that were played nicely and tightly, but there's a menacing, raucous quality to them thanks to the furious guitar performances and Mick Jagger's verve-ridden vocal performance.
Sure, this undoubtedly would sound pretty tame to the '00s audience who is used to nu-metal music and their lead singers making vomit noises in microphones, but this was pretty wild for its day. In fact, I'd imagine even nu-metal musicians would get a bit of a high listening to this. Oh man... it's no wonder people all around the world are obsessed with The Rolling Stones. Do you want to know how good these R&B covers are? In a nutshell: I don't particularly like R&B, and yet I like the album. It's a miracle, really. Did anybody do R&B better than them? I have no freaking idea, because I hardly ever listen to the genre. But other people have said nobody did it better than them, so I feel justified enough to nod my head in the utmost agreement.
Well, let's talk about some of these songs before I start to run out of space! The album begins with an energetic cover of Buddy Holly's catchy tune, “Not Fade Away” that's fully equipped with a furious acoustic guitar, a chugging harmonica, confident lead vocals, and those awesome clapping sounds at regular intervals. Really, this was an awesome cover from the start, but the clapping seals the deal. And then there's “Route 66,” a blues cover that's possibly the most well-known cover here. The clean pop-rock treatment they gave it makes it sparkle, but the attitude gives it a rustic, leathery odor (OK, I wouldn't be surprised if I'm the only one to hone in on scents). And then there's “I Just Want to Make Love To You,” which has a faster, jumping pace and a perhaps more passionate instrumental performances (without ever seeming like they're overdoing it). A possible exception to that is those especially voluminous vocals. But that's a great song!
Of course, the Rolling Stones nail most of the fast-paced songs, but the slower, bluesy ballads seem a bit of a weak spot to me. “Honest I Do” and “You Can Make it if You Try” both strike me as boring. Part of my dislike for them might just be my personal bias against blues music, which I am admitting right here in the open! But no matter how many times I hear them, I feel fairly disengaged. Not that they did them horribly... they just didn't do them great. A cover of Marvin Gaye's “Can I Get a Witness” is also a bit of a weak spot, because it strikes me as too plain. I'm also not a huge fan of an instrumental take-off, “Now I've Got a Witness,” even though it does contain some mighty nice instrumental solos. Whenever it comes up, though, I feel like the album somehow got cheapened.
One song from this album that gets talked about an awful lot is their intepretation “I'm a King Bee,” and the overwhelming love is more than justified. The sliding electric guitar effect brought in throughout the song along with Charlie Watt's menacing, pounding drum beat was present in the original, but it didn't sound this good. Everything about these guitars are great... and a crazy, high-pitched solo in the middle gives me visions of being attacked by these 'king bees.' I agree with everyone else in the world; it's an instant classic.
The one and only original composition on here, “Tell Me (You're Coming Back)” is surprisingly a good one. Perhaps it's a tad dull, and the chorus is something of a '50s cliché, but it's surprisingly rather touching. It's also interesting that it's not blues-derived, which indicated early on that they wanted to deviate away from that.
While England's Newest Hit Makers might be nowhere near as great as some of the masterpieces The Rolling Stones would pull off later in their career, it was an explosive debut that should still have an impact on listeners to this very day. Hear it even if you don't particularly care for old school R&B.
Read the track reviews:
12 X 5 (1964)
Album Score: 10
There are five originals this time, and they're about as remarkable as the United States Congress. I guess not all of the world's greatest songsmiths are able to hit the ground running! That's the principal reason why The Rolling Stones' sophomore album pales compared to England's Newest Hitmakers enough to warrant a lowered score. Also, there are a few too many lame-o ballads for comfort, a type of song that these boys weren't good at playing consistently well yet. But the R&B covers are freaking fantastic! They alone are reason enough to give 12 X 5 a listen.
When you hear (or re-hear) the opening track, you'll know exactly what I mean. It's “Around and Around,” a foot-stompin' Chuck Berry cover that sounds just as fresh and spirited today as it did in 1964. The band isn't doing anything particularly different to the source material, but they give it so much verve that you can fool yourself into thinking they are. Next, they take their best shot at slow blues with “Confessin' the Blues,” and they couldn't have been more convincing with it. It's the sort of song that makes me wonder why I don't listen to blues music more often. It's that good.
Probably the most entertaining song of the album is a the phenomenal R&B cover “It's All Over Now,” featuring a danceable bass, catchy melody, and bouncy electric guitar riffs. It's one of those songs that screams at me: “DANCE TO ME, WON'T YA?!” But I say to it, “Man, I want to, but I have to remain seated here and type these words!” It also constituted their first #1 hit single in the UK, which is easy to see. Another keeper is the driven pop-rocker “Susie Q,” which closes the album. The energetic guitar work on that, in particular, is so much fun!
The most well-known song on here is probably “Time on My Side.” Interestingly, this is slightly different to the version that we would typically hear played on the radio. Apparently the US company was on the impatient side and wouldn't wait for the Stones to record their full-tooled version of it, which had a more refined and sweet electric guitar solo. But anyway, both versions are great and represent the only exception to my earlier statement that they weren't good at ballads yet.
The ballad that truly does validate that statement is the really lame cover of “Under the Boardwalk.” Just thinking about it, it wouldn't seem like a song that The Rolling Stones would cover. After hearing it, that intuition was not unjustified. Mick Jagger's lead vocals seem uncharacteristically disengaged from the proceedings, and the instrumentalists are similarly on autopilot. It's not terrible or anything, but let's just forget that ever existed. It hurts me deep inside when the Stones do something that's boring.
A better ballad, however, is the Jagger/Richards original, “Congratulations,” which also happens to be one of the finest sounding arrangements on the whole album. Those acoustic guitars are deliciously crisp, and Charlie Watt's woody thwack is quite appealing! Other than that, the song isn't particularly remarkable other than the mere fact it's an original. They were undoubtedly fashioning it after The Beatles, but they couldn't quite get it to sounding as fresh and vibrant as the Fab Four could so naturally.
“Grown Up All Wrong” is another original, but it's so sloppy and annoying that I can only cross my arms and groan when it's playing. Even worse is the original, “Good Times, Bad Times,” which is such a half-hearted attempt at blues that I have a hard time believing they could be the same people who so recently treated us to the great “Confessin' the Blues.” Watt's drumming, in particular, sounds utterly clueless. Two Nanker Phelge originals “2120 Michigan Avenue” and “Empty Heart” I'm sure were the result of jam sessions. The former is a pretty fun instrumental, but neither of them contain any particularly interesting ideas.
Nonetheless, this is a Rolling Stones album, and a Rolling Stones album can have a million flaws and it would still be worth listening to. Naturally, the awesomeness contained in five of these songs is stuff that everyone should find the time to delve into. And, despite my lukewarm comments about the remaining seven of these songs, you might just find yourself enjoying them at times. I know I do! Even though this is one of their worst '60s albums, I couldn't imagine writing a review of it that didn't amount to a recommendation.
Read the track reviews:
The Rolling Stones, Now! (1965)
Album Score: 11
The covers are just as good as they've always been, but their original compositions have improved monstrously. They're still in the developmental stage of course—this stuff is pretty primitive compared to what they would compose in subsequent albums. But then again, it was early 1965, so what could you expect? What matters is that these four originals are roughly of the same quality as the covers. They are bolder, more confident, and they display much of that famous Rolling Stones attitude.
They also did the right thing by bringing down the number of ballads, which rather overpopulated 12 X 5. After all, they were best at *rockin'*. But one ballad, “Heart of Stone,” is very nice, and it's an original no less. It might be fairly derivative, but the melody is good on its own feet, the rhythm section is bold and punchy, Keith has a good solo in the middle, Mick's vocal performance has bite to it. Yup, when a song has all of that, then what else could you ask for?
The tremendously upbeat and fun “Surprise, Surprise” is also one of the better originals. Charlie Watt's clean drums are rather high in the mix, overshadowing that ultra-tight guitar rhythm, but that's part of the fun. The melody might not be genius, but it has a catchy hook or two, and does well enough to show that these guys were world-class songwriters-in-the-making. “What a Shame” is another likable original, a mid-tempo rocker, but this one has a more obviously derivative melody and its rhythm doesn't quite get me riled up as I'd like. The fourth and final original, “Off the Hook” is arguably the worst of 'em with a relatively boring rhythm and a merely so-so melody. But, what am I complaining about? The song is “good.” And that's good enough for me.
While the originals are noteworthy, the real stars of this album belong exclusively to the covers. My favorite track is Chuck Berry's “You Can't Catch Me,” which has such a tight and involved rhythm section that it never fails to gets the blood flowing! Seriously, if you've ever made an exercise mix and this song isn't on it, then you're really missing out. The infectiously toe-tapping “Down the Road Apiece” might not be a Chuck Berry cover, but it sounds like him. Listening to the instrumental performances on that one, particularly Keith's monumental Berry-isms and that rollicking piano in the background, you would think that they were playing for the last time of their lives. For the sake of us all, it's a good thing they weren't.
“Down Home Girl” is a mid-tempo rocker with one of the tangiest rhythm sections I've ever had the pleasure of hearing. It consists of short stabs of the electric guitar, a cool drum rhythm, and deep thumps from the bass... and the way they cooperate to make it is utterly delectable. Naturally, Keith and Mick (on harmonica) provide some wonderful decoration. Listening to that song is listening to a great rock 'n' roll band at work. 'Nuff said. They also do a phenomenal job with the slow blues in “Little Red Rooster,” which is so intensely interesting that I can't tear my attention away from it for one millisecond. Those beautiful slide guitar licks from Brian Jones are the best things about that song ... and perhaps the whole album. Oh man. The Bo Diddley cover “Mona (I Need You Baby)” has a loud, thunderous rhythm, and it's fun to listen to even though the melody is boring. But Keith brings in this watery guitar throughout, which lends it plenty of interesting texture. It was a tiny but excellent idea like that to make the song come more to life.
On the downside, the album opens with a curiously weak number, “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love.” While it's fun and upbeat and Mick Jagger delivers an amusing opening monologue as though he were opening a live show, it's unusually sloppy with terrible mixing. Apparently, there's a different version of this released for the lucky people of Britain, but us Yanks got the raw deal. “Pain in My Heart” is the albums second and final ballad, and it's bogged down by a sluggish pace and a completely uninteresting vocal melody. But even that one's pretty good to listen to (particularly that ultra-deep fuzzy guitar tone), so I wouldn't dwell on it.
With all the good words I had to say about Rolling Stones, Now!, you'd wonder why I'm not giving it a higher rating. While it does have it great moments, the album did have its weaker spots. And, not being much of an R&B fan, I'm not always thrilled about these melodies or riffs. While The Stones are undoubtedly great, I did wish more of these moments would jump out and grab me... But saying that isn't necessarily fair, because what am I comparing that to? ...Their following albums, of course. Thus, this is altogether a good album, and incredibly important in this band's development. It won't be the end of the world if you don't own it, because they did get loads better, but it's certainly worth a listen or two before you depart this planet for life.
Read the track reviews:
Out of Our Heads (1965)
Album Score: 11
Seven is the lucky number, and seven is also the number of original songs The Rolling Stones composed for Out of Our Heads. And let me tell you, some of this stuff is fantastic. Finally, they are not only writing originals that are equals to the covers, but they are writing songs that greatly surpass them. There's one in particular I'd like to talk about...
“(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction” is one of those songs that I've heard about a billion times so far in my life, and I can listen to it one billion more times. I swear I'll never grow tired of it. Just the power of those 10 gruff notes Keith Richards figured out of his guitar was all it needed to attain immortality. Charlie Watts' fabulously pounding drums, and Mick Jagger's spirited vocal performance were just added bonuses. Obviously, the '60s was a decade of famous songs, but this one seems to top pretty much everything. Everybody knows it by heart, and everybody should know it by heart. Enough said?
Contrary to popular opinion, there are other originals on Out of Our Heads worth falling in love with. The enjoyment I get out of the poppy riff-rocker “The Last Time” is more immense than Roseanne Barr's behind. Not only does the song feature an instantly memorable riff and convincing attitude, but it has a melody so catchy that it can only be described as Beatlesesque. Awesome. It's obviously nowhere close to matching a Beatles classic, but hearing The Stones write something convincing in that arena is always nice to hear.
I'm also a particular fan of “The Spider and the Fly,” a laid-back bluesy rocker with a melody distinctive enough to keep me from accusing it of being “derivative.” The rhythm section keeps the texture bouncy, and Jagger's playful vocal performance is fresh. (Seriously, do people seriously think Jagger wasn't much of a vocalist? He might genuinely suck on songs like “Cry to Me,” but how can we deny him “The Spider and the Fly?”) Perhaps the biggest surprise is that the so-called composer Nanker Phelge came out with an excellent composition for once. It's a ballad called “Play With Fire,” and someone plays harpsichord on it! It not only points to the direction they would take later on in their discography, but it has a catchy melody.
Even though those originals were great, there are a number of others that just don't measure up. “One More Try” is a disappointing closing track with melody that's catchy, for sure, but it gets repetitive and annoying halfway through. Sir Phelge might have redeemed himself briefly for contributing “Play With Fire,” but his addition of the live-cut “I'm All Right” was terrible. I've always had something against inserting live tracks in the middle of studio albums, and there's good reason for that. It's tacky! This song itself is based on a startlingly simple two-chord riff while Mick basically screams the song title as crazily as he can. Bluh! Phelge also had the uninspired blues derivative “The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man,” but at least it resembles a real song.
There are a lot of covers on Out of Our Heads, but they start to look pale compared to the originals. That said, I love hearing their ultra-clean rendition of Don Covay and Ronnie Miller's “Mercy, Mercy,” which opens the album on a memorable note. “Hitch Hike” isn't quite as good, but it's also a rightfully catchy pop-rocker. Unfortunately, the album drags when they perform Bert Russell's bluesy “Cry To Me.” Obviously, the source material wasn't too interesting, and The Stones don't seem to be giving it their best shot. Mick intermittently screams at the top of his lungs during the “soulful” bits, and tries to sound like Elvis in between. The choppy instrumentation is also far from getting me excited. “That's How Strong My Love Is” is much better, but it's also lacking chemistry. Hm. Methinks they forgot to balance their equations.
By all accounts, Out of Our Heads is a spotty album and still more than a stone's throw away from the glories this group would achieve later on in their discography. Even though it has one massively classic original song on it and a couple worthy minions, I can't quite muster the strength to give it that coveted 12 rating. But this is the closest The Stones have gotten to achieving that, so this is good progress.
Read the track reviews:
December's Children (And Everybody's) (1965)
Album Score: 10
Sandwiched between The Rolling Stones' stone-hard rock 'n' roll classic Out of Our Heads and their artistic breakthrough Aftermath, December's Children (And Everybody's) is usually considered the transitional album. More actually, it was an American compilation of leftover material that the record company gathered together in the spirit of making some sweet payola. The greedy capitalist bastards!! ...OK, it's fun to make fun of record companies, but as a doughy eyed classic rock fanboy, I'm actually grateful that this album exists. So, let's talk about it.
Half of these tracks are covers, and they're mostly uninspired ones. They just don't sound like they're giving them their fullest effort. That said, the opening track, their rendition of Sonny Christy's and Roddy Jackson's “She Said Yeah” is fun to listen to. The source material is a basic R&B exercise, but Jagger's boisterous vocals and the energetic guitars keep the effort lively. However, things get to start a little groan-inducing when “You Better Move On” pipes up, a nearly tedious ballad that's along the lines of the tedious ballads strewn throughout 12 X 5. Seriously, boys, I thought you were beyond that stage!
It isn't until the fifth track when we finally get an original composition,“The Singer, Not the Song.” Unfortunately, it's a completely lame rip-off of The Beatles' “If I Fell.” It's proof that you can't just imitate someone else's style and automatically expect to turn out a good song from it. The hooks are flat, and perhaps worst of all, The Rolling Stones sound like sissies. Sissier than The Beatles. I don't like that. Not one little bit.
That's followed-up by a live recording of “Route 66,” a song that had originally appeared on their debut album. The version on that album was nothing short of great, but this sloppier rendition exhibits all the problems with live recordings. The sound quality is grainier, the instrumentation is less refined, and we have hundreds of screaming teenagers in the background to contend with. Why did record companies think throwing live recordings in studio albums was a good idea? There's another live track in the album, the closer “I'm Moving On.” While I maintain that I don't like live recordings in studio albums, this one actually has incredible verve to it....... so I don't mind it so much.
It isn't until the seventh track when the magic starts happening. As soon as the first notes of “Get Off Of My Cloud” pipe up, I can immediately tell that I'm listening to a great Rolling Stones song that's for the ages. The riff isn't nearly as loud and flashy as the one from “Satisfaction,” but it's just as deathly catchy. Jagger's vocal melody and performance is nothing short of exciting and attitude-ridden, and Charlie Watts comes up with some amazing fills throughout. It is truly awe-inspiring. I want it played at my funeral.
“I'm Free” is also a great Rolling Stones song even though it's rough around the edges. But heck, since when did a little slop ever stop a great song? The sweet guitar textures in the background as well as Mick Jagger's higher pitched vocal performance makes this one of the more carefree moments in their catalog. Even more pleasant than that is the gorgeous strings-ridden ballad, “As Tears Go By.” Surprisingly, they had this written a full year earlier, and it was originally recorded by Marianne Faithfull. ...Man, you mean they could have been writing these beautiful, tuneful ballads all along?? True, it's a very sissyish song and it would have been an odd duck in any of their previous albums, so I guess it's only appropriate that it would surface in this odd-duck album.
December's Children (And Everybody's) is a scatter-shot album that only true Rolling Stones fanboys would ever yearn to own. When it comes down to it, it has only three songs on it that are essential, and you can probably pick those up on a compilation somewhere. (Since I'm a classic rock fanboy, I want nothing to do with compilations... but at the very least, casual fans would want to purchase those as singles on iTunes.) The 10-rating might seem a little bit too high considering the harsh words I had for it, but the strength of those three great numbers and the general 'goodness' of everything else still means that this is an altogether decent album. Decent albums with three great moments on them deserve a 10.
Read the track reviews:
Album Score: 12
This is the first Rolling Stones album with 100 percent original material, and the moment couldn't have come too soon. They've hinted at it a few times in their previous two albums, but this is where they truly started to make significant strides into art-rock, which was an extremely pivotal step in their evolution. Brian Jones is usually considered the principal force behind that development, but credit for this album's songwriting belongs exclusively to the Glimmer Twins.
