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Friday, July 04, 2008


Without a doubt I'm a Jackson Come Lately. I didn't 'get' the Stones until 1984, and at one point during my Metal years I told my brother Rod that Keith was a shitty guitar player. Clearly I hadn't 'gotten' it yet. Well I came around, and when I did, I devoured their catalog with the customary Jackson zeal. I've studied the Stones exhaustively, and this is a summation of those 23 years of discovery.

1) 'Exile On Main Street'

No big surprise here. 'Exile' contains the whole package: Blues, Country, Gospel, Rock and Roll, attitude, and genuine proficiency in their craft. Everyone said it was the definitive Stones record, and so I bought early on in my mad dash to obtain the entire catalog, a process that took about a year and a half on my meager college student income. Initially I took to the big Rock numbers - 'Happy', 'Tumblin' Dice', 'Rocks Off', but the lure of 'Sweet Virginia' was irresistible, and soon I had to admit that I enjoyed Country Music. That was a hard pill to swallow, but not that hard. The Stones softened the blow with their absolute coolness. Over time, however, it has become clear that the standout tracks are the Gospel numbers: 'Loving Cup', 'Shine a Light', and 'Let It Loose'. When I get down on Mick, as I do when I am confronted with the high cheese factor that is always lurking very close to the surface with him (see 'Dancing in the Street' duet with Bowie), I turn to these songs to remind me of his considerable talent. When he wants to Mick can sell shit to a shit salesman.

2) 'Sticky Fingers'

Tough call, but 'Sticky Fingers' gets the nod. Again the Rockers lure you in. 'Bitch' and 'Brown Sugar' alone would be sufficient for most any band, but the Stones keep you Rocking throughout with well placed high energy numbers like the ever so under rated majesty of 'Sway', and the monster riff of 'Can't You Hear Me Knocking'. 'Dead Flowers' began the conversion that 'Sweet Virgina' completed, while 'Ive Got the Blues and 'You Got To Move' proved beyond any doubt that of all the Blues enthusiasts that comprised the British Invasion bands, The Stones were the only band to actually play, no less write, a proper sounding Blues track.

3) 'Let It Bleed'

The transition from the singles oriented Pop band of the mid 60's to the 'World's Greatest Rock and Roll Band' happened over the course of two records, three if you count the 'Jumping Jack Flash' single, but it was 'Let It Bleed' that cemented the process. Is there a better song than 'Gimme Shelter'? Could there be? The inclusion of a Country version of their current single, 'Country Honk', is a master stroke. 'Midnight Rambler' is the very delineation of the border between Blues and Rock, which is why it makes you want to fuck. 'You Got the Silver' marks the debut of the 'Keith Tune', and quite possibly is the best of that lot. The quality of Keith's voice is so empathetic, so completely honest and earnest, that he can just about say anything, as he often has. One of the truly greatest composition that Mick and Keith have ever unleashed is also one of the most unusual, certainly as far as the chord structure is concerned, 'Monkey Man' is one kooky cookie, but man does it cook. I never cared for 'Live With Me' very much, but a lot of people like, so, uh, there's that.

4) 'Beggar's Banquet'

Seems were just travelling back in time from 'Exile', right? Well, that's how it went down, don't blame me, I didn't make these records. As if. At any rate 'Beggar's Banquet' was a drastic change of direction for The Stones. Gone was the wearing of the psychedelia, the clearly un-heartfelt bandwagonning of 'Satanic Majesty's Request'. Gone was the assortment of quirky non-Rock musical Instruments of 'Between the Buttons'. Gone was Andrew Loog Oldham. To replace all that, The Stones simply got back to making the music that they became the Rolling Stones to play, Blues. 'No Expectations', 'Dear Doctor', 'Parachute Woman', and 'Prodigal Son' are all pure Blues, and 'Stray Cat Blues' begins the process completed by 'Midnight Rambler'. Somewhere between 'Satanic Majesty's Request' and 'Beggar's Banquet' the acid wore off, Keith found open tunings, and he dusted off his acoustic guitars, which are prominently featured on the record. 'Sympathy for the Devil', and 'Street Fighting Man' keep the record selling, and 'Slat of the Earth' keeps Jackson spinning it.

5) 'Some Girls'

Keith emerged from heroin with a yen for a good Rocking. Despite the amazingly competent Disco feel of the big hit, 'Miss You', the album is loaded with Rock. A Country tune, 'Far Away Eyes' shows up featuring a somewhat cartoonish delivery by Mick. Keith delivers 'Before They Make Me Run', his farewell to dope, and a semi-regular feature - a Motown cover, in the form of 'Imagination' certainly hits the mark, but the standout track, 'Miss You' aside, is 'Beast of Burden'. 'Shattered' is always fun, as is the title track, while 'When the Whip Comes Down', 'Lies', and 'Respectable' provide the raw Rocking that was so refreshing in '78.