The first thing that must be mentioned about Aftermath is that it opens with “Paint it, Black,” the greatest song ever. (Well, it seems like the greatest song ever, as I'm listening to it playing.) It could have been a fairly standard heavy rock 'n' roll number, but Jones had spent a little bit of time hanging out with George Harrison. And anyone who spends time with Harrison seems to come back knowing about the magic and wonderment of the sitar. That instrument is to “Paint it, Black” little more than window dressing, but it lends it a very distinct flavor. What might have been a slightly bland song became exotic and unforgettable, and the instrument seemed more naturally interwoven into the song that it did even on “Norwegian Wood.” You've also got to appreciate Charlie Watts' incredible drumming as though he were creating thunder, and those incessant clicking noises going throughout. Everything about that song is brilliant, it seems.
“Under My Thumb” also would have been a normal song, but Jones had the idea to use a marimba. I suppose guitar purists would have been upset that they didn't let Keith didn't play that riff with his guitar, but I do love hearing that exciting new texture. It turned a catchy song into something even more memorable. If you thought “As Tears Go By” from December's Children (And Everybody's) was captivating, wait until you hear “Lady Jane.” That thing is so arresting that I sit through it absolutely motionless. Not only is the melody the sweetest and hookiest song that they have penned to this point, but those twinkling, finely textured acoustic guitars (and a dulcimer!) are utterly captivating. Making it even nicer is Jagger's lovely vocal performance, proving that he wasn't afraid to lend his fully-engaged chops to such a pretty song.
“Stupid Girl” is a straightforward rock song, but it's an exciting and catchy one with Jagger snarling off the lyrics just like a rock star should. “Doncha Bother Me” is a bona fide R&B song. Usually I don't care for those, but I do love hearing this rustic atmosphere, which is exactly what everybody expects from them when performing such songs. Let's just say they don't disappoint. “Think” is a little more pop-oriented and I enjoy listening to it, but I don't find it to be as wholly impressive as the others, especially since the melody is just a derivative of songs from the '50s. The melody of “High and Dry” is so unoriginal that it probably wasn't even ethical for Jagger/Richards to take a songwriting credit. I'm also wondering what prompted Watts to keep whooshing his cymbals like that... It's weird. On the other hand, Brian Jones' harmonica chugging and wailing throughout is undoubtedly cool.
This album also unexpectedly helped break an important time-limit barrier for rock songs, the 11-minute “Going Home.” It's basically a rock jam, the sort of things they reportedly performed live all the time. Listening to that song all the way through is a fine experience, but I get the impression that the only reason it went on so long was just for the sake of itself. ...It just keeps on going and going and going. For whatever reason, Jagger keeps coming up with some goofy ways to sing. Well, let's just say that not everything that ever came out of his mouth was a work of art!
Obviously, The Rolling Stones were still in their transitional period here, and it's easy to forgive them for the derivative R&B transgressions. After all, “Paint it, Black,” “Lady Jane,” “Under My Thumb,” and “I Am Waiting” are all first-class examples of early art-rock, and it's physically impossible for me to snub an album with such songs on it. And even most of the more purer rock songs, such as “Stupid Girl,” “Doncha Bother Me,” “Flight 505,” and “It's Not Easy” are leathery, atmospheric and rustic, and represent some of the finest examples of their early-style songs. That label doesn't come easy. It might not be a perfect album, but it's unquestionably one of the premiere Rolling Stones classics.
Read the track reviews:
Got Live If You Want It! (1966)
Album Score: 10
I recommend this album to anyone with a burning desire to hear how The Rolling Stones sounded like in their live performances in 1966. Otherwise, I probably wouldn't bother too much with this, because the sound quality is a little bit murky here, and they constantly have to contend with hundreds of female fans who are screaming as loudly as humanly possible. Also, they're playing most of these songs at a very fast pace and in a much more simplified manner than the original versions. So sometimes it's pretty painfully obvious that the original versions are overwhelmingly superior.
However, I don't want to say that playing their songs fast amidst a crowd of their energized fans is a completely bad thing. On the contrary, they sound more raucous here than ever, and by far the greatest value of this live album is we get the chance to hear them try their mightiest to please that energetic crowd! Judging by their wild screams, they accomplish this task very well.
The festivities begin with “Under My Thumb” one of my favorite songs of theirs. Unfortunately (for me), they left the marimbas at home, and they let Keith pick up the riff with his guitar. Obviously, I'm extremely addicted to that marimba sound, but there's definitely value in this version that has so much slop. Besides, do you think anyone in the middle of that wildly screaming audience would have been able to hear the marimba anyway? I doubt it.
I gotta commend Charlie Watts for keeping that quick drum beat going in “Get Off Of My Cloud” with all those fills! His arms must've been getting tired! Also, they do such an incredibly spirited rendition of their Buddy Holly cover “Not Fade Away,” which comes fully intact with Brian Jones' insatiable chugging and wailing harmonica. Both of these songs are some of the major highlights of this disc, because they really get that wild energy cooking. They might not sound as refined and sophisticated as the studio versions, but if you're anything like me you're gonna wish you were right in the middle of that crowd of screaming teenagers. Believe me, it takes a lot for me to want to be in the middle of screaming teenagers.
I was never too wild about “I'm Alright,” an extremely simple song that never had a proper studio version. (We heard a different live version of it already in the middle of Out of Our Heads.) But listen to the energy they whisk up with that one! I guess there are worse things than hearing Mick kicking up dust with that gritty vocal performance and those lyrics that sounds like he made them up off the top of his head! They also do a nice crowd-pleasing job with that spirit-filled rendition of their most iconic song “(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction,” which appropriately closes the disc. Maybe I'm just being too picky, but I can't get around that they're playing that too fast for my taste and I also can't hear Keith's riff clearly enough. Hmph! I'm just gonna listen to the original version again.
Songs that didn't work so well in the live arena were the ballads “Lady Jane” and “Time is on My Side.” They weren't able to play those as loudly as the others, so it was harder for them to play over the crowd. But I'd say under the circumstances they did a formidable job of it. Also, if you never buy compilation CDs, you're going to be confused over an original “19th Nervous Breakdown,” an excellent Stones song that was only released as a single. This version is a tad murky... But we have iTunes! So download that studio single right away!
Oh, and I scratch my head over a pair of cover songs in here called “Fortune Teller” and “I've Been Loving You Too Long.” Both of those were actually unused studio recordings that the record company overdubbed screaming noises over! That was an incredibly silly thing of them to do! But anyway, I wouldn't be excited about either of those even without the distracting audience noise. The former is nice with its tight guitars and drum beat, but the latter is a fairly dull Motown-style ballad.
When it comes right down to it Got Live if You Want It has a very honest title. It not only tells you that it's a live album, but it also leaves the idea out there that you might not want it. Casual fans probably don't want it, and they shouldn't want it. But anyone who wants to go deeper into The Rolling Stones discography, then you might just treasure this. That said, I can't imagine you'll listen to this all that much. (Also, it's important not to confuse this with a British EP that has the same name... It's 100 percent different.)
Read the track reviews:
Between the Buttons (1967)
Album Score: 13
Was it the calling of the times, or did The Rolling Stones just want to give the rock 'n' roll a rest for a bit? I have no bruddy clue! What I care about is Between the Buttons has melodies, melodies, melodies. It has a lot of spirit, also, which is something that can easily be overlooked.
Mick's lead vocals are more confident and flavorful than ever, and Charlie Watts comes up with plenty 'o fascinating drumming patterns. Brian Jones was given a lot more room to flex his creative muscle, helping usher in horn sections, flutes, strings and jangly things. Even the guitar sounds vastly different here. Part of that is because this just ain't a guitar-centered album, and you don't hear it that much. But when you do, they give us these dark, gruffy textures that add a hugely valuable extra dimension to every song that it graces. And that brings me to my next point: This album is MIXED EXTREMELY WELL. Oh. Man. It beats the pants off of Aftermath, and I thought that was pretty good. Huge kudos to the sound engineers.
And the piano! Oh, yes, the piano!! Don't you love the menacing way it plays on “Let's Spend the Night Together?” I sure do! Plus Charlie Watts' incessant boom-boom-boom-boom gives the song more incredible drive than it probably deserved. Mick's vocal performance is so raucous and gritty here, perfectly matching the infamously dirty lyrics, that I scoff at every single person who tries to tell me that he wasn't an excellent singer. Oh, and that song has a melody! And it's catchy! Weirdly, the melody is somewhat robotic, but that goes along with the menacing beat wonderfully. Oooo... That's a good 'un.
Warning: “Let's Spend the Night Together” might have exhibited much of that famous Rolling Stones verve, but they get considerably fruity in the second track. But I do declare: It is the best kind of fruitiness! “Yesterday's Papers” is a minor masterpiece; it's a gorgeously produced ballad with a melody as lovely as the dickens. Watts comes up with a low-key but complicated rhythm, and Brian Jones contributes all sorts of twinkly things in the background. A very subtle, but dark, fuzzy guitar plays delicate fireworks, and a somewhat woody bass helps keep the rhythm sprightly. It's a highly absorbing, oft-overlooked beauty! Listen to it
And this album also has “Ruby Tuesday!” That might be a crappy restaurant chain, but it's an excellent ballad. The only thing good about going to that restaurant is I get this song stuck in my head. Mick sings it with as much conviction as he ever sang anything. It's a gorgeous experience; I especially like that phenomenally interesting recorder in the background. I swear, I'm never sure if I want to pay attention to the vocal melody or that recorder!
The rest of the album isn't quite as good as these opening three numbers, but that doesn't mean they don't pull their weight in this awesome album. “Connection” is a more plainly-favored pop-rocker, but that muted drum lends it a punchy, super-clean quality that I like. “All Sold Out” is also a relatively straightforward pop-rocker in which, if you listen closely enough, you can hear Keith play some really awesome guitar kinda all by himself. “Who's Been Sleeping Here?” has a distinct Dylan vibe, although the melody is so original that I can't really imagine Dylan having composed it. What I particularly love about that one is that dirty harmonica, and Jagger's rough and arresting vocal performance. “Miss Amanda Jones” marks a brief return to roots-rock, but I really dig it, especially that rough fuzzy guitar that surfaces occasionally to give us a few mighty chugs.
They're even trying to sound kinda Kinks-like with a couple music hall numbers. (Yeah! The Rolling Stones tried music hall! Twice!! That's something the general public forgets about.) “Cool, Calm & Collected” is a bouncy and fun song, and “Something Happened to Me Yesterday” is very silly. While they might not be quite as original and entertaining with the genre as The Kinks, they're still pretty freaking good!
I'm a little less than enthusiastic about the organ-led ballad “She Smiled Sweetly,” which just ain't that interesting. And “My Obsession” has this annoying tendency to stop all the time, leaving Watts to play the drums all by himself. I don't like that. But that's just nitpicking. Those are two attractively strapping songs if I say so myself. I like them despite their shortcomings.
In fact, after coming off reviewing an album as great as Between the Buttons, I can say that I pretty much like everything in the world. Even Paris Hilton's huge nobby knees! (...Er, please forget I said that...)
Read the track reviews:
Album Score: 13
If you're collecting every Rolling Stones album out there, you should note that Flowers contains three songs that had previously appeared in their discography. That's just another way for the greedy corporations to screw you out of your hard-earned dough! But what can you do? The other nine songs on the album are so goshdang essential that your life can never be lived properly without owning them. That is, if you value your life based on how many old rock 'n' roll albums that you own.
Then again, considering these three repeats I'm talking about are such unstoppable classics as “Ruby Tuesday,” “Let's Spend the Night Together,” and “Lady Jane,” you might not mind so much. Having them on two different albums just means you'll listen to them twice as often, and that's nothing but a good thing in my book. ...Hm. I guess that doesn't even matter these days, in the iPod age. You don't have to buy those songs twice anymore unless you just want to waste your money.
Since I already discussed those great songs in their respective original albums, why don't I get to the gritty nitty and talk about the songs that you don't know about already? As you probably know, the British versions of Aftermath and Between the Buttons had different track listings than the American versions. British record companies at the time had a problem with releasing albums with songs that had been previously released as singles, but the American companies had to problems with it.
For example, the British version of Aftermath didn't have “Paint it, Black.” Instead, it started with an excellent song called “Mother's Little Helper.” Of course, I can't imagine Aftermath starting with something other than “Paint it, Black,” but I'm sure all of The Stones' American fans would like to hear “Mother's Little Helper,” too! Well, with Flowers they got their chance. It's filled with the songs the Yanks have been missing out on! And believe me, you don't want to miss out on some of these. “Mother's Little Helper,” in particular, is a catchy mid-tempo classic that features a really interesting riff played with a guitar altered to sound like a sitar. Is it a pure Rolling Stones classic for the ages? You bet it is!
“Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?” has an exceptionally long title, and it's also a pure blast of energy from beginning to end. The fast horn section is what I pay attention to the most, but it's worth making an effort to tare your attention away form that and listen to that deep bass guitar plonking around like all hell's broken loose! And then there's an utterly lovely acoustic-led ballad called “Backstreet Girl” that's so pretty that it demands to be listened-to by everybody on the planet. It's not as captivating as a song like “Lady Jane,” but it's very close.
“Please Go Home” is a terribly fun take-off of Bo Diddley. You would think I'd be unimpressed with The Stones, at this point of their careers, copying someone like Bo Diddley, but the instrumentation is weird and amazing! The guitar is wobbly, distorted and energetic. Brian Jones, being the loony that he is, tinkers with a theremin throughout. And we get this funny echo effect on the vocals at times. Cool! Of course, Charlie Watts keeps that Diddley-signature pounding rhythm going at a steady pace. It's all very inspired lunacy!
Maybe the biggest surprise of the album is their cover of “My Girl.” I bet I rolled my eyes the first time I learned that they covered such a boring, overplayed Motown song. I mean, remember what a mess they made out of “Under the Boardwalk?” Well, they completely redeem themselves for this one. They do it very straight this time, with the band playing gently throughout while Mick gives a sweet vocal performance amidst a pretty string section. All things considered, I'd still prefer The Rolling Stones to *not* cover Motown, but it's hard to deny that they did a very good job here.
Flowers also contains two songs that were never previously released. One of them is a terribly awesome art-rock song called “Ride On, Baby.” It's catchy as anything they ever do, and it even features Brian Jones' xylophone and Jack Nitzsche's harpsichord. Sure, it's probably a little rough on the edges, but I'm utterly baffled at why this wasn't included on any of their *normal* albums! It's freaking fantastic! The other previously unreleased song is the folk-rocker “Sittin' on a Fence.” I'd imagine that went unreleased, because folk didn't really play to their strengths. But I'd say this folk-rocker is better than what most actual folksters were pulling out of their pretentious derrières at the time. God, I hate folk. BUT I LOVE THE ROLLING STONES!!!!!
Read the track reviews:
Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967)
Album Score: 12
It's the black sheep of their discography; the most notorious black sheep of all rock 'n' roll! You're either going to love this, or you're going to hate this. Their die-hard fans have been known to hate this album to pieces since it's a psychedelic pop album. Some of their fans are under the impression that The Rolling Stones are only allowed to compose and perform smoky old blues-rockers! While the Stones were unquestionably better at blues-rock than they were at psychedelia, this album also represents The Rolling Stones at their most uninhibitedly creative. This is their most artistic album. Speaking of myself, I love listening to silly art songs. So, bring it on!
And people shouldn't take this album so seriously anyway, since it's not a serious album. You can tell it's a parody just by glancing at the album cover. Not only is this album a parody of The Beatles' grand-guru of psychedelic albums (which, contrary to popular opinion, was not very psychedelic), but a parody of everything else psychedelic. They tackle forms pioneered by other popular artists such as Pink Floyd and Frank Zappa. Even though the whole album was basically a joke, many of these compositions are so good that they in turn represent some of the best music of the whole psychedelic era. It makes fun of psychedelia, but at the same time, it embraces it. Maybe that's why this album is hated so much!
“She's a Rainbow” is certainly a shining example of the sort of high-quality songs you'll find here. Obviously, it's a tongue-in-cheek Brit-pop ballad featuring a piano playing at a very high-register and a sweet string section, but the melody is utterly splendid. It's the sort of melody that has been stuck in my mind since the first time I heard it, and it's likely to do that for years to come. I'm also slightly embarrassed to admit that it's my favorite Rolling Stones song (despite loving the dickens out of fifty others). Well... The Rolling Stones weren't known for Brit-pop, but it's a great Brit-pop song. I might even like it better than “Penny Lane.” ...That's how much I like it.
Bill Wyman's one and only songwriting contribution to a Rolling Stones album is here, and it's a pop-song written in the style of Syd Barrett. It's a good one, too, with a catchy melody. His idea to sing the lead vocals through a fan was a weird one that I'm surprised, in retrospect, that Barrett didn't also get that idea. If you thought you'd never enjoy a lengthy psychedelic jam, then you ought to give “Sing This All Together (See What Happens)” a whirl. It's far more melodic than “Revolution No. 9” and more accessible than any of Frank Zappa's various psychedelic jams. True, it might not be as “original” or “revolutionary,” but it's actually quite a lot of fun to sit through! On the downside, “Gomper” is also a psychedelic jam, but it wallows around in the same mode throughout much of it, so it's nowhere near as engaging.
A real masterpiece is “2000 Light Years From Home.” True, it's another Pink Floyd rip-off through and through, but it's also far more accessible and catchy than Pink Floyd could ever have been in the '60s. Sure, it wouldn't have existed without “Astronomy Domine” (especially since it's supposedly a parody), but the Jagger/Richards songwriting partnership created some rock-solid melodies, and this has one of their best. I think people wanting to hear what this late '60s cosmic rock was all about would be better off giving a listen to this one first. It's derivative, but it's brilliant.
The opening number, “Sing This All Together” is another excellent A-level bit of psychedelia. It's characterized by cluttered instrumentation and yet another memorable melody. The sloppy riff rocker “Citadel” is more Rolling Stones-ish, so there's at least something those traditional Stones fans can enjoy out of this black sheep! I don't know whether that riff is catchier than Mick Jagger's vocal melody ... that's a dilemma I too-rarely run across in this record reviewing racket.
“The Lantern” has a nice melody and some interesting instrumental touches, but the central melody-line repeats too much for my tastes. The closing song, “On With the Show,” is probably the only instance on this album where they truly seemed to go overboard. I applauded the cluttered instrumentation in their other songs, but it's just too much there. Of course, I still like “On With the Show,” so there you go. And If I like “On With the Show,” then I like this whole album from beginning to end! I recognize that it's by no means one of The Rolling Stones' best albums, but I listen to this more frequently than some of their monster classics. If you've been avoiding this, then don't. It's really worth hearing.
Read the track reviews:
Beggars Banquet (1968)
Album Score: 14
Psychedelic what? Their last album was that gung-ho foray into psychedelia, but listening to this hard country 'n' blues follow-up, you'd think that album never existed. In fact, you'd think their entire pop and psychedelic period never existed, because country and blues is what these boys started off doing in the first place. Well, it was a good thing they came back to their roots. Just like syphilis, they reemerged from their latent state stronger than ever. And they created this mega-classic, universally considered the first album of their golden age.
This album even contains one of their most famous riffs: “Street Fighting Man!” That also happens to be my favorite song here. The riff was so complex that they couldn't even try to reproduce it for their live shows, but luckily it also has a killer rhythm section and a memorable vocal melody so any Rolling Stones concert from the era would've been amiss without it in the set-list. ...Oh, but this studio treatment has more amazing things that I haven't talked about. Remember Brian Jones? This was his final album as a Rolling Stones member, but what a way to end his legacy by bringing in that sitar for the chorus! ...Man, I could drone on for paragraphs about that song, but there are certain things you'll have to discover for yourself, and I'm not much of an academic on this subject anyway.
Even though I love “Street Fighting Man,” “Sympathy For the Devil” will always be the cornerstone of the album. It's also a song that's so famous that I hardly need to tell you what it entails! Let me just say that every time I hear six-plus minute tracks based on a single groove until fade-out, they're virtually never better than this. I can't even think of something that's half as good. The hard-blues ditty “Parachute Woman” also has such an incredible, hard-driving rhythm to it that I probably would have liked it without hearing Jagger's vocals and Mick's tortured guitar stabs. I know I'm writing this like a fanboy who needs to wipe the drool from his chin, but ... that's exactly what I am!!!!
Speaking of Jagger's vocals, once again, I have to shake my head in shame every time I read somebody's opinion that he was a mediocre singer. They're 100 percent wrong, of course. Heck, even getting a load of his old-man-singing on one of this album's minor tracks, “Prodigal Son,” should be enough to prove to you that guy was all the singer The Rolling Stones ever needed. He might not have a terribly distinguished voice, but it is nothing but passionate and sincere all throughout this record. The only time the singing isn't completely up-to-snuff is those deflated vocals at the beginning of “Salt of the Earth.” But that's Keith singing. Speaking of that song, that was their first attempt at a John Lennon-ish anthem. It's a good one, too, but not quite as captivating and soul mustering as they probably hoped it would be.
“Jigsaw Puzzle”is another great piece. They were pulling a Bob Dylan, and they nailed it. The disheveled guitar arrangements create a watery texture while Charlie Watts' and Bill Wyman's reliable rhythm section keeps it together with an incredible drive. That song has an excellent melody, too! “Stray Cat Blues” is a good song for those who prefer more straightforward rock 'n' roll, and the energy brimming out of that one is enough to reanimate your dead pets. “Parachute Woman” is a powerful, mid-tempo blues song that sounds so old and murky that I can smell the dust on it. “No Expectations” is a slower, more contemplative blues ballad. “Factory Girl” is good country-bumpkin song with great acoustic arrangements.
Did I mention all the songs yet? ...One left: the comical country-western song “Dear Doctor.” It's easy to write it off since the melody is so derivative and Mick starts talking in a falsetto voice half way through. But even me and my deeply rooted hatred toward country music can't bring myself to dislike even one second of it. Why? Because the arrangements are so laid-back and homely. That's as good of a song as any of these to sit back on a summer's day and soak up.
Even though I already disclosed that I'm pretty sure Their Satanic Majesties Request is my favorite Rolling Stones album to listen to, I'm gonna have to say that I still agree completely that The Stones should have gone in this direction. If for no other reason, there was no point having a guitarist like Keith Richards if he's just going to play second fiddle to flutes, Mellotrons and jangly things. This is a reversal of my original review of this album where I stated that I didn't care for this change-of-direction. I wrote that review in 2004, and I was—as you'd say in politically correct lingo—a retard.
Read the track reviews:
Let it Bleed (1969)
Album Score: 15
Is there really any doubt that Let it Bleed is a rock 'n' roll masterpiece from beginning to end? I know there's always going to be weirdos who claim this album isn't all it's cracked up to be. I appreciate that I live in a society where we are allowed to freely express our opinions, but anyone who says that deserves a good pop in the kisser. I don't want to bully them or anything; I just want to smack some of the rock 'n' roll into them! Just like with electronics, sometimes you have to smack them to get them to work properly.
Although this album isn't pure rock 'n' roll. It's very similar to The Stones' previously unstoppable rock album, Beggars Banquet. It's so similar, in fact, that you might be justified calling it a 'clone.' That album began with a beautiful and scary opener “Sympathy for the Devil,” and this album begins with a beautiful and scary opener, “Gimme Shelter.” That album ended with an epic closing track, “Salt of the Earth,” and this album ends with an epic closing track, “You Can't Always Get What You Want.” They both also had an array of pure blues tunes, pure country tunes, and each had at least one token riff rocker planted in the middle (“Street Fighting Man” replaced with “Monkey Man”). But as Frog is my witness, they did nothing but improve that already-great album's formula to create what's undoubtedly one of the best albums ever made. The melodies are insanely catchy, and they've improved their instrumentation standards to the point where they're a well-oiled machine, chugging away at some of these songs as though they were a freight train.
It's funny this happened, too, because they had lost their most creative member at this point. Brian Jones was fired from the band for turning into a useless drug junkie, and he wouldn't live much longer thereafter. Keith was now totally in charge of the guitar licks, and I swear this guy was a genius at it. Every single thing he does not only fits the mode of the song perfectly, but reeks of pure personality. It's tough to say, but his best work probably can be heard in “Midnight Rambler,” which would have been a terrific song even without the guitar! Listen to the song where that freight-train groove comes to a halt, and he starts to play those atmospheric, bluesy notes. Aren't those affecting? And Mick Jagger turns in a growlingly convincing vocal performance there, playing some sort of vicious rapist on the “prowl.”
“Gimme Shelter” is a good example at how perfectly developed these songs are. It begins with an ominous opening with a scary, tight guitar riff and absorbing calls of “oooo.” Gradually, the other instruments start to come in, slowly building up what turns into the one of the most brilliantly constructed, hard as a rock, grooves that have ever been constructed. They even bring in a powerful gospel female singer to wail over Jagger, and it couldn't have sounded better. From beginning to end, this screams “GREAT ROCK 'N' ROLL.” This is what it's all about. “Monkey Man” might not be as recognizable, but I guess that's because there were too many famous songs here, and there wasn't room for anything else. Again, it starts rather spooky and ominously before delving into a rollicking bit of rock 'n' roll. It's great fun from beginning to end.
They even nail the blues here, perfectly. The problem that most rockers have when it comes to blues is they have a hard time making them seem original and genuine. But The Stones own the blues. “Love in Vain” is an old blues cover that is convincing from beginning to end. Jagger turns in a great bluesy vocal performance, and those gorgeous electric guitar riffs of Keith's is enough to bring a tear to the eye. Even “You Got the Silver” is excellent even though Keith sings the lead vocals on that! It's not a very pretty voice, but he sounds like a regular person, and that seems to add an extra dimension that I like.
As I secretly predicted, I've spent the majority of this space ranting and raving about only a handful of songs on Let it Bleed! That's the sort of album this is; everything is a well-oiled masterpiece! I'm just going to mention the others, but they all deserve a full paragraph of ranting in their own right. (And, they have it, because I wrote pretty substantial track reviews!) “Country Honk” is a country-rock song, and it's great fun. “Live With Me” is a danceable rock song; it was a popular tune the Stones played at concerts, and that's for great reason. “You Can't Always Get What You Want” is probably the most recognizable song of the lot (and therefore I don't need to spend a lot of time talking about it), and captures me right from that heavenly choral beginning until it slowly builds up to create one of the most epic rock 'n' roll songs that have ever existed.
Oh god, this is a great album. I checked my bathroom scale, and I've lost about three pounds in the course of writing this review from all the drool that's been running out of my mouth! I'm very dehydrated, so I'm going to get a drink of water after I'm done writing this paragraph. Let it Bleed is unquestionably one of the greatest rock albums of all time. It's probably bad form to make sweeping, overarching generalizations like that especially since I haven't even come close to listening to every rock album on the planet. But this is a perfect album. The only way for anyone else to surpass it is to create a more-than-perfect album, and that can only happen in science fiction movies.
Read the track reviews:
Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out (1970)
Album Score: 12
This is either called one of the greatest live rock 'n' roll albums of all time, or one of the most overrated live rock 'n' roll albums of all time. (Ah, that follows the typical pattern with any well-known, contemporary work of art!) Whichever side of the fence you find yourself on this very important issue, I think everyone can agree that this is a marked improvement over Got Live if You Want It. The instrumentation comparatively sounds as clear as a bell, and they're not trying to sing over wild teenage girls while dodging panties on stage. (My guess is the teenage girls grew up, or they were just feeling mellow because they discovered reefer. My money is on the latter.)
Or, rather, The Stones just had superior recording equipment, because they had a bigger budget and technology had improved. The biggest complaint I have regarding the sound is that we really don't get to hear Mick Jagger's voice all that clearly. It is oftentimes obscured underneath all those guitars! Heaven knows why they decided to do this; I mean, I thought Mick was the star! ... As it turns out, his vocals are generally mediocre at best; he seems almost tired sometimes. It's the guitars that have the most to offer throughout this recording. They are so tight and well-oiled that each song seems to chug away like a steam locomotive. That's not at all an inappropriate sound for these guys since that's exactly how I thought they sounded in Let it Bleed, their ultimate classic. Just get a load of the opening number, “Jumpin' Jack Flash.” They don't quite manage to work in that butt-kicking riff of the studio version, but try to listen to that song without also picturing an unstoppable steam train!
This was the first tour that they brought along their new guitarist Mick Taylor, and believe me, this guy pulls his weight more than anyone could have dreamed. It's impossible for me to know exactly at what points Mick Taylor or Keith Richards is playing lead guitar, but their interplay is frequently phenomenal. There is enough evidence here to prove to me that both men are guitar gods. As long as I'm mentioning the instrumentalists, I can't leave out the rhythm section. Bill Wyman provides some very pumping bass guitar throughout, and Charlie Watts gives himself quite a workout, in particular, doing a freaking excellent job with that complex beat he concocted for “Sympathy For the Devil!” Indeed, The Rolling Stones were in top instrumental form for Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out. There's no doubt about that.
That said, I somehow don't get much of a 'high' from listening to this. Perhaps I don't “understand” this album the way I'm supposed to, but I can't make a connection with some of these songs like I could so easily with the studio originals. As I postulated in one of my track reviews, I think I must be a sucker for their more organized and perfect studio arrangements. Frequently, in this album, I get the feeling that the mixing wasn't quite right, or I am just disappointed that I'm not hearing them groove quite as immaculately as they originally did. I'll bring up the closing number, “Street Fighting Man.” They bellow out quite a lot of butt-whomping glory for that one, but it still has nothing against that gritty, complex, and utterly spirited rendition that they mustered in Beggars Banquet. I realize it's not fair of me to constantly compare these songs to their studio counterparts since The Stones, in essence, treated the recording studio like a laboratory where they figured out ways to bottle lightning. But I can't help it!!
The weird thing about this album is that they play some of these songs so slowly. Usually, you'd expect them to play songs faster than the studio versions, but certainly not here. Surprisingly, they bring in two Chuck Berry covers, which are actually played more slowly than Berry's originals. That's nothing in particular to complain about since The Stones still manage to pick up quite a solid groove for those, and the guitars certainly treat us to some interesting twists on those Berryisms. But the slow pace could still be unsettling for some listeners.
It's no real mystery why so many rock writers have brought such an endless barrage of praise onto this live album. It's the guitars, stupid, and Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out has enough great guitar on it to please every die hard fan of that instrument. That said, listening to music is supposed be about how it makes you *feel*. I listened to this album multiple times earnestly searching for it, and unfortunately I can't claim to be as head-over-heels in love with this thing as other people claim to be. Hm. Maybe in five years or so, when I'm older and wiser, I'll make a reassessment, but for now, the 12 will have to stand.
Read the track reviews:
Sticky Fingers (1971)
Album Score: 14
Let's get the controversy out of the way. There is no way in hell that Sticky Fingers is a better album than Let it Bleed. I believe this so strongly that I'm willing to launch a worldwide political campaign promoting this view. Both albums are overwhelmingly great of course, and among the finest albums that Mother Rock 'n' Roll has granted Her children. So my strong feelings about this is practically moot. But humor me, anyway.
Let it Bleed began with that incredibly ominous and atmospheric opener “Gimme Shelter.” That's one of the very few songs in existence that puts me on the edge of my seat, anticipating everything that is to follow even though I heard it so many times that I've memorized it note for note. Sticky Fingers' opener “Brown Sugar” is more of a straightforward dance song. It's a great dance song of course and it's terribly infectious and about as exciting as they get, but it doesn't quite dig into my soul like “Gimme Shelter” does. Let it Bleed also had an epic closer, “You Can't Always Get What You Want” whereas Sticky Fingers ends with a more underwhelming ballad “Moonlight Mile.” Never mind that “Moonlight Mile” is one of the greatest ballads of all time; it just doesn't give me that wholly awe-inspired feeling that “You Can't Always Get What You Want” gives me. My biggest argument against Sticky Fingers is the inclusion of two relatively underwhelming blues songs, “You Gotta Move” and “I Got the Blues.” They're perfectly good, but they don't have the engaging, earthy quality as a similar Let it Bleed song called “You Got the Silver.” And with that, I wrap up my opening statement.
Come to think of it, as I was writing that, I can understand why so many rock fans prefer Sticky Fingers to Let it Bleed, and it's not because they like to look at men's crotches. Sticky Fingers seems to take itself much less seriously. At this time, The Rolling Stones had basically achieved what they set out to achieve; they created not one but two great rock 'n' roll albums for the ages. And, now, all they wanted to do was ROCK. “Brown Sugar” might not have an “atmosphere” to speak of, but it does ROCK LIKE A BASTARD. And, really, that's the whole point of rock 'n' roll anyway. Crank up the volume, and let 'er rip!
As far as dance songs go, you'll rarely run across anything as kick-ass as “Bitch.” You don't really think of The Stones as a band that you'd want to dance to in the same place you'd dance to KC and the Sunshine Band, but “Bitch” will have you shaking your bottoms more quickly than a gas cannister can catch fire. It's freaking infectious, too, with just about the catchiest, most powerful, and tightest riff ever conceived by mankind! “Can't You Hear Me Knocking” also features one of those brilliant riffs that only The Rolling Stones could have made seem so effortless. That song even progresses into a rather laid-back jam that I actually find interesting to pay close attention to. I usually don't care very much when bands jam like that, but The Stones had the mojo.
And don't let my words mislead you into thinking this album is all about ROCK. That was a pretty dumb thing for me to say, come to think of it, since there are only about three genuine rock songs here. Sticky Fingers also has some of the most incredible ballads of all music-kind. I already brought up the Japanese-tinged “Moonlight Mile,” but his has also got “Wild Horses.” Holy Mother of Tootsie Pops, that an incredible song. It is extremely beautiful and tuneful with some of the most gut-wrenching lyrics I've ever heard. That heavenly slide guitar that melts into the background, and Mick Jagger truly outdoes himself with those passionate vocals. “Sister Morphine” is also psychologically affecting but in a different sense; it's a startlingly convincing tale about the desperation felt by drug addicts. Man, o man!
“Sway” is yet another unquestionably great song from this album. It's gritty and bluesy with Mick Taylor making that guitar riff sound like the meanest bully of the playground. They also didn't forget to give it a good vocal melody! The melody is an integral part, you know! The only song I didn't mention yet is “Dead Flowers,” a country song that's so catchy and pleasant to listen to that you won't find too many full-time country musicians come close to matching it. Songs like that make me want to embrace country-western, even though that's a little difficult to do after hearing jerks like Toby Keith and Garth Brooks curse every speaker they come out of... Blech... “Dead Flowers” is what country music is supposed to sound like. Great slide guitar, engaging piano textures, a sweet melody... The lyrics are even thoughtful! I didn't even think it was physically possible for country-western to have thoughtful lyrics!!
Indeed, The Rolling Stones were such rock gods at this point of their career that they could do no wrong. Even the would-be uninspired sloppy blues songs “You Gotta Move” and “I Got the Blues” have their priceless qualities. I might not find this to be as rock-hard brilliant as Let it Bleed, but it's still pretty rock-hard brilliant in its own right. Plus, the original vinyl sleeve had a cool zipper that you could play with.
Read the track reviews:
Exile on Main St. (1972)
Album Score: 13
It's been said this is The Rolling Stones' White Album; they had already created a handful of masterful statements, and they figured that it was time to pull together a sloppily assembled double album of more scattershot quality. That wasn't a bad idea for The Beatles, and that wasn't a bad idea for The Stones. In fact, this gave them a valued opportunity to return to their roots, since they started out as a sloppy and imperfect R&B band! But of course Exile on Main St. is a mile away from earliest incarnation; these guys are cockier than ever. Well, they had a lot to feel cocky about; they were the greatest rock 'n' roll band on the planet, and they bloody well knew it!
On the other hand, I really miss the organized precision of their previous albums. The production also suffers a lot, since many of these songs are mixed rather poorly. At times, I can hardly hear Mick Jagger's vocal lyrics! ... But honestly, he's singing so cockily that I probably wouldn't be able to make them out anyhow! The main reason I think this album pales is the songwriting. As a whole, these songs just don't strike me as an endless string of classics as I've gotten in their other albums. That's an unfortunate consequence of creating a White Album, I suppose. But anyway, since this is indeed a Rolling Stones album from 1968-1972, then you know it's got to be great. So, let us concentrate on the “greatness” aspect of this album.
If “Tumbling Dice” and “Ventilator Blues” aren't among The Stones' finest songs ever, then I'll be hornswaggled. (I don't even know what “hornswaggling” entails, so you know I've got to be serious when I say that.) They are both terrific slower blues rockers with catchy riffs, bold instrumentals and good vocal melodies! Perhaps they're not as splendid as certain blues songs on their previous albums, but they're very, very close. They not only turn in some great blues songs, but they give country-western music a few more gems that it deserves. “Sweet Virginia” is just as engaging and pretty as its song title cracks it up to be, and “Torn and Frayed” isn't so much an original masterpiece as it is simply enjoyable!
“Rocks Off” is a rollicking and catchy riff-rocker and a great way to get the album off with a bang. It's very rough and wild sounding to begin with, and the horn section they bring in for the final half makes it even more wild! In fact, the horn or a saxophone makes frequent appearance throughout this album, and they only do good things. “Rip this Joint,” the second track, is more old-timey, giving us an indication right away that The Stones wanted to return to their deep roots. You've got to get a load of Jagger's extremely excitable vocal performance on that one... It sounds like he should be splashed with cold water!... The Jerry-Lee-Lewis styled piano playing around also helps make the song exciting... and that piano is a major highlight through many of these other songs.