6) 'Goat's Head Soup'

Two of my favorite Stones tunes are on 'Goat's Head Soup', coincidentally they are also two of Mick's finer moments, '100 Years Ago', and 'Winter'. Keith gives us the splendid mood setting 'Coming Down Again', and 'Heartbreaker (Do Do Do Do)' is the home to one of the coolest riffs in Rockdom. The good old Crudest Rock and Roll band in the World drop in for 'Star Star', wherein the 'F' Bomb is prominently featured in the hook. Blah blah blah 'Angie', blah blah.

7) 'Black and Blue'

What makes 'Black and Blue' a better record than 'Aftermath', 'Tattoo You', or 'It's Only Rock and Roll'? Three words: 'Hand of Doom', easily the most smoking Stones tune. 'Memory Motel' is astounding with both Mick and Keith delivering impressive vocal performances. The Legal Diva likes 'Melody' which features Billy Preston on keys and vocals. I love the Caribbo-Funk of 'Hey Negrita' which finds the Stones mixing musical metaphors, and once again flirting with racial taboo. 'Cherry Oh Baby' marks the first successful attempt at Reggae and features a noteworthy backing vocal by Keith.

8) 'Tattoo You'

I'm sure some will grumble. I've never understood the lack of respect this album draws. 'Start Me Up'? 'Waiting On a Friend'? 'Little T&A'? Hell, that should be enough, but wait, there's more! Without a doubt, 'Worried About You' is my favorite song on 'Tattoo You', and one of my favorites over all. A simple wonderful groove. 'Slave' is another great groove, though it does lack serious lyrical content, but then again, the groove is immaculate. 'Hang Fire' is a fun little number with a great lyric:

"In the sweet old country where I come from
Nobody ever works, and nothing gets done
Hang fire, hang fire

You know marrying money is a full time job
I don't need the aggravation, I'm a lazy slob
Hang fire, hang fire
Hang fire, put it on the wire, baby"

9) 'It's Only Rock and Roll'

A sturdy but not overly great record, 'It's Only Rock and Roll' has it's share of gems. The title track is, of course, a classic, and deservedly so. 'Ain't Too Proud to Beg' is probably their best Motown cover. 'If You Can't Rock Me' delivers the Rock, and 'Luxury' is a pleasing if somewhat failed first stab at reggae. Billy Preston makes his first featured appearance on 'If You Really Want to Be My Friend' which rollicks and frolics loosely about but somehow manages to endear. I've always had a soft spot for 'Short and Curlies', an old school Ian Stewart piano driven Rock and Roll number, and 'Fingerprint File' is certainly amusing.

10) 'Out of Their Heads'

Based on my criteria, number of standout tracks and their respective quality comparatively, 'Out of Their Heads' rounds out the list. 'The Last Time', '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction', and 'Play With Fire' were the hits. 'The Spider and the Fly' is also noteworthy. At this point, in early 1966, the Stones were still relying heavily on covers; a total of five appear on 'Out of Their Heads', but regardless of publishing rights, it's still a stronger record than any of the remaining releases.

Okay, now let the rebuttal begin.

No arguments on the Top 4, although I personally put Beggars Banquet before Sticky Fingers. Maybe because I always start it on Track 2 -- I can't listen to Sympathy anymore.

Also, not enough '60s.

I can understand why Stones fans frown on 'Satanic Majesties'--conceptually it veers from their wheelhouse--but the execution is flawless. And it features two of my Top 10 Stones songs -- She's A Rainbow and 2000 Man.
You're right about 'Satanic Majesty's Request', in fact, It's probably a stronger album athen the last three, but it's so un-Stones, as you say.
StinkRock made a good point on his blog, which is that the best Stones stuff is not heard in their greatest hits packages or on the radio. Despite many efforts to "get into" them, this is a band has simply never done much for me, particularly the 70s records, which seemed to be the same record and song over and over again with little interest. The earlier 60s work is interesting, different and not stuck in that infernal rut they've been in since 1968.
I'd put Sticky at the top of the list, alternating between Exile depending on which one I've listened to most recently. 'I've got the Blues' is my fav Stones tune evah.

Tattoo is an amazing album 'Ain't No use in Cryin' after the amazing 'Worried About You'. Still have not fully thanked you for reminding me of the greatness of that.

Discussing either Let it Bleed or Begger's would be redundant other than to mention the fact that 'Prodigal Son' kicks major ass.

Monkey Man is just about the coolest riff ever written and yes, it is a very strange riff. It's one that really takes on another personality listening to it in headphones.
Dave, I think you need to come over for a beer fueled vinyl session. You can explain to me why I should like The Who, and I'll try and work the Stones better stuff into you.
Do you really dislike the Who?

To paraphrase Pee Wee, I like the Who, LIKE them, I LIKE them. I just don't love them. 'Who's Next' is undeiable, and parts of 'Quadrophenia' and 'Who By Numbers' are great, but much of it, like 'Tommy' for an example, I find over rated and a bit weak.
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