Another major highlight is “Stop Breaking Down” with its mean sounding blues riff, and the anthemic gospel number “Shine a Light” is a brilliantly engaging piece with some beautiful back-up singers. Although the back-up singers aren't always good news; I thought they sounded pretty out-of-whack throughout the ballad “Let it Loose.” I liked that ballad, overall, but it's absolutely nothing compared to their previous ballads like “Wild Horses.” I'm not even complaining about the production; it just doesn't have the melody, unfortunately.
Most of the rockers in Exile are fun to listen to, but “Casino Boogie” is one that just doesn't catch fire. Likewise, “Loving Cup” has a good beat you can dance to, but it's missing that special 'something' that The Stones had seemed to effortlessly be able to extract out of their previous songs. “Sweet Black Angel” is an OK ballad, but it's a bit on the dull side, which is something that I don't remember thinking about any Rolling Stones song since Their Satanic Majesties Request. When it's all said and done, though, there's only one track on here that I'd call a misfire, and that's “I Just Want to See His Face,” consisting only of a bizarre, subdued groove. The texture is interesting, I suppose, but it's not engaging in the slightest. It's a shame they wasted a three-minute track on something like that instead of something else that woulda blown me away!
I don't think anyone can deny that Exile on Main St. is a huge rock 'n' roll classic, and I really love listening to about 3/4ths of it. Even though I already said that I preferred their more meticulous arrangements, I'll admit that it's novel to hear The Rolling Stones throwing everything aside and simply ROCKING OUT like a rock 'n' roll band ought to. They succeed wildly here for the most part, but I just wish that their songwriting was more up-to-par.
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Goats Head Soup (1973)
Album Score: 12
And thus begins The Rolling Stones' long, long, long, long, long, long post-1972 career in which they were widely perceived by critics and fans alike as being reduced to mere shadows of their former, godlike selves. In a way, I suppose that was true; The Rolling Stones would never again release a string of albums quite like Beggars Banquet to Exile to Main St. ever again. But, contrary to popular opinion, these post-1973 Rolling Stones albums are still quite good. At least until the '80s. So, let's start talking about The Rolling Stones' excellent and often-overlooked 1973 album called Goats Head Soup.
The way this album begins, with a mild and simple dance song called “Dancing With Mr. D,” has been a source of much-woeful howls of pain from many Rolling Stones fans. It's the first Rolling Stones album in a long while to begin with something that doesn't deserve to be played once per hour on the radio station. It doesn't create much of an interesting atmosphere, and Mick Jagger's singing with these funny, raspy vocal intonations that comes off as really weird. But, on the other hand, I actually find listening to that song incredibly enjoyable. For a start, the riff is remarkably catchy, and so is the chorus... And I honestly find Jagger's vocal performance weirdly engaging. So, whatever. I guess I'm of the opinion that anything's a good song if it makes me want to get up and wiggle my behind a little bit.
“100 Years Ago,” on the other hand, sounds a lot like a Rolling Stones classic, and I've got to wonder why it isn't. It's full of multiple excellent hooky lines, and the instrumentation sounds fabulous. It starts out like a nice, old nostalgic mid-tempo rocker with a thoughtful guitar casually playing some grooves and a pretty piano twinkling in the background. After suddenly turning into a country ballad, it slowly develops into a rip-roaring funk tune. That's quite an eye-popping amount of genre-hopping, something that I don't really recall The Stones ever trying before. So, I guess this shows that The Stones still had some tricks up their sleeve despite their supposed descent into Dinosaurism.
There are three ballads here, and two of them are great. This is the album with “Angie” in it, of course, which constituted the album's biggest hit. That's a gorgeous song with one of the loveliest melodies that they've ever come up with. Jagger manages to turn in one of his more heartfelt vocal performances, and it's nice to note that the drugs haven't screwed him up so much at this point that he wasn't capable of being a good singer anymore! The second good ballad is “Winter,” and it also features a very compelling melody. Really, if you don't think that these guys were masters of melody, then you're a freak. They were also masters of the guitar, of course, and that's evident all throughout this album. The solo on “Winter” is as sweet and melodic as the vocal melody, and the guitar at the end of “100 Years Ago” is about as funky as it could possibly be.
Despite this being a very good album altogether, it did have more than its fair share of missteps. “Coming Down Again” is the album's lesser ballad. While the central hook is OK, they keep on REPEATING IT AND REPEATING it with woefully little development. It doesn't start to grow tiring until around the four-minute mark, though, but it makes me wonder why they couldn't have garnered enough sense to chop off the last two minutes (apart from that very brief, but truly awesome sax duet). The voodoo-inspired “Can You Hear the Music” is pretty good although that also seems like it was a missed opportunity for something a little bolder and more bracing. I like that trippy atmosphere they create, but it takes some work on my part to become fully immersed in it. “Hide Your Love” is undoubtedly the album's biggest disappointment for me; it's a poorly mixed and R&B ditty that rocks about as convincingly as a dead rat. If that is the only reason music fans the world-round have a major distaste for Goats Head Soup, then I guess it's understandable.
But they do end the album on a very high-note, with the Chuck-Berry-inspired rocker “Star Star” that manages to kick up quite a storm (despite the almost off-putting obscenity in the lyrics). So, I'm going to reiterate my opinion that Goats Head Soup is a good album by all accounts. It's not a perfect album, but not everything has to be *perfect* in the world, you know. Unless you're some sort of mental-case perfectionist. In which case, I think you're better off listening to some Bach. Or Telemann, if you thought Bach was too much of a renegade.
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It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (1974)
Album Score: 11
The critical consensus of It's Only Rock 'n' Roll is unanimous, or about as unanimous as these things get. This is widely known as the worst Rolling Stones studio album of the '70s. Of course, this being The Rolling Stones in the '70s, that still means this album is pretty dang good, and it should be owned by Rolling Stones fans the world-round! Nevertheless, it hasn't been since December's Children that these guys have released something so woefully uneven.
The unfortunate thing about it is that it really shouldn't have been a lacking album. It's been touted by the band members as a return-to-form (which makes it about the third so-called return-to-form of their career this far), and they concentrate mainly on pure, Stones-style rock 'n' roll. Good for them, I say! Not that I didn't love Goats Head Soup where they experimented pretty extensively with funk and mysticism, but when it comes right down to it, I'd prefer these guys spend their resources on a straight rock 'n' roll album. If it's for no other reason, it's because my favorite albums of theirs tend to be the ones with all the fun concert staples in it!
Unfortunately, despite their multiple attempts here, they only succeeded at creating one major concert staple, which is the title track. I remember they played this song at their concert I went to in 2006, and everyone joined in the chorus even though nobody could remember the verses. (That, by golly, is part of the criteria for a great rock 'n' roll concert song!) Keith, being the universe's ultimate master of the riff, comes out with another one, and the guitars all throughout it are fantastic to behold. Indeed, it is a Rolling Stones classic. It might not be a “Jumpin' Jack Flash,” but that only goes to show us how great of a song “Jumpin' Jack Flash” is!
The opening two numbers are pretty good would-be concert staples—they rock fine and they have good riffs—but they're just not memorable. The melodies are not very striking, and they also seem to be played much more stiffly than a Rolling Stones song should. Where's that legendary Rolling Stones drive? “Dance Little Sister” has a nice beat that you can dance to and it seems like it could have been morphed into a great Rolling Stones concert song, but it also never catches fire. There was something amiss going on with the Rolling Stones... My guess is they were worn out. Nobody can blame them for that.
I haven't even talked about the bad stuff yet. “Short and Curlies” is a big old hunk of disappointment. It's definitely an attempt at a good-time rock 'n' roll song, but all it does is flop around like a fish on the dock trying desperately to breathe water. The sluggish instrumentals don't let it catch fire, and the simplistic melody is waaaay too dumb. I'm also scratching my head over the song called “Luxury,” which I suppose is supposed to be a melding of hard-rock and reggae. Er... I guess it could have been worse, but I don't think I'm saying anything controversial when I say that these two genres go together about as well as boogars and fries.
There's one ballad on here, which is a bit of a change from the previous album that had three. “Till the Next Goodbye” is very nicely written with a nice melody and pleasant instrumentation. It's not greatly memorable and it certainly pales next to “Angie,” “Wild Horses,” etc. etc. etc., but it's all in all quite a nice song. If you're a fan of Rolling Stones' ballads, yer gonna like it. Probably the real masterpiece of this album is the closing “Fingerprint File,” which shows us that even though their songwriting powers have gotten a little patchier since their heyday, they could still jam up a storm when they put their minds to it. That's a terrific funk-inspired song that begins with a pretty devastating pop hook and an exciting lead vocal performance from Jagger, and it ends as a fast-and-furious funk-jam. The atmosphere it creates is almost as frightening and compelling as “Street Fighting Man,” and the tightly knit guitar groove they come up with is almost as mesmerizing as “Midnight Rambler.” Much more importantly, that song is just fun as hell to listen to! Good show, boys!!
I mentioned it above, but I feel it warrants a reiteration: Even though this is The Rolling Stones' worst album of the '70s, it's still a very good album that I love listening to. In case you didn't get this impression through the multiple Rolling Stones reviews I've written so far, I firmly believe that this is the greatest rock 'n' roll band that ever LIVED! They're so awesome that pretty much everything they did deserves to be heard by you! (Sans some of their '80s stuff. But even their '80s stuff is pretty good. Relatively speaking, that is. I have reviewed Michael Bolton albums, lest you forget.)
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Album Score: 10
The Rolling Stones' former manager Allan Klein had control over The Stones' 1964-1970 material, and he decided to make a little bit of pocket money by sifting through their old tapes and releasing a full album of unreleased material. He did this without The Stones' blessing, and I'd imagine the band members were pretty ticked off when some of this stuff finally saw the light of day. I mean, some of these songs are so lame that The Stones had a very good reason for not ever releasing them! On the other hand, considering how awesome The Stones were, you might be not be surprised that Mr. Moneybags Klein managed to unearth a few gems that Rolling Stones fans would undoubtedly treasure.
Two of these songs, “Out of Time” and “Heart of Stone” are different versions of songs that we are already familiar with. The former is a lush and string-heavy version that's really weird to hear compared to the very bare original. Once you hear that song, I think you'll immediately note that the strings were a pretty bad idea for it! The latter is just a much rougher-sounding version with a sloppier vocal performance and a rather terrible electric guitar solo in the middle from Jimmy Page of all people. ...They're interesting in a sense, but I don't think you'll find anything particularly special about 'em.
I'd also say that most of the originals that date from 1964-1965 are not really worth hearing. That shouldn't come to a surprise considering the original songs on those final albums were pretty spotty as it was! Most of this stuff is only interesting only if you have an itching curiosity. We have a ho-hum cover of “Don't Lie to Me,” a dreary and overproduced ballad “Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind,” an over-dramatic and cliché “Each and Every Day of the Year,” a melodically dull Beatles-wannabe “I'd Much Rather Be With the Boys,” and the verrrrrrrrry over-instrumentated “(Walk Through The) Sleepy City.” By far the best of the early songs is “Try a Little Harder,” which has a relatively menacing rhythm and is therefore the most worthy of The Rolling Stones' good name. That song has quite a lot of production problems, though, and Jagger's vocal performance is much sweeter than it ought to be, though so it ain't perfect. If they were actually going to release it, they would have had to do more work on it.
The songs overwhelmingly get better in the second half of this album, where we finally get to their later material. The cover of Stevie Wonder's “I Don't Know Why” is perhaps the greatest thing to happen to me since I found out that I would be born a human and not a tsetse fly or anything creepy like that. The melody is great, Jagger delivers one of his more passionate vocal performance, and Keith Richards (I presume) turns in a truly soaring lead guitar. Excellent. I also really like “If You Let Me,” which came out of the Aftermath sessions, with its nice melody and texturally rich instrumentation. Man! I think that song would've been pretty nice on that album ... given some more elbow grease.
If “Jiving Sister Fanny” made it on Let it Bleed, it would have unquestionably been one of the weakest songs of the bunch. But here on Metamorphosis, it's the awesomest thing ever! The riff is cool, and the rhythm is crunchy and menacing. Keith's guitar is mixed awfully loud there, but ... well, there's worse things you could listen to than Kieth playing REALLY LOUD. “Family” is a valuable treasures that probably wasn't included on Beggars Banquet because it was too similar to their psychedelic stuff. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't have been heard! It's a very tuneful song, and it's quite a treat! Just for giggles, Klein also included a slooooow country song that Bill Wyman wrote called “Downtown Suzie.” It ain't bad... but it's not that good, either. It's more weird than anything else. Particularly with those comical and deeeeeeeeeeep vocal harmonies, I get the impression that it would have fit better on a Frank Zappa record.
I'd say that “Memo From Turner” is one of the biggest gems of the album because it ROCKS. Again, it would have been one of the weakest songs on Let it Bleed, but it's really good here. Pure tastiness. However, my all time favorite song of this disc doesn't come until the very final track, and it's called “I'm Going Down.” That's surely among the finer riffs to bare the Rolling Stones' name, and it's a real mystery why they couldn't have found room for it on Sticky Fingers. Ah, I guess they just ran out of space or something! Well, there's no hard feelings for that of course. By putting it aside and forgetting about it, they inadvertently allowed Metamorphosis to end with a blast! And, needless to say, Metamorphosis really needed to end with a blast, because it sure as hell didn't start with one.
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Black and Blue (1976)
Album Score: 12
It might have been 1976, and The Rolling Stones might have been already grown old and irrelevant in the eyes of some music fans (i.e., snobs), but that didn't stop our favorite rock 'n' roll band from doing what they loved best: Recording and performing great music. And since it bares the Rolling Stones' brand name, you know that it has got to be quality rock 'n' roll. Black and Blue is a little bit more than that, however; it is bloody terrific! That's funny I say that, because this album contains little more than a bunch of overlong jams without a whole lot of ideas in 'em. But, you see, the thing about the grooves they come up with is that they are compelling enough to actually be engaging for massive amounts of time!
Black and Blue also contains a fairly wide variety of genre diversity, including funk, reggae, and lounge-jazz. I know, apart from lounge-jazz, The Stones had also dabbled in those genres in Goats Head Soup, but here they go getting even more knee-deep in them. A funk-disco track “Hot Stuff” starts the album off on an infectious note, and it's sure to get your ass wiggling on the dance floor quicker than Elton John could snort coke. Those guitars are tighter and more infectious than ever; if nothing else, it proves that these guys were still the premiere guitar gods on the planet.
Speaking of guitar gods, Mick Taylor exited the band prior to this album, leaving The Stones yet again to search far and wide for a replacement. In fact, they seemed to use the process of recording this album as a means of audition! You can hear performances from who I assume were the three leading candidates: Harvey Mandel, Wayne Perkins, and Ronnie Wood. To me, it's pretty obvious why they ended up going with Wood. They let Mandel and Perkins perform lead guitar on all the cool songs like “Hot Stuff” and “Hand of Fate,” but poor Ronnie Wood was stuck with the relatively lame-o reggae song “Cherry Oh Baby.” I mean, if I was a talented rock 'n' roll guitarist, I woulda walked out of there right away! REGGAE?? I mean, this was before The Police made reggae cool!
But not Ronnie Wood. He stuck it out. (Actually, the word is that he liked reggae, which means that he was mentally challenged and therefore perfectly suited to be in The Rolling Stones.) He even let The Glimmer Twins have a riff that he had been working on, which resulted in the snappy and funky pop number “Hey Negrita.” (Ha! What a song title! It's completely innocent, of course, but any mainstream rock group releasing a song with that title today would have the NAACP orchestrating angry mobs quicker than Elton John could snort............. er, sorry.)
Guess what? The Rolling Stones could still do excellent ballads! “Fool to Cry” is just as sweet as the dickens featuring a memorable melody and surprisingly convincing falsetto back-up singers. I can't imagine that they were singing this without their tongue firmly planted in cheek, but they nail that style of music as well as anyone could of the era. And yes, that even includes KC & The Sunshine Band. The same thing goes for the album's other ballad, “Memory Motel,” although its seven-minute running length comes off as a bit much.
Easily the goofiest song of the lot is the lounge-jazz song, “Melody.” That number is a dead giveaway that this album as a whole wasn't meant to be serious. (I think the reason some reviewers panned this album upon release is because they mistook it as a serious album.) It's almost hard to picture Mick Jagger singing to lounge-jazz without hearing it, and you might be surprised that he is as engaged and passionate with that genre as he is with ordinary rock music. Granted, some of the scat singing toward the end of that song is pretty ridiculous, but it's hilarious and in a good way.
They end the album with what can be counted as a “traditional” Rolling Stones song, that is a mid-tempo ditty with a crunchy riff! The riff is catchy and infectious, and the guitars are well-oiled and invigorating. Jagger's hearty vocal performance has a lot of verve and grit to it, proving that he hadn't deteriorated as a lead singer whatsoever. It might not be among their most widely celebrated songs, but when you take a listen to it, I think you'll agree that it should be. ...For that matter, I don't see any major reason why this album as a whole shouldn't be among the Stones' most widely celebrated. I mean, it has that lame-o reggae song in it, but other than that, it's pretty much tops.
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Love You Live (1977)
Album Score: 11
This controversial live double album had many critics and fans howling with the most ear-piercing cries of despair. Why, it was only a few years ago that The Rolling Stones had an impenetrable live reputation; they were hailed everywhere for not only their solid stage presence, but their virtually unmatchable instrumental ability. (They didn't earn the label as “the greatest rock 'n' roll band” for their looks you know!) Whenever you want to get a load of how perfect these guys were at one point, all you have to do is pull out Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out, which shows the band as a well-oiled machine with hardly a note out of place.
But this follow-up live album seven years later shows a much different Rolling Stones. Mick Jagger's powerful stage presence had transformed into something much nuttier. Not only was he jumping, hopping, and flexing as though someone dropped a wombat in his pants, he didn't particularly care if he sang in any intelligible fashion whatsoever. The guitarists were no longer trying to manufacture pristine grooves—rather they were more content to just play whatever the heck they felt like! Well, of course Charlie Watts still had to keep a steady beat, since he's the backbone of the group... And believe me, these songs wouldn't have been 1/10th as enjoyable if it wasn't for his ever-faithful presence.
So, it's pretty well established that this album doesn't hold much of a candle to Ya-Ya's. But in The Rolling Stones' defense, they didn't even want this album to be Ya-Ya's. This is the live album that shows them in their most cockiest state... They were throwing all caution to the wind and not really caring if anything would stick or not. And you know what? I'd say the vaaaast majority of this actually sticks. The most obvious thing about this band is that they were having great fun through this, and a lot of that unbridled energy shines through.
Early on in the album, they come up with the track called “If You Can't Rock Me / Get Off of My Cloud,” which is about as woefully sloppy as they get here. But they quickly make up for that by delivering these utterly vibrant performances of some of my all-time favorite songs of theirs: “Hot Stuff,” “Star Star,” “Tumbling Dice,” “Fingerprint File,” and “You Can't Always Get What You Want.” Theoretically, these renditions could have been better, and they don't even come close to matching their studio counterparts, but they're FUN. ... Do you get it? FUN is what this live album is all about!
Most of this was recorded in a giant stadium, as you would expect, but there were four songs here that were recorded in a more intimate nightclub. The Rolling Stones got their start playing in such venues of course, and they wanted to take that brief moment to return to their roots. ... That could explain why this portion of the album is by far the most polished professional sounding of the lot. Mick Jagger stops the silly singing for one millisecond and manages to deliver a truly powerful vocal interpretation of “Mannish Boy.” Another great song from this section is “Little Red Rooster,” which is ultimate proof that these guitarists were still some of the finest in the world. Listening to the amazing way the guitars all cooperate in that jam at the end couldn't get anymore fulfilling! ...Even though they were actually playing and singing professionally in this nightclub, this section of the album still contains a rather amusing bit of stage banter. They didn't cut that out of the recording just in case if you thought that Mick Jagger had actually stopped thinking goofy things.
The final four tracks of this album take us back to the stadium for one last go, and all four of them also constitute some of my favorite Stones tracks of all time: “It's Only Rock 'n' Roll,” “Brown Sugar,” “Jumpin' Jack Flash,” and “Sympathy for the Devil.” Their song selection might have been entirely crowd-pleasing, but that's the sort of band this is, you know. They might be cocky, but they're not pricks! At any rate, all the sheer energy contained in one single note of “Jumpin' Jack Flash” is surely enough to reanimate corpses. ...I don't say that about everything you know!
Even though Love You Live is far from the perfect live album, it is extremely fun to listen to. If this was a document of The Stones' live presence in the late '70s, then going to their concerts in this era must've been one of the Top 5 most enjoyable things any rock 'n' roll fan could have done in that era! I didn't exist yet in the '70s, but I'm closing my eyes right now, pretending to be at one of their concerts... Ahhhhhhh...
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Some Girls (1978)
Album Score: 13
I can't say I find Some Girls to be so much better than Black and Blue, but this is nonetheless where The Stones experienced a major resurgence in popularity, which had been gradually waning ever since Exile in Main St. The reason for their sudden rise back to the top of the pops was as deliberate and calculated as these things ever get. This album contains at least one example of three styles of music that were all the rage in 1978: disco, punk and new wave.
You could be thinking that it was awfully tacky of them to succumb to popular trends willy-nilly in the blind hopes just to make a buck! But, really, that's far from the truth; this is one example where a rock band seems to have had their cake and ate it too. The Stones have effectively taken these genres and melded them into their own image. Naturally, it's impossible to imagine Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood murdering their guitars like any good mainstream punkster would. And you don't have to. These guitars are as tight and professional sounding as they've ever been. Rolling Stones' purists, despite probably never appreciating disco or punk very much, was almost certainly exhilarated over the hearty doses of excellent solos in Some Girls.
Their disco tune, “Miss You,” might have a derivative rhythm, but it also has a remarkably catchy riff. This riff is so good that I wouldn't even have trouble imagining it on Sticky Fingers, giving some tweaking of course. It's probably not the greatest disco song of all time, but it's gotta be up there. (Do you know what I'd vote for the greatest disco song of all time? “Heart of Glass!” That probably goes to show how little I know about disco in general. But, seriously, what else is there? “We Are Family?”)
The Stones' new wave songs are also wholly wonderful in their own special ways. “Lies” is a great piece of pop that sounds a lot like The Knack, except it isn't lame. The guitars keep a tight and poppy texture though they always seem to be finding new and inventive acrobatics at every turn. Jagger's vocal performance is basically a hoarse growl, but listening to him sing like that is all part of the fun! I'm also a fan of the closing song, “Shattered,” a slick and playful song with yet another hopelessly infectious groove that would have also looked great on a Blondie album.
Of all the main genres I mentioned, The Stones seemed to favor punk more than anything... (I say that even though the lines separating punk and new-wave are pretty blurred). “When the Whip Comes Down” might be a little slow paced for genuine punk, but it embodies a lot of its spirit. They once again come out with a terribly fun, crunchy riff and that vocal melody is catchy as all hell. “Respectable” sounds like a fast-paced version of a '50s rock song, with Keith providing a few vague Chuck-Berry-isms in his performance. Need I mention that it also happens to be an excessively fun song to listen to?
Despite my constant praising of The Stones' forays into disco, punk and new wave, my favorite song of the album would have been a fairly comfortable fit for Sticky Fingers. “Beast of Burden” is a Rolling Stones ballad like only The Rolling Stones could have made 'em: The melody is sweet and memorable, and the instrumentals are rock-solid and beautiful. I also like that novelty country-western song they came up with called “Far Away Eyes,” which features Jagger delivering a hilarious monologue with an outrageous Southern accent. But to simply describe it as a novelty song doesn't do it justice; these guys pull out such sweet slide guitars through it that any self-respecting country-western songwriter would've killed for them. I mean killed.
Though this ain't a perfect album... It's about as weak of a 13 as 13s get. It's just the presence of a few weaker numbers that's holding me back. I'm underwhelmed over “Before They Make Me Run.” The guitars sound nice and crunchy, but the melody starts to grow tiring rather quickly. Not helping matters whatsoever is Keef taking lead vocals; he sounds much whinier than he typically does. The title track is a good song, although it seems like it should have been cut by about a minute. “Just My Imagination” is a good song, too, but I don't it to be as memorable as it should have been... but I will say that the guitar interplay in the middle is fantastic.
So that's Some Girls for you! An album with a lot of great pop/punk/disco/new-wave/country/whatever songs on it. I said it before in this review, and it bares repeating (plus it makes a good closing statement): Even though The Stones are adopting more modern and uncharacteristic styles in this album, The Stones never lose their self identity. This rocks as hard as a Rolling Stones album should—plus, there's a lot of excellent songwriting on it. This album is highly recommended!
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Emotional Rescue (1980)
Album Score: 10
The Rolling Stones had such a huge commercial and critical success with Some Girls that they decided to follow it up with a clone, Emotional Rescue. Well, it was a big let-down; these songs aren't even close to being as infectious as the ones from Some Girls and the instrumentalists are much, much, much sloppier, too. This points to the woeful direction that The Stones were headed towards in the 1980s—lazy old rock stars looking and acting like extra-terrestrials who don't give half a darn about their music anymore. But, you see, the thing about The Rolling Stones is that even when they're bad, they still rule. Thus, while Emotional Rescue is a disappointing moment in The Stones' discography, it still rules.
For some reason, the order of these songs are all wrong. The awesome stuff doesn't start appearing until the second side. So, let's talk about those songs first. The second side begins with an insatiable punk take-off “Where the Boys Go.” You can tell right away that these guys weren't going to come even close to playing as tightly and mightily as they were for the punk take-offs of Some Girls! But at least they had a generally good reason to play like that's more like how real punk bands played. The melody could have stood to have been catchier, surely, and it could have been more energetic, but I still have a lot of fun with it. They follow that up with one of the album's major highlights, a blues song called “Down in the Hole.” Once again, they're playing very sloppily there, but the blues generally benefits from sloppiness! They've done better blues songs in their day, but this is what The Stones started out doing, and they prove to be still pretty great at it.
The title track is one of the few moments in this album when these guys really concentrate and come out with a catchy and tightly-played groove. It's a very toe-tapping mid-tempo funk song with a particularly good bass-line from Wyman. The real star of the song is Jagger, who is hilarious from beginning to end. He starts out singing in a very outrageous falsetto voice, and by the end of the song, he sounds like he's narrating a B-movie science fiction picture. It's very jokey! I'm also a fan of their extremely entertaining new wave send-up “She's So Cold,” which does it just as well as Elvis Costello could, I reckon. (Hey, give me The Stones' goofing off over Elvis Costello's seriousness any day of the week!) I also like the Keef-led album closer “All About You” even though I find it to be a little to druggy for its own good. Keef sounds like he's about to pass out, and the extremely loose instrumentals seem to be helping him do that. It's an interesting ballad with a good melody, but I just wish I could get myself more captivated by it.
The first side contains some good stuff, as well, but I wouldn't consider anything there to be a highlight. It starts out with “Dance (Pt. 1),” which is a fun and catchy disco ditty, but it's not even close to the spirit and infectiousness contained in “Miss You.” ...But the important thing is that song is very energetic, Jagger's vocals are funny, and it inspires me to shake my tail feathers. “Summer Romance” is a Pistols-esque punk ditty, and it's not bad. It's not particularly great, either, and the melody surely could have been more memorable. “Send it To Me” is a white reggae that attempts to give The Police a run for their money, but it only ends up being hugely disappointing. Not that The Stones didn't create a tight groove—they forgot the catchy melody! So, The Police's distinction as the kings of white reggae was safe. “Let Me Go” sounds like country-rock combined with punk, and it's pretty fun. Nothing more.
I would say the major disappointment of this album is the ballad “Indian Girl,” which is the first major piece of evidence that The Stones were really starting to stagnate. The Rolling Stones used to always come out with great ballads, but this one seems to miss the mark. The melody doesn't do it for me, the extremely loose instrumentals don't seem to work very well in harmony with one another, and Jagger gives a really weird vocal performance. Sorry, but that song is crap. It's not captivating in the least bit.
Emotional Rescue's status as one of the most major disappointments of The Rolling Stones' career is pretty much justified, but it still has its fair share of brighter spots. I think it's pretty safe to say that if The Rolling Stones didn't have such high reputations, this would probably be considered a moderately well-loved album today. But as it stands, Emotional Rescue is Some Girls' little brother, and a fairly insubstantial blip in The Rolling Stones' mighty discography.
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Tattoo You (1981)
Album Score: 13
It's not such a shocking thing to learn that a rock 'n' roll band had a vault full of unreleased material that didn't make it on their previous albums. Most rock 'n' roll bands do that, I'd imagine. But it really says something about The Rolling Stones that they had material this good just sitting around! I mean, much of this stuff would have sounded great on their respective albums. Some might have even been substantial hits! Geez, can you think of any other rock band that would let such a piping-hot riff like “Start Me Up” lay around collecting dust for more than two weeks? I can't! All things considered, though, it's just as well that these songs wouldn't see the light of day until 1981. The good people of 1981 definitely needed an album like this. It restored everyone's faith in rock 'n' roll! Briefly.
It starts off with that powerhouse classic “Start Me Up,” which is such a widely known song that even I recognize it from my childhood, which I spent living under a rock. It has all the makings of a great pop-rock classic: the verses are just as catchy as the chorus, the guitars are crunchy and terrific, and Jagger's vocals are thrilling. ...Jagger claims that song was originally conceived as a reggae, but you wouldn't know that by listening to it. Thank goodness it wasn't! That song is considered a massive classic and for very good reason.
This is also the album with “Waiting For a Friend” on it, which isn't one of the Stones' most celebrated ballads, but it definitely should be. I never remember The Stones sounding so dang warm before! The instruments are very soft and sweet, Jagger's vocal performance is beautiful, and the melody is really easy to take to heart. Usually their ballads are bittersweet or cynical, but ... geez, that song just makes you want to grab the person nearest you and give them a big ol' hug. It takes a lot for me to say that, because touching people gives me the willies! According to Wikipedia, The Stones were performing that song as early as 1970, and only God knows why they didn't actually release this since it would have sold millions. Maybe its sheer good-heartedness wasn't consistent with their image? I don't know. But this is a great treat for anyone who hasn't given it a listen yet!
“Hang Fire” is an incredibly catchy pop-rocker that was left off of Some Girls, and it would have absolutely thrived on that album. The riff is tight and infectious, and Jagger adopts that utterly enjoyable growl to his lead vocals. “Slave” is jammy blues-rock that dates from Black and Blue and features Jeff Beck on lead guitar. (Apparently Jeff Beck had auditioned to be in The Stones! ... I was not aware of that!) It's a very captivating song, and it's catchier than a cactus. “Black Limousine” is more straightforward blues, and it proves exactly why The Rolling Stones were always considered masters at the stuff. It's performed well, the melody is memorable without resorting to cliches, and it's a whole lot of fun to listen to. Do I need to say anything else?
“Tops” is a song that dates from Goats Head Soup and it even features some extensive guitar work from Mick Taylor. (I guess Jagger and Richards were still a little peeved that Taylor left them since they didn't give Taylor credit for it!) Anyway, that's another one of the album's main highlights; it's a loud, gritty and catchy ballad that has more attitude than 98 percent of bands could generate over the course of their entire careers. Man!!! “Heaven” is the album's odd-duck, a trippy and atmospheric ballad that surprisingly puts my brain right to the title-location. I would have thought that was something that dated from Goats Head Soup, but nope! That, along with the fun pop-rock ditty “Neighbors,” is the only song that was newly written.
...Oh man, Tattoo You is one of those rare albums where everything is a great song, and I have a hard time figuring out what I want to talk about! I haven't yet mentioned Keith Richards' infectious “Little T&A” and the noble ballad “Worried About You” yet, and it seems like I should have! (I also haven't mentioned the ballad “No Use in Cryin',” but that's my least favorite song on here, so I don't have to mention it. ...OK, I just mentioned it, but I didn't have to mention it, you see!) You definitely wouldn't expect an album full of leftovers to be this great, but it seriously eclipses most of their '70s albums. And that's saying something. This is also considered the last great Rolling Stones album, and I definitely agree with that assessment.
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Still Life (1982)
Album Score: 10
The Rolling Stones' fourth live album is usually considered their worst, but considering how great a live band The Rolling Stones were, it's still a pretty dang good album. I probably wouldn't place this one over Love it Live mostly because this isn't a double disc, and The Rolling Stones don't perform as many of their huge classics as they did there. But for that very same reason, this is still very much a worthwhile purchase to fans. I mean, who wouldn't want to hear what the '80s incarnation of The Rolling Stones playing “Let's Spend the Night Together?” ...Answer me that, sir or madam!
While listening to this album is an enjoyable experience for the most part, it's pretty clear that The Rolling Stones weren't at their absolute pinnacle. They didn't sound at their pinnacle in Love it Live, either, but they were also displayed a lot of cocky energy there with all sorts of slopped together guitar solos and Jagger singing like a loon. Here, they almost seem tired, as though they were feeling worn from playing some of these songs a billion times.
Take their rendition of “(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction,” for example. Jagger sings totally off-key through most of it, and the guitarists are obviously only going through the motion. I don't get any excitement from hearing them perform that massively classic song and I should obviously because it is the greatest song of mankind...And yet, the audience is certainly going wild through it, more so than any other point in this album I believe. Well, needless to say, if I was a member of the audience, I'd be going pretty dang wild also. After all, I'd be seeing The Rolling Stones in the flesh! Nevertheless, this sort of lazy obligatory performance doesn't translate well on a live album, and they probably should have replaced it with something else.
Other than that, most of this stuff is pretty dang solid. We get to hear a very fun rendition of “Under My Thumb,” which is well-equipped with a moderately entertaining jam session at the end. It's hardly a flashy rendition and not even an essential one, but I do like hearing it! “Let's Spend the Night Together” is similarly good although I wish they had enough VERVE in the stadium to make it more heart-pounding like it should be. And while I appreciate that Keith takes back-up vocals, I think he disrupted its flow a little bit...
From their recent albums, they perform the terribly fun new-wave song “Shattered” and with a lot more energy than they performed their classics! Jagger's vocals are very engaging there, as he seems to be enjoying himself! The guitarists also sound quite terrific playing that tight groove... Apparently, they're not tired of that song, yet! Their rendition of “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)” is also fun although that wasn't a particularly great song to begin with. It has a nice tune, though, so what do I want? “Start Me Up” was a bit of a disappointment. That was a song I was hoping they really woulda put some of that live Rolling Stones magic to good use. But nah. They play it well, but I wish it had more ENERGY!
The two unexpected songs are old-timey covers, and both are really good. The first is “Twenty Flight Rock,” an exciting '50s rockabilly song where Jagger does a mightily impressive impersonation of Elvis Presley! The festive pop song “Going to a Go-Go” manages to even top that one with its catchy groove, and Jagger's stellar vocal performance. I understand this song ended up making the U.S. charts, and it's really no surprise. It's the most enjoyable moment of this entire record! It's weird that the two covers are generally more solid renditions than the originals. Maybe The Stones don't butcher those ones out of respect for the original songwriters? How polite of them!
Even though this is probably the worst Rolling Stones live album, even compared to Got Live if You Want It, I still think it's an enjoyable record. It's pretty clear these guys were a little tired, particularly through some disappointedly halfhearted renditions of their classic songs, but that somehow didn't prevent me from liking this overall. Obviously, I wouldn't get this unless you're an established Stones fan, or if the only Stones live album you'd ever want to own has to have a lot of songs from Some Girls on it. This is not a good album to get if you're a normal person.
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Album Score: 9
I've said previously in my reviews that The Rolling Stones were incapable of sucking. Substandard material yes, but the state of totally sucking was something that had thankfully evaded them until this point. It is my sad duty to report that Undercover is the first moment in their discography where I have to start backtracking that statement a little bit. The Rolling Stones are now starting to suck. Big time. To be sure, this album is very good when you compare it to Kiss' Animalize, but we don't want to compare The Rolling Stones to Kiss! The Rolling Stones' brand name represented nothing but quality throughout their lengthy career, and this is where they started to disappoint. That said, it shouldn't be a big surprise to any of us, since this album was made in the 1980s, and the '80s sucked for pretty much every pop star from the '60s. There weren't many survivors.
My first complaint about this album is the production absolutely BLOWS. I mean, the only two songs here that sound halfway decent are the boogie woogie “She Was Hot” and the Euro-dance “Too Much Blood.” The decent production on “She Was Hot” was probably just a fluke, but the latter can be explained by the fact that they were messing around with drum machines. Drum machine songs are clean and slick by design! Other than those, there's one word that can describe all these songs: “CLUTTERY.” There's just a lot of unneeded noise all throughout this, and it's almost enough to drive me nuts.“Undercover of the Night” is one of the better songs, for sure, and it has a nice dance groove, but I really hate that murky, echoey guitar sound they bring in occasionally. Truth be told, the effect I'm complaining about is just a small part of an otherwise fun song, but it just rubs me the wrong way.
Geez, all these songs seem to rub me the wrong each in their own unique ways. “Tie You Up (The Pain of Love)” has another catchy dance groove and it's marginally fun, but Mick's vocals are weird and they're muffled by the instrumentation! Although muffling the lyrics was probably more of a good thing in this case, since the lyrics are so disgusting. (Read the song title again... Yeah, it's about exactly what you think it's about.) The Keith-led “Wanna Hold You” is a really confusing song that doesn't seem to be able to get much of a foothold on anything. It's fast-paced and consists basically of a single hook being repeated over and over again... In other words, it's a retread of “Little T&A” except nowhere near as good! “Feel On Baby” is even more confused than that one, and it seems rooted in reggae. I'll give it full points for being weird, which I usually appreciate more than songs that are normal, but at the same time, it never captures me. Two minutes into the thing, and I just want to turn it away.
By the time the riff-rocker “Too Tough” comes about in the final third of this album, it brings with it a very welcome feeling. It's a Rolling Stones riff rocker! Never mind that it blatantly steals their own “Jumpin' Jack Flash,” it's fun to listen to! But even that song isn't immune to their tendency of over-cluttering these things... Did they really need all those guitars? I mean, in parts, it sounds like all of their guitarists overdubbed themselves twice on it. That really ruins the feeling! “All the Way Down” is really bizarre and not in the good way. It sounds like it started out as a perfectly tight and decent riff-rocker, but somehow Jagger got the notion that he had to half-rap over it. It doesn't work. Making it even worse are these strange, strange, strange interlude sections they come up with. There's no other way to describe them than just plain FREAKY! They seem to come out of nowhere and smack you around just for listening to them. If I was going to pick a low point of this disappointing Rolling Stones album, it's gonna be that song.
My feelings about Undercover aren't too unusual. It's either this album or Dirty Work that's considered their worst of all time. Naturally a worst album for The Rolling Stones would be the best album for Madonna—it's all relative you see. And you've probably noted that this review has been uncommonly negative for something that scored a whole 9! I guess that's why I need a scoring system! But here's what disturbs me: I'm beginning to think that I'd actually rather listen to Madonna's True Blue than this. Considering that True Blue blows, this doesn't bode well for The Rolling Stones. Not one little bit.
... Madonna ... Why do I talk about her so much? I'm obsessed, obviously. ... I've got to say that it's pretty hilarious that she keeps on trying to adopt African babies. Her legal woes would probably be lessened if she kidnapped them. I'm not kidding.
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Dirty Work (1986)
Album Score: 8
According to legend, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were feuding in 1985, and Jagger very nearly quit the band. Keith and Ronnie basically came up with this whole album before Mick came in at the last minute to do the vocals. Yeah, good thing he came back, too. What would The Rolling Stones be without the lips guy? ... But, you see, they were still feuding, which goes to explain why Mick sounds like he's purposefully trying to destroy half these songs by singing with unintelligible growling noises. Really, some of his vocals are so over-the-top that they're hilarious!
Not that there was a whole lot for Mick to destroy, really. Hate to say it, but this was something of a major songwriting low for these guys. There are a few very worthwhile songs to pick out of all of this, but as a whole I don't even think an average Huey Lewis and the News album would have material this freaking sterile in it. If you're looking for a Rolling Stones album that has that famous Rolling Stones grit in it, then you're looking in the wrong place. For the most part.
There are two tracks on here that have a little bit of that famous Rolling Stones verve. The first is called “Had it With You,” an extremely tight boogie-rocker where Mick's angry growl-style vocals actually seems constructive to the lyrics. (I can readily picture Mick giving Keith the death glare while he was growling those vocals!) The other song I like is a cover of an old R&B song, “Harlem Shuffle,” which has an extremely catchy groove. That song has a little bit of an over-processed '80s sound, but I hardly care when they're actually playing a halfway decent tune!
But the rest of the songs... Ehhhhh! I will say that even though they're not too terribly inspired, at least they're not so utterly cluttery like they were all throughout Undercover. They're sterile, but they don't bug me so much. “One Hit (To the Body)” is a perfectly decent album opener with one of the few good riffs on the album. “Fight” is basically the same thing except without the good riff, and Mick's overdone vocals start to veer into 'ridiculous' territory. That song is perfectly fine bar-rock, but that's where the disappointment lies... These guys usually managed to be much greater than ordinary!
The low point of this album has to be “Hold Back” where Mick's vocals are so utterly ridiculous that it's virtually impossible to hold back the laughter! Truth be told, though, that was a pretty awful song to begin with, so I guess Mick ended up making it more interesting... You see, without the bizarre singing, it would've been entirely forgettable! And then there's a minimalist reggae tune, “Too Rude,” but I like that song for some reason. (I didn't used to!) The intentionally hammy, echoey drum machine sound they bring in there is sort of interesting, and Keith's tattered lead vocals seem quite appropriate to the material.
Keith takes leads on another song of the album, thus breaking the cardinal rule that he's only allowed to sing on one song per album. Except this one is a completely messy gospel, “Sleep Tonight,” and his vocals don't come off as well. But to be fair, I don't think anyone's vocals would have sounded very good on that one. It seems like there might have been a sweet and touching song lurking somewhere in there, but as it stands, it's a muddled mess. “Back to Zero” was seemingly an attempt at a Michael Jackson sort of funk-pop song, but it's lame and it sucks. I've heard worse, but this is the sort of mid-level song that you'd expect to hear on any random album from the mid '80s. Easily the nicest part of the album comes at the very end in a 30-second snippet of longtime Rolling Stones pianist Ian Stewart playing a blues boogie. He died before this album was released. That's a pity.
The good news is that The Rolling Stones wouldn't get worse than this. They've bottomed out, and thus they would embark on a one-way journey to being awesome again. And even though this album sucks, I still gave it an 8, which means that it's decent regardless of all my negative words. 1986 was the year pretty much every '60s and '70s superstar released their worst album, and The Rolling Stones were no exception. So, I think they made it through that horrid year OK. (I want to know what the deal is with Paul Simon, though. He released his best album in 1986. There's something wrong about this. I'm pretty sure he's a vampire.)
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Steel Wheels (1989)
Album Score: 9
The music press must have been feeling pretty bad about spending the '80s calling old rock bands dinosaurs, so they decided to make it up to them and dub 1989 as the year of the comeback. Thus, pretty much every album released that year by a middle-aged rock act was hailed as a return-to-form. I suppose some of those “comebacks” might have been legitimate, but I certainly wouldn't put The Rolling Stones' Steel Wheels in that category.
Without a doubt, Steel Wheels is one the weakest albums they've ever released. Not that it makes a terrible listen; it's definitely more consistent and enjoyable than Undercover and Dirty Work. On the other hand, this album sounds like it could have been released by pretty much anyone. I mean, how many ultra-polished retro hard-rock acts were out there in the late '80s? Answer: Five billion.
I wouldn't have particularly minded The Stones jumping on that bandwagon if only these songs were a little more distinctive. Unfortunately, these are some of the most toothless songs they've ever released. Take the album opener “Sad Sad Sad.” It certainly sounds nice with its well-mixed guitars, stadium drums, and boisterous lead vocals from Jagger, but where's everything that made The Rolling Stones awesome? The riff is OK, but forgettable, and why does the chorus sound so much like any old clone from the radio? It makes a perfectly fine listen, but it's terribly generic. I've accused The Rolling Stones of sucking in the past, but this is the first time I threw the term “generic” at them.
It gets even worse later on in the album. “Mixed Emotions” has such similar instrumentation to “Sad Sad Sad” that you'd might as well call them the same song. “Hearts For Sale” not only has a crappy song title, but it's also sounds EXACTLY THE SAME. Do you remember that song by some teenaged girl's dad sang that was called “Achy Breaky Heart?” These songs are better versions of that.
This is such a screwed up album that the album seems to get worse whenever they try to grit things up. “Hold Onto Your Hat” is a quick-paced blues rocker, but the fuzzier and squeakier guitars sound like crap, and Jagger's ultra-guttural performance almost recalls his purposeful butchering of Dirty Work. Speaking of crappy guitars, I'm very disappointed at the lack of innovation in these solos. I mean, The Rolling Stones were still on top of the heap as far as their ability goes, but these solos sound like they were aimed directly at middle aged people wearing business suits who like to get drunk and pretend they're rock 'n' roll fans. Blah.
Lucky, things get pretty good with “Terrifying,” which is not only an appealing hard-rock song, but it has a mightily toe-tapping bass groove to boot. The Rolling Stones' instrumental performances throughout this album are boring and muzakish for the most part, but they came out of their comatose state to perform that one! My vote for the best song of the album is the Keith-Richards-led ballad “Slipping Away,” which has a tremendously sweet melody and an engaging atmosphere. Oh, if only they could have filled this album more with songs like that!
There's a country ballad in here, too, called “Blinded By Love.” It's better than 99 percent of country ballads you'll hear on the radio (I know from experience), but that doesn't excuse the fact that this is just a terribly dull experience. I have nothing else to say about that.
Interesting riffs are an unfortunate rarity in this album, but Keith finally comes up with a good one for “Between a Rock and a Hard Place,” which comes very close to recapturing that old Rolling Stones glory. My main complaint about it, however, is, once again, it comes off too much like a toothless bar-rock song. Come on, guys! Stop pandering to people's crappy tastes of 1989! That entire decade was a questionable idea to begin with! I'm also amused at their attempt to bring a little bit of Bollywood in their act with “Continental Drift.” That still manages to be a terribly sterile song, but at least it's different. Hey, anything to get me away from the status quo!
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Album Score: 10
It was the '90s and The Rolling Stones were officially a classic rock act that thousands of middle-aged people would pay $100 each for the chance to see live in the stadium. Nothing wrong with that, of course. I, in fact, paid $100 to see The Rolling Stones in 2006. I might have been the youngest person in my row by at least a decade, but I had the time of my life! It was a really great experience to hear The Stones up there on stage performing their old classics. But even as awestruck as I was to see some of my all-time heroes up there on stage in person, they did seem an awful lot like performing robots who could still dance, sing, and play their instruments extremely solidly. Listening to Flashpoint very much reminds me of that concert.
The Rolling Stones in robot-mode is a bit of a drag since they've lost their youthful ambition, but it's nothing huge to complain about. The music still sounds good. They perform some very enjoyable versions of some of their all-time classics including “Start Me Up,” “Paint it Black,” “Jumping Jack Flash,” “Brown Sugar,” “(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction,” and “You Can't Always Get What You Want.” But do The Stones add anything particularly new to these songs? Not really. I will say that “Paint it, Black” has an interesting keyboard atmosphere on it, but for the most part they treat these classic songs merely as dance numbers intended to get everyone in the audience dancing like fools. To their credit, anybody who wasn't dancing like a fool was probably dead, or something.
I'm not saying there's anything particularly wrong with being so blatantly crowd-pleasing; as a listener of this album, I was very pleased to sit through all these songs! It's also nice that their performances sound much more solid and heart-pounding than the decidedly crass and sloppy previous live album, Still Life. Although you can't really claim that the album gave us “straitlaced” versions of the classics, can you?!
This concert recording was done during The Stones' Steel Wheels tour, so you can guess that a lot of those songs made it into this album. You can also guess that those songs pale greatly next to all their classics! I think they improved “Sad Sad Sad” a little bit, though, my roughing it up a bit and toning down the stadium drums. But that's continues to be a very blandly written song and hardly up to the Stones' legacy. “Rock and a Hard Place” is similarly fun to listen to, but even after hearing that song a bunch of times, I still can't seem to remember how that song sounds like if I'm not listening to it at-the-moment. Perhaps worst of all is when Keith takes the lead vocals for “Can't Be Seen.” Again, it's a fast-paced song and sort of fun to listen to, but I mostly just sit through it rolling my eyes knowing that The Stones could have been performing a hundred other songs that would have been better!
Since the primary mission of The Stones' live concerts in the '90s and '00s seemed to be an elaborate dance show, you can expect their rendition of the disco classic “Miss You” to be one of the album's ultimate highlights! Trust me, if that song doesn't get your bottom moving, then nothing will! I really like that they did “Ruby Tuesday,” but the stadium setting didn't seem to be the most ideal place for such an intimate song. Ah well, the gesture was good enough for me! Another notable moment in here comes with “Little Red Rooster,” a blues cover they used to do in the early '60s, in which Eric Clapton comes out of nowhere to noodle around with Keef and Ronnie. I think all three of them have had much greater moments, but it's still a pleasurable experience to listen to these seasoned old buggers go at it.
Lastly, I shall mention that there are two brand new studio tracks included at the end of this disc. Although they're both pretty bland, and I don't think anyone who Flashpoint just for those. “Highwire” is a very energetic anti-war anthem, but it's also entirely forgettable. Anti-war anthems work better if they are prone to getting stuck in your head! “Sex Drive” is a really poor attempt at a funk song. While the groove is solid, it's hookless, and Mick's overly flashly lead vocals get annoying quickly. All things considered, these songs aren't any better than anything on Steel Wheels.
As a whole, I say you should get Flashpoint if you're interested in hearing what the late-career Rolling Stones sounded like. Although be aware that this ain't the only live Stones album released in the '90s and '00s! They released bunches of 'em! (Because they were too rich and lazy to write new songs!!!)
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Voodoo Lounge (1994)
Album Score: 11
If the late '80s was the era of the fake comeback for aging rock 'n' roll icons, then the mid-'90s was the era of the real comeback. For you see, the '90s was a magical time when decadent things in the '80s such as bad synthesizers and stadium drums fell by the wayside, and people started to re-immerse themselves in the music of two decades ago. The Stones had been going on mega-selling tours, packing every stadium they came across with their wildly excited fan-base who clearly loved that they were performing their old monster hits the way they used to. (See Flashpoint.) Thus, they must have thought the time was right for them to release a new album along the same lines as Sticky Fingers.
Of course, this is nowhere near the level of Sticky Fingers, but this is clearly their most consistent and enjoyable album since Tattoo You. It has about as many weakish spots as it does strong spots, but, as a whole, this is one mightily fun album to sit through. “You Got Me Rocking” is a great stadium anthem. It hardly threatens to overtake their classics like “Jumpin' Jack Flash,” but it's on the same level. That is saying a lot. “Sparks Will Fly” has a really cool and complicated riff. Keith Richards' guitar-work might not be quite as great as it was in his prime, but he could nonetheless put forth some mightily compelling work. “Brand New Car” is a terribly tight and snappy mid-tempo blues rocker, which aims to do nothing other than entice you to get that foot of yours tappin'! Lemme tell you, my foot is tapping right now just thinking about it!
There seems to be an overabundance of ballads on this album, and they're fairly hit-or-miss. “The Worst,” contrary the title, is the best, and clearly one of the finest Rolling Stones songs ever to feature Keith Richards on lead vocals. It's a sweet song with a compelling melody, and it has some great slide guitar to boot. On the other side of the coin, “Sweethearts Together” is disappointingly hokey... it might not have been a bad ballad for 1958, but I wouldn't have liked it even if they recorded it in 1964. They brought the harpsichord back into their music for “New Faces,” and that's one of the album's more tuneful melodies. It's hardly a great song, but a likable one all things considered. “Out of Tears” is a decently passionate piano ballad, although I get too much of a Tori Amos vibe from it than I would like. (TORI AMOS, DEPART MY THOUGHTS!!!!)
“Love is Strong” is a mightily convincing and confident mid-tempo rocker where Mick Jagger snarls the raunchy lyrics better than he has for years. As the album opener, it immediately shows us that The Stones were ready to start ROCKING again! I also really enjoy the mid-tempo stadium rocker “I Go Wild,” which has a great swagger to it. The closing song, “Mean Disposition,” is a terrific '50s style rocker fully equipped with Chuck Berry guitar and Jerry Lee Lewis piano. It's completely derivative, of course, but that's the way we like it. The Rolling Stones used to perform these sorts of songs for a living, you know, and they are still great at it!
On the flip-side of that, “Baby Break it Down” really missed the boat. It has a potentially great riff, but the overall pacing of it is clunky and boring. A real missed opportunity. Also, “Suck on the Jugular” could have been a decent funk-pop song, but for whatever reason they decided to make it sound all modern like The Red Hot Chili Peppers. I mean, it was bad enough that The Red Hot Chili Peppers had to sound like The Red Hot Chili Peppers; the last thing we needed was The Rolling Stones to be following their lead! Bleccch! I'm also a little disappointed over “Thru and Thru,” which is an overlong song that begins very tediously and it never fully redeems itself despite the best intentions from the rhythm section. That's the album's weakest point, as far as I'm concerned. (Speaking of the rhythm section, Bill Wyman wasn't in the band anymore. Why the hell would he leave the band just as they were getting good again? HUH??? ...Oh, maybe he wanted to write and perform his own music, or something, which he hadn't been able to do with Jagger and Richards suppressing him and everything. OK, you're excused.)
But those weakish spots are still formidable songs for the most part. Really, everything on this album is quite good! So good that I would reckon that Voodoo Lounge was a special treat to any longtime Rolling Stones fan who was brave enough to still be following them by 1994. This album not only contains some terribly powerful rock 'n' roll with their classic signature scrawled all over them, but even some of the ballads are dang convincing as well. My main complaint about this album is that some of the songs seem a little bit cheapish and generic, but I think the strong points trump that. So there you go. The Rolling Stones might have been old, but they were BACK! This is by far the greatest thing to have happened to me this morning.
Read the track reviews:
Album Score: 10
In the 1990s, one million rock 'n ' roll bands released live albums featuring stripped-down versions of their songs. Most of these were done in accordance with MTV's Unplugged series, but The Rolling Stones decided to just release one on their own. And why shouldn't they have? The Rolling Stones were a great rock 'n' roll band, and I am rather interested in what some of their great songs might sound like in a less flamboyant way. Let's see what they've got. (This isn't really “unplugged,” since there's plenty of electric instruments throughout, but it's certainly more intimate.)
To get the important thing out of the way right now. If you're a big time Rolling Stones fan, then you're definitely going to want to check this sucker out. If you're not a big time Rolling Stones fan, then there's no reason to have this in your collection unless you see it selling for $0.99 at a garage sale. ...But for the bona fide fan, The Stones do provide us with plenty of treats to whet your appetite.
The best thing about Stripped is that this isn't a greatest-hits sort of live album. You won't find obligatory versions of “Jumpin' Jack Flash,” “You Can't Always Get What You Want” and “Brown Sugar” in here. If you want those, then Flashpoint is where you should go! Rather, The Stones seem to take the opportunity to pull out some real obscurities in their back catalog! “Not Fade Away” is an R&B cover that opened their debut album, and it's a real treat to hear them perform it again. It might not have nearly the amount of raw energy that their original had, for obvious reasons, but I find that ultra-tight groove they come up with to be tremendously appealing.
Do you remember the name “Nanker Phelge?” The biggest shocker of all this album is that The Stones have brought back one of those compositions. Even more shockingly, that's one of the album's true highlights; it's a brilliantly intimate affair with its tight and confident blues riff and engaging lead vocals from Jagger. Their country-western ditty “Dead Flowers” might not be such an obscurity, but it's also not exactly the song everybody remembers from Sticky Fingers! Despite my natural inclination to hate country-western, I really enjoy listening to their straightforward rendition of that. Perhaps the best thing of them all is Jaggers' fun swagger he puts in his vocals! “I'm Free,” a song from the December's Children, is also a surprise and a real treat to hear them do again. That's not among their finest songs, of course, but the thing is catchy as hell, after all!
Unfortunately, this is hardly a perfect album. For every happy surprise, there is at least one disappointment. I still love listening to their classic ballad “Wild Horses,” but it's really missing that soaring beauty that was in the original. “Angie” is similarly screwed up by terribly uninspired instrumentals as well as a weird vocal interpretation from Jagger. I am also quite displeased with this rendition of “Shine a Light.” That was such a great song in Exile, but it never catches fire here. ...It really doesn't even threaten to.
There are also a few covers here that they never recorded in the studio. There's a surprisingly soaring cover of Bob Dylan's “Like a Rolling Stone.” Obviously the only reason they wanted to sing that song was because it happens to share the same name as their band! But they do that song well. The band sounds tight as ever, Jagger appears to be enjoying himself while singing it, and he even brings in a mightily good harmonica solo! “Little Baby” is an old R&B song that I never heard before, but their rendition is mediocre at best. They sound positively lifeless. Sadly, this is a far cry from the way they did the blues in the early '60s. Ah, I guess that's what the aging process will do to you! Not only will you get lots of wrinkles, but you'll lose your knack for R&B!
But I'll reiterate that this is a recommendable album for Stones fans, and I personally enjoyed while listening to it well enough. It surely could have been better, but it also could have been much worse. I know... I shouldn't base my recommendation on an album on “it could have been worse,” but I think that statement is more than enough to convince every seasoned Stones fan that they deserve this in their collection. You won't listen to it very much, probably, but you'll most likely appreciate it!
Read the track reviews:
Bridges to Babylon (1997)
Album Score: 10
This is just a good album. That's hardly the world's biggest compliment that I can dish out, but at least it bodes well for a group of wrinkly rock stars who hadn't had much artistic ambition for 15 years. This is roughly the same quality as Voodoo Lounge, so if you liked that album, then you're probably gonna like this one too. Though you've probably noticed that I gave this one a slightly lower score. The reason for that, I would say, is that Voodoo Lounge is a mite more entertaining. It has a higher quantity of upbeat and sparkly songs on it. Bridges to Babylon is a little bit murkier. I choose sparkle!
I will say, however, that “Flip the Switch” is The Rolling Stones' strongest album opener in a long, long time. For that one track, The Rolling Stones had successfully revisited the level of excitement and juiciness that they had throughout the '60s and '70s. That Middle-Eastern sounding riff Keef comes up with is the most interesting Stones riff since, I suppose, the early '80s. What's more, that terrificly upbeat and swinging rhythm and the gritty guitars keep it as toe-tapping as ever. So, it not only engages my academic interest, but it's also one whopping load of fun! If you only listen to one song on this album, make it that one.
Unfortunately, the rest of the album couldn't quite keep up with the its greatness. While this album as a whole remains pretty solid and entertaining, much of it seems rather “blank” to me. Usually, it's a lack of interesting melody that I complain about. The band seemed to have been engaged well enough in the album writing process to come up with a variety of good ideas for songs, but once they're halfway through playing, I seem to lose interest.
“Out of Control” is a good example of what I'm talking about. It starts out with a quiet and cool subdued atmosphere that's sort of neat. After wallowing there for awhile, they bring in a more explosive chorus. It's very well-executed, and the harmonica solo at the end is one of the coolest that Jagger has ever done probably. ...But immediately after that song is through playing, it doesn't linger on with me. I just seem to completely forget about it. Maybe the pacing could have been improved, or the melody could have been more distinguishable. I don't know. I wholeheartedly adore certain aspects of it, but it lacks inspiration as a whole.
Similarly, “Gunface” starts with a really cool groove and it has its moments through its five-minute running length (particularly that buzzin' guitar solo), but the groove loses most of its fizz halfway through. “Saint of Me” had the potential to become a great gospel-rock song with interestingly anti-gospel lyrics, but the song just doesn't get me all *riled* up. You know how an inspiring gospel song makes you feel after you hear it? Yah, I don't get that from that. (Oh, and I still consider that to be a pretty good song as a whole. So don't think I'm panning it. It's a fully deserved B+ in my book.)
“Low Down” is one of the album's more memorable moments thanks to a catchy chorus and a truly spirited vocal performance from Jagger. Indeed, nobody in the world can deny that these old buggers weren't in great condition when they recorded this album! “Might as Well Get Juiced” is an interesting attempt to update their sound for the '90s. I'm instinctively against the idea of a great rock 'n' roll band to change their sound drastically for the mere purpose of sounding hip, but they pulled that one off surprisingly well. It's a fitfully enjoyable experience!
Though they didn't pull off modernizing too well with “Anybody Seen My Baby?,” which sounds like they were shooting for the same Top 40 chart that Madonna and Phil Collins shoots for. I don't remember The Rolling Stones ever doing that before so transparently. It ain't the worst song in the world, but it does come off as fairly trite. I'm also disappointed with the final two songs, very slow-moving and murky Keef-led numbers. They seem to do nothing but wallow around never actually going anywhere. Pass!
It almost seems wrong that I gave this the same rating as Emotional Rescue, because it seems more like a traditional Rolling Stones album. But I can't argue with mathematics. As a budding engineer, I must look at the data, and I cannot deny that there is an unfortunate lack of A-level songs on this album. And it's not like getting an A out of me is particularly hard. I mean, seriously. In the end, Bridges to Babylon is an overall decent album, and it'll appeal to you depending on how much you like The Rolling Stones. I'd get Voodoo Lounge first and then go from there. It's got a cool cover, though! ...That silver lion is awesome. So majestic. So manly. Kinda gay.
Read the track reviews:
No Security (1998)
Album Score: 12
Freaking awesome! If you want an excellent testament to what The Rolling Stones could do live in the arena setting, don't look to Flashpoint; look to this! These guys were in their late '50s at this point, but they absolutely rock harder here than they have for years. It must've finally dawned on them that they weren't spring chickens anymore, so there was precious little time to spend pussyfooting around. They were determined to ROCK while they still could! Mick Jagger, who had actually been singing pretty well since Flashpoint sings even better here with considerable growl in his voice at times. The biggest development in this group is that Keith seemed to have finally grown immune to all the drugs he had been taking, and he started to actually deliver interesting solos once again! In other words, The Rolling Stones were in top form!
The one moment that every Rolling Stones fan is gonna have to hear is this version of “Gimme Shelter.” Holy crap!!! It's nowhere near as tight and perfect as the original, of course, but the beginning of it surprisingly is a little more haunting. Their wailing and soulful female back-up singer does it just as well as the original back-up singer, and you've got to get a load of these excellent guitar solos. If you can just hear one of them, or (best of all) both of them going at the same time, it's almost always a blast. The sheer energy these guitarists create in this album doesn't remind me of a bunch of wrinkly old dudes; this is what I imagine they sounded like in their 30s. Yes sir, this is proof that they could still rock your socks off when they put their minds to it.
Obviously, this concert was recorded in conjunction with the release of Bridges to Babylon, so you can expect a fair amount of songs from that album. Yeah, I know. That's a bit of a pity since that was a pretty empty and mediocre album for The Rolling Stones. But after you hear them perform “Flip the Switch,” and notice that it's about as solid as “Gimme Shelter,” all those fears are gonna wash away! Kieth plays that exotic riff pretty much perfectly; it's tight, punchy and exciting. I even think that this version of “Out of Control” is slightly better than the original version for the simple reason that it rocks harder. Trust me, if a song like “Out of Control” can sound awesome here, then pretty much everything can.
To my surprise and delight, they perform a version of “Waiting on a Friend,” one of their finest and oft-overlooked ballads. The performance of it is fantastic; it sounds a lot better than some of their ballads came off as Flashpoint. Mick sings passionately, and the band jams along most pleasantly. Even their touring saxophonist gives a pretty cool solo in the middle! I'm also thrilled to hear them do “The Last Time,” which is from their 1965 album Out of Our Heads, so they really reached back for that one. Though I suppose they could have been a tad more energetic and compelling with it as it seems a bit limp. I'm mostly just delighted to hear that great old song again!
“Respectable” has got to be one of the main highlights here, that rollicking punk number from Some Girls. These guys are as exciting with it as they've ever been. Keith comes up with some of his coolest and tightest Chuck Berry-isms I've ever heard him do, which for my money is the album's ultimate proof that he came out of his coma! Oh, and I also like that they brought back “Live with Me” from Let it Bleed. Hardly one of the best songs of that album, but it's a terribly exciting foot-stomping number that was a perfect choice for the arena setting.
On the downside, the two guest spots on this album are so non-noteworthy that they constitute the weakest moments of this live album. Firstly, mediocre musician Dave Matthews comes on stage with Mick Jagger to sing a mediocre duet of a pretty good song, “Memory Motel.” A formidable experience for Dave Matthews I guess, but it's easily among the least interesting moments of this album. (For the record, I listened to a bunch of Dave Matthews songs after calling him 'mediocre,' and I'll admit he has good songs here and there. I really like this one song he did called “The Last Stop.” .....So there!) The second guest spot is with Taj Mahal who sings one of his songs, “Corinna.” It's a fine song, I guess, but it ain't The Rolling Stones. Sorry to be so snot-nosed!
Despite the guest appearances as well as that rather dull Keith-Richards-led song that I haven't mentioned, No Security is an exceptional live Rolling Stones album. They sound better there than they have for years. Just because they got wrinkly, I guess, it hardly meant that they couldn't still rock! Therefore, this is highly recommended to any Stones fan. Even just the casual fans.
Read the track reviews:
Live Licks (2004)
Album Score: 11
Two live albums in a row? Surely you jest! I suppose the official explanation was that this tour was done in support of a highly publicized greatest hits compilation, so why not document it with a live album? But wow. Two live albums in a row. I mean, how many rock 'n' roll bands in the world have ever gotten away with such a thing? That used to be taboo! ......Eh, but I guess if anyone was going to get away with such a thing, then it'd be The Rolling Stones. They were, after all, the greatest rock 'n' roll band to have ever tread on the earth. So, what the heck? I'll gladly listen to another live album! Bring it on, baby!
This isn't as good as No Security, though, and it's a rather expensive double album set. So, the only people who really need to get Live Licks are die-hard Rolling Stones nuts who aren't particularly frugal. But they'll at least get a mightily solid product for their dough. As you probably know by now, The Rolling Stones were incapable of releasing a substandard live album. Even if they're still chugging away as 90-year-olds, I'm positive that sacred principle will still hold true. (Although that would be pretty scary. I mean, Nightmare Before Christmas sort of scary.)
They did something weird and filled the first disc of this live album with their greatest hits and filled the second one with more obscure songs. I can't be too sure why they bothered doing that instead of mixing it up more naturally. .......I mean, I can't even come up with a credible theory for this. That's just the way it is.
Thus, the first disc is filled with the only songs you'd expect them to perform. “Brown Sugar,” “Start Me Up,” “You Can't Always Get What You Want,” “(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction,” blah-be-blah-be-blah. They are all are performed rather sloppily and they're not always inspired, which is the immediate giveaway that this album as a whole isn't as good as No Security. But they're always solid and fun to listen to. I particularly enjoy this rendition of “Street Fighting Man.” While it might not be as frightening as the original version, they could still manage to create quite an appealing piece of anarchic glory! I'm also a huge fan of this exciting rendition of “Paint it, Black.” Oh man, listening to the powerful ruckus they cause is an almost beautiful experience!
One of my complaints of the first disc is the inclusion of “Happy,” a relatively boring song out of Exile on Main Street. Was that even a hit? I guess I don't know, but that's a weird song to hear them do amongst their monster classics. My second complaint is a terribly clunky and uninspiring rendition of “Honky Tonk Woman.” They had Sheryl Crow do guest vocals there, which I guess explains why they couldn't have pulled a more solid recording of it from a different performance on the tour! Baaaaah!!!! Who the hell is Sheryl Crow anyway? She sings like a crow!
The second half is probably the most interesting to fans, because they pull out some funny songs from their back catalog. Hearing most of what they come up with is nothing less than a pure treat. “Monkey Man” from Let it Bleed is without a doubt one of their greatest songs of all time, but we rarely get to hear it! It could have been tighter, I suppose, and more atmospheric, but that's just nitpicking. I LOVE THAT SONG! They also resurrect their great punk number “When the Whip Comes Down” from Some Girls, and Keef does an excellent job reenacting those tight Berry-isms! And, wow, they even do a version of “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love,” a gospel-rock cover that opened Rolling Stones Now!. The biggest surprise of them all is they actually bring Solomon Burke (who co-wrote it!!!!) on stage to duet with Mick. Holy mother of Moses, that's a spirited rendition, too. It's better than the studio original, for my money!
With 23 tracks on here, there's no way that I can mention everything in detail up here. Let's just conclude by saying that this album has its ups and downs, but its ups are pretty freaking awesome, and its downs aren't all that bad. (Yes, and many of the downs are the three tracks that Keith sings lead vocals on. He continues to be a spaced-out wheezy bastard, but that's why we all love him, right?) Even though The Rolling Stones are releasing a higher percentage of live albums than studio albums these days, I can't say that Live Licks disappoints. As far as I'm concerned, this is a must-have for the die-hard fans.
Read the track reviews:
A Bigger Bang (2005)
Album Score: 11
This wasn't so much a comeback for The Rolling Stones, but it was a concentrated return to what they did best: pure rock 'n' roll. You won't find any weird, half-hearted attempts at pop music, awkward reggae numbers, or funny experiments anywhere on here. Unfortunately, you also won't find any greatly memorable tunes on here, either. Listening to A Bigger Bang can be an exciting or even riveting experience, but I come out of it without much to whistle under my breath when I'm done. In other words, nothing on here is even remotely on par with “Sympathy for the Devil.” Heck, not even anything like “Flip the Switch.”
But if you just like The Rolling Stones for their 'tude, then you're going to get all that you've asked for with A Bigger Bang. The big deal, of course, is that these guys were in their 60s, and they were continuing to push along with a youthful exuberance. They sound just as tight, solid and excited as ever. Jagger's lead vocals are bold and pushy throughout the album with only the slightly too-obvious hints that he's barking these lyrics like an old man. But who cares? Old men have every right to bark, if they want to, in this free world of ours. Keith, Ron, and Charlie are also in top form, sounding more polished and tightly knit than you'd ever truly expect out of them at such an age.
You should take a listen to the album opener, “Rough Justice,” to get a good early indication of whether you'd like the album. That's a pure generic rock 'n' roll number if there ever was one. The riff is stolen from some old song in the '50s probably, but this band makes it sound quite fresh. Speaking as someone who doesn't particularly get turned on by old time rock 'n' roll numbers, I've got to say I really enjoy hearing it. “It Won't Take Long” is a similar number, except the riff is a little more original and the pacing is a little clunkier. ...But hey! It's a Rolling Stones riff, isn't it? You can't go wrong with that.
“Rain Fall Down” is probably the only quasi-modern song on here, an R&B number that doesn't seem too far from something that Macy Gray would do. Even though I generally don't like that genre, this is by far the album's highlight in my view. That quick, jingly riff is quite ear catching, and Jagger's playful vocals are as charming as ever. What's more, it has a cool, mellow groove that you can sit back and tap your toes to!
Even though The Stones could still perform the harder rocking numbers quite well, they still seemed to have trouble writing good ballads. ...That seems like an art-form that The Stones had long, long lost by this point! “Laugh I Nearly Died” is a passable ballad, I suppose, but it doesn't have even a remotely interesting melody, and it seems to go on a few minutes past its expiration date. “Streets of Love” is another ballad that could have been good, but thanks mostly to its cheesy chorus, it ultimately turned into another boring and poorly paced track. So... yah. Just stick to the rock music please!
Since this album has a whopping 16 tracks on it, there was more than enough room for Keith to take lead vocals on two of them. Surprisingly, his voice seems to have gotten better with time even though he still doesn't seem to be singing very good songs. He sounds so good on “Infamy” that I originally didn't even think that was him! It's a terrible song with an almost obnoxiously uninteresting riff, but it's nice to hear what his 'normal man' vocals sound like. He sounds more appropriately gruffy and scruffy on “The Place is Empty,” a piano ballad that's fitfully charming but never gets off the ground.
All in all, this is a good moment for The Rolling Stones at the twilight of their career. As a whole, it could have used more memorable melodies and riffs—there's not even a chance that people will put A Bigger Bang alongside their great albums like Sticky Fingers. This just isn't the kind of album I suspect people to be listening to much in the future. However, this isn't particularly a bad last-album for them. This is a solid rock 'n' roll album from the greatest rock 'n' roll band. That said, I suspect they'll have at least one more left in them before they decide to kick the old bucket. I mean, they're pushing 70 these days, and have shown no indication of dropping dead yet. (This just goes to show that the universe never works quite the way it's supposed to! Either that, or they're mechanical.)
Read the track reviews:
Rarities 1971-2003 (2005)
Album Score: 9
Ooooo! A rarities collection! I love The Rolling Stones, and I know that a great band like this must have quite a few treasures in their vast vaults that I'm just itching to hear! I can't wait to pop this thing in my CD player.................. Alright, I'll get back to you as soon as I listen to it..............
I'm back. OH HOLY MOTHER OF CRAP, THIS THING BLOWS!!!!!!!!!!!!! OK, that was an overreaction, but I'm pissed off! It says 1971-2003 on the cover, but about a third of these songs is from the Steel Wheels era. And two of these “rarities” are already widely available in their discography. There are some extended remixes of songs that never needed to be extended, and it ends with one of the most underwhelming Keith Richards vocal performances of his entire career. Believe me that's saying a lot. Other reviewers have called this thing a rip-off. I can do nothing else but venomously agree. Pfft!!!
Out of this album's 16 tracks, there are only two that would be of any legitimate interest to most Rolling Stones fans. These two songs also happen to be the only ones that came out of the 1971-1976 years when The Rolling Stones were still at their peak. Firstly, there's a gorgeous country-ballad “Through the Lonely Nights” from the Goats Head Soup era, which is nothing less than a pleasant reminder of how these guys used to completely rule at ballads! The melody is beautiful, Mick gives a sweet vocal performance, and the guitars are pretty and gentle. (MICK TAYLOR, BABY!!) It was originally the B-side to “It's Only Rock 'N Roll,” and I never would have heard it if it wasn't for this album. So, thanks album.
The second song that is a must-hear is the live version of Chuck Berry's “Let it Rock,” which will surely rustle up your feathers! The guitarists are tight and fantastic, and Ian Stewart (God rest his soul) plays the living chitlins out of those ivories! Sorry to be so cheesy and over-dramatic, but this is what rock 'n' roll was all about in the first place! Again, I never would have heard this if it wasn't for this album. So, thanks album.
But what's the dilly-o with the other tracks? What made you think we wanted to hear an extended version of “Mixed Emotion” from Steel Wheels even though that's clearly one of the blandest songs that The Stones have ever done? And, while it's a much better song, who in their right mind would want to listen to a seven-and-a-half-minute version of “Miss You?” Heck, I'm rarely in my right mind, and I don't want to listen to a seven-and-a-half-minute version of “Miss You!” There's even an extended cut of “Harlem Shuffle” from the worst-ever Rolling Stones album of all time, Dirty Work. Have you no shame? (Granted “Harlem Shuffle” was a pretty fantastic cut from that album; I'm more upset that they reminded me of that album!)
And look. I've heard this version of “Wild Horses” before. You had it on Unplugged. And while their cover of "Mannish Boy" is undoubtedly great, it's on our copies of Love You Live. You can go stuff those “rarities” where the sun don't shine! ...I will say, however, that their 12-bar blues song “Fancy Man Blues,” from the Steel Wheels era was alright. It's quite gritty, and Charlie's drums are crunchy and wonderful. It's better than most of the songs from that album, that's for sure. (I guess they didn't include it because it was too tasteful.) “Tumbling Dice” is pretty weak, though, starting off acoustically and then suddenly morphing into an electric version. It was a weird idea, and it didn't work. I like that this album answered my burning question regarding “Dance Pt. 1,” which was “What happened to Part 2?” But, as it turns out, Part 2 sounds exactly like Part 1, so that was pointless. Bluh!!!
So, yeah. To this rarities collection, I go “meh.” It's only worth getting for the two songs. Maybe three, if you want to hear their surprisingly good “Fancy Man Blues.” Other than that, this is just a waste of money. And The Rolling Stones don't need more of your money. They're ricccccccccccchhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh already. (Oh, and since he wasn't in the band anymore they had someone Photoshop Bill Wyman out of that picture on the album cover. It was as though he never even existed...............)
Read the track reviews:
Shine a Light (2008)
Album Score: 11
Martin Scorsese, the esteemed director of The Color of Money starring Tom Cruise, was apparently a big Rolling Stones fan. So, he did what any real Rolling Stones fan would do: he made a big budgeted concert movie about them! (And you thought you were a fan!) I haven't seen this film, but I probably will someday. Until then, I have the soundtrack of it to listen to. Yup. I think I speak for a lot of people when I ask forcefully: “The Rolling Stones have released ANOTHER concert album?!! What is this, their third in 10 years? How many studio albums had they produced during this time, one? Pfft!” But I guess this was for the Scorsese movie, so it admittedly would have been weirder if a concert album didn't come out of this. And anyway, this is The Rolling Stones, and their live stuff is awesome. I ain't gonna complain.
So, how does Shine a Light fare against the two other recent concert albums, No Security and Live Licks? I would say it's better than Live Licks, but not as good as No Security. So there you go. That's all you need to know! Given that there were so many live Rolling Stones albums floating around by this point, I wouldn't be surprised if this was met with a collective “meh” to those who have been following the group for years. This album is mostly for people who were casual Rolling Stones fans to begin with and watched the movie because it's Scorsese. They were somehow moved by the experience, so they picked up the soundtrack to play in their car on the way to work. The rest of us wouldn't do that, though, 'cos we got No Security!
But anyway, they got a pretty good product for their money. Of course, this album includes live versions of the major staples such as “Jumpin' Jack Flash,” “Start Me Up,” “Brown Sugar,” and “Sympathy For the Devil,” but they also bring up a good handful of quirky songs that we had nearly forgotten about (that are strangely concentrated around the Some Girls era), “Shattered,” “She Was Hot,” and (surprise!) “Faraway Eyes.” My main complaint is they repeated the thing they did in Live Licks by putting the relatively obscure tracks on the first disc and lumping the greatest hits collection on the second. ...Seriously, why not even them out a bit?
It's kinda nice that they pulled out so many songs from Some Girls, since it gave Keith Richards plenty of room to flex out the ultra-tight Chuck-Berry-isms that characterized that album. ...Yup, the guitar-work throughout this album is nothing short of fantastic. There are a few bits here and there that have me scratching my head; I really have no idea what Keith thought he was doing in the middle of that Muddy Waters cover. But whatever. Keith and Ronnie probably sounded better in No Security but they frequently show us that they still had the stuff! The rhythm section is extremely well done throughout, giving us plenty 'o powerful foot-pounding rhythms that create the perfect environment for us to jump up and down.
Mick Jagger gets awfully goofy throughout this, which shouldn't be a surprise. I like listening to some of his stage banter, even if it gets strange at times. (At one point, he refers to Charlie as “Mr. Wang Dang Doodle.”) But it's all in good fun, right? Mick's vocal performances are usually alright, but he will occasionally start to belch and bark. Either he was spending so much time dancing around that he couldn't sing very clearly, or he was trying too hard to be fancy. ...Either case, I sorta wish he would concentrate a little more on his SINGING! (And he's not quite as bad as he was on Still Life, at least.) But hey, he's still fun to listen to for the most part, and the man could still play a mean harmonica.
If The Stones knew they were going to drop dead the next day and that this would be their final performance, then I'd believe it. This is a cool live album! Granted, it's a little bit flawed, for sure, and I probably wouldn't call this more essential than No Security. Nonetheless, this is a good live album, and you should treat this like every other good live album that you own. You should buy it, listen to it once, and then forget that you own it. I've probably listened to way too many live Rolling Stones albums lately. Frankly, there are way too many of them floating around out there for anybody. But the fact that I'm still able to listen to their umpteenth live album, and still be able to get caught up in their spirit says a lot.
Read the track reviews:
The Rolling Stones Live: Wichita, Kan. (October 1, 2006)
There have only been a few moments in my life when I had to make sure that I wasn't dreaming. Reading the announcement that the Rolling Stones were going to put on a show at my college campus, Wichita State University, was one of them.
I was spending the summer at my parents' house in Seattle when I was checking up on the WSU Web site for some reason I forgot. And there it was; the announcement. I skipped a few breaths!! If you've been reading my Web site for awhile, you know that I'm willing to drive ungodly distances to see some of my favorite musicians on stage. Right now, my record is about 800 miles, and I expect I'll probably even surpass that sometime in the future.
But the Rolling Stones, the group that pretty much invented the modern concept of a rock band, came right to my back door. Furthermore, they came at a time when I was at work, which is ON CAMPUS. So technically, they came to me WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE!!!
Oh, and this was also a huge deal for the city of Wichita. The Rolling Stones made headline news for several issues. And, I'm not kidding, when the opening act was announced, The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, it made headline news. I guess it's no surprise that this concert turned out to be the biggest selling show in Wichita history. (Our city is notoriously awful for concert turn out. Rod Stewart can attest to that. It's basically because we're situated in the middle of nowhere.)
Naturally, I bought my ticket the MOMENT they went on sale. I probably could have weaseled out a press pass if I was slick enough, but I figured that I would get screwed in the end, so I decided not to chance anything and buy my ticket. (I also wasn't sure how quickly this concert would sell out. If it was anywhere besides Wichita, I might have even had a problem buying it the second they went on sale.)
OK fast forward to the day of the concert, I was feeling pretty hesitant about going! I hate big crowds! The biggest reason I don't go to clubs is because I don't like crowds. WSU also proved something to me: They're really not good at putting up concerts. I bought $100 floor tickets, and I ended up having to stand in two separate, long lines to get seated. There was the line to get into Koch Arena, which I stood in for about 15 minutes and then another line inside to get into the floor area. Why they had to only have one entrance to the floor is way beyond me! I missed 1/4 of the opening act because of this. (To their credit, I normally arrive an hour and a half before a concert begins, because I always think I'm going to get lost. Since this was my university, I knew I wasn't going to get lost ... so I went at the last minute.)
I had a ticket for a seat in section DD2, which I quickly realized didn't exist! So, I had to stand in a third line to get that ticket exchanged. But I shouldn't complain about that, because I ended up with a $160 seat! As I was standing there, there was a weird guy dressed like Keith Richards who walked in front of me. More curiously than that, there was a group of about 10 people following him. Did they think he was really Keith? His face looked more like Geoffrey Rush to me! I got my new ticket and watched the remaining 2/3 of the opening act (they really weren't that great) and then waited about 60 minutes for the REAL show to begin.
I scanned the elaborate stage set-up. It was an absolutely mammoth structure that, at the time, was one of the largest buildings on campus! It was about six stories high, and it contained an absolutely huge, three story video screen! The construction guys took a week to build that thing, which a lot of whiners on campus hated, because they used 200 parking spots for it. (Everyone at WSU who complains about parking obviously never went to any other major university in the United States. When I went to K-State, I used to have to walk a mile and a half to get from my parking spot to my freaking DORMS!) But anyway... the review...
They took quite awhile to finally get started. I was wondering if this whole concert was some elaborate hoax, or Keith Richards finally coughed himself to death, and the concert was cancelled. After all, I live in Wichita, and nobody cares about Wichita. I was looking at how far away my seat was from the stage. Every once in awhile, a few cheers would erupt from the audience. I quickly got up, along with everyone else, thinking the concert was about to begin. It didn't really matter, because I noticed that I couldn't see the stage for crap!! I sat back down wondering if I was even going to get a glimpse of the stage during the show. Oh well, I thought, that's what the three-story screen is for.
Unlike the predictions of my formulating conspiracy theories, the show actually did start. They began with a rollicking rendition of "It's Only Rock 'N' Roll." I was actually able to catch a glimpse of every member of the band during that number, to my merriment. If there's one thing I'm happy about, it's that I'm not short! I'm not tall enough to be attractive to women who like tall men, but I'm tall enough to see over short people at concerts! OK, but I was still only able to catch fleeting glimpses of an ant-sized Mick Jagger, but all of his body jiggles were pretty easy to see! (It's amazing that the guy is 63 years old and has done all sorts of drugs, and he's still 10 times more physically agile than I am ... OK I'm a chubby, nerdy guy who sits in front of my computer all day, but still ...)
The next song was something that I didn't recognize. It was "You Got Me Rocking," which is on their Voodoo Lounge album. I remember thinking that I liked the song as it played and not really knowing where it was from. I continued to seek out those ant-sized glimpses of the band, but I was also pretty content at looking at the three-story high screen. Whoever does the camera work for that is really good at it!!!! They managed to get the core members of the band at the peak of their action with good framing, but they also captured some photogenic members of the audience rocking along with them. One young lady was caught dancing with a bit of a sultry look on her face, but she soon noticed herself like that on the screen and quickly turned away with embarrassment. Yes, I cracked up mightily!
The next song was called "Monkey Man," which I did recognize, thank you! It's from their best album--one that I happened to give a 10-plus to. Another amazing aspect about this concert is that Jagger's voice even sounds like it did back in 1969. Isn't that weird? (Someone at my newspaper office thought they were actually robots, which goes back to the conspiracy theory.) Next was a song from Sticky Fingers called "Sway." Of course that's a great song, but I was wondering why they haven't performed any of their BIG hits yet? ... Well, that would come later.
By this time, Mick Jagger acknowledged the fact that he was in Wichita, Kan. After all, pretty much any big act that goes to our city for the first time pretty much has to. For example, Jerry Seinfeld incorporated Wichita into a significant portion of his act when he came to town! But anyway, back to the Stones. Jagger mentioned that this is the first time he had ever been to Wichita (which everyone was very much aware of) and likened it to de-virginizing our city (a good analogy). He then got an acoustic guitar and performed a part of "Wichita Linemen." Keith did the best he could improvizing some guitar work! Anyway ... thanks for that.
But what happened after that was "Let it Bleed," a Stones song that I utterly ADORE!!!! This is also the first song I was able to sing along with. I was very happy to hear this song! Next, Mick had to take a break, so Keith Richards sang vocals on "Streets of Love." I remembered that track from their latest album, which I think is their best album since the '70s. As expected, when Richards was speaking in a heavy British dialect in the microphone before starting the song, I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. That's part of the Stones experience, I guess! His chalky vocals performed the song nicely, and weirdly enough, when he got to a part in the lyrics that mentioned "airplane lights," an airplane was flying overhead! ... OK I've lived in that part of Wichita for 16 years and it's not uncommon to see an airplane flying overhead at any given point of time, but still ... it was weird.
The song that followed was another selection from Sticky Fingers called "Bitch." That's a really great song to rock out to, and I wondered why I still don't have that album in my collection. The horn sections were rendered in full force by some live brass players! Excellence! If I was the type of person to jump up and down at concerts, I probably would have. (I was pretty content with watching the ant-sized Mick Jagger jump around ... he's the most energetic ant I ever did see.) Fortunately, a few of the old people in front of me were tired and they sat down. So I could see the band a little better with less heads in the way.
"Tumbling Dice" followed after that, which is a highlight on their Exile on Main St. album, which is a work of theirs I never truly cared for. (Yes, it's true that I re-listened to it several times since I posted that review upon the request of readers, but I can't really change my opinion of it.) It wasn't the best selection of the evening, but it's a good sort of power-ballad, and the group got to highlight their back-up singers. Next, things slowed down even more when they played "You Got the Silver." Hey, everyone needs a break!
They followed that up with a song I totally forgot existed, "Little T&A." It seemed like I really liked hearing that song live, in particular, but revisiting the album version of it (on Tattoo You) I remembered why it's so unmemorable. It only has one line of melody! But listening to the group play its pouding groove live is very fun!!! After this, the Stones played the one and only song from their 1966-68 hippie era that evening, "Under My Thumb." I felt that era was sorely underrepresented at the concert, because it is my favorite of theirs. They probably wrote their best altogether tunes during this era. But since it was a Stones concert, everyone else undoubtedly would rather hear their BIG ROCKERS. (Oh how I was hoping that they would play "She's a Rainbow," but I knew that wouldn't happen!)
I also noticed something when they played this song that also likened me to hippies. I had no idea why, but the Rolling Stones seemed to slowly start getting larger. Ant-sized Mick Jagger was becoming beetle-sized Mick Jagger. And then mouse-sized Mick Jagger. I couldn’t understand why they were getting larger. I thought perhaps somebody near me was smoking something weird, and I was freaking out!!!! OK, someone around me was probably smoking something weird, but I wasn't freaking out. The Stones had actually gotten on top of a platform and they were floating to the middle of the stadium!! And they stopped when they were just 50 feet away from me!!!!!!! That's when I realized why I was sitting in $160 seats, because I could see the DETAILS of their faces. All of them! Mick Jagger's tireless, frantic dancing; I could see Keith Richard's cigarette resting downwards off his lips; Ron Wood's guitar riffing and expertly flicking his guitar picks toward audience members; and I could even see Charlie Watts' permanent look of curiousity on his face with some detail. WOW!!! ALL OF MY CLASSIC ROCK FAN-BOY DREAMS HAVE COME TRUE!!!!!! This was a complete surprise to me, and I was very nearly brought to tears.
They finished "Under My Thumb" and then they started singing their best song from their new album, "Rough Justice." That's as good of a Stones rocker along with the best of 'em! I loved hearing that saucy song on the album, and I liked it even more live! Yay!!!!
But nothing can compare with what came next. They performed "Jumpin' Jack Flash," and I saw it all in detail. That song is a particular favorite of mine, and I nearly started jumping along with them. (I'm a very introverted person, which is exemplified by the fact that I couldn't bring myself to jump along with "Jumpin' Jack Flash" with the Rolling Stones ... but I was clapping at least.) And now something completely new comes to mind when I think of "it's a gas." Because that's what I was having. A gas. And for the first time in my life, it wasn't caused by bean casserole.
Unfortunately, something like that couldn't last forever, but at least they sung "Honky Tonk Woman!" ... That was also the last I saw of the Stones close up. They had to get back on their trolley ride to the main stage and be ant-sized again. But I didn't feel disappointed whatsoever! After that, I was stoked for the rest of the evening!!
All of the sudden, it seemed like, there was a huge, inflatable version of their trademark "Lick" in the middle of the big screen. Mick got dressed up in a snake-skin suit and started dancing to "Sympathy for the Devil" in front of the giant screen. Most members of the 30,000 member audience were chanting "Hoo, hoo" as the song calls for! When I reviewed that song from Beggar's Banquet, I idenfied that song as being pure energy. ... That's why it was the best song of the evening. The tribal rhythm and the audience particpation factor made it great. Jagger's impressively youthful stage antics were at the highlight with this song. This performance stuck in audience members' minds so well that I heard calls of "Hoo hoo" long after the concert let out. I haven't mentioned much of the light show at this point (frankly, that was the one element that was furthest from my mind). But I had to pay attention to what they did with this particular song. It began and ended with huge flames coming out the top of the stage's mammoth structure. I could immediately feel the heat from it!!!! HOLY CRAP!!!!!!!!!!!!!
One of the Stones' most identifiable songs, "Start Me Up," followed, and it was as great live as expected! The familiar riff is a true Stones classic, and I welcomed it!! They followed that up with one of their dirtiest songs, "Brown Sugar." They had a sort of music video along with it on their giant screen featuring some clips of the Stones' in their younger days. If they were trying to prove that they hadn't lost an ounce of their energy, they certainly succeeded! The video also featured a computer image of a naked woman with good detail of her nipples. That's pretty racy considering Wichita is something of a poster-child for the Bible Belt cities. We're known for our very large churches and radical abortion protesters. ... Well, there hasn't been an uproar about the computer-nipple so far as I could tell, so that's good!
And then all too soon, Jagger said it was time for them to go. Everyone rattled off their calls for an encore! We all sweated it hoping that we were doing a good enough job calling for an encore. It took them a few minutes, but they came back. And they sang "You Can't Always Get What You Want." Yes, I love that song TO DEATH, and I sang along with it. I was even able to sing most of the non-chorus!!! And finally ... just to solidify the fact that nobody left the concert not satisfied, they sang what's probably their best known song: "Satisfaction." The coda of that song featured some great fireworks! They went so nuts with the firworks that the entire stadium was engulfed with white smoke by the end. It was amazing.
But all too soon, the concert was over. ............. damn.
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