15 May 2009

HOT FIVE: The Rolling Stones

05: Some Girls [1978] Featuring..."Miss You", "Some Girls", "Far Away Eyes", "Before They Make Me Run", "Beast Of Burden", "Shattered"

Well, I love the Some Girls album because it was the first Rolling Stones record I ever bought, and it was a fun and interesting record to buy because they released different versions of the cover art, with different colors in different orders for those four "rows", and depending on the color on the top row, the albums were of varying value on the collectors market...As for the songs themselves, this album found the band confronting Disco and Punk/New Wave straight on, with the slinky "Miss You" at the front (a song that stands up exceeding well), and the pulsing and slightly ragged "Shattered" at the end (which still sounds great as well)...In between, the band returns from the relative dryspell following 1972's high-water mark, Exile On Main St., with a really solid, entertaining set of songs...This was the second album with Ron Wood on guitar, and this is where he really gels with the band as a whole, helping sculpt the third, more polished version of the band that continues to this day...For me, personally, this album still excites me as much as the bands' more iconic and better-regarded recordings...At #5, for better or worse, it pushes Between The Buttons or possibly Aftermath from this list, the two best representations of the Rolling Stones first incarnation with Brian Jones, when they were still mostly just a very good British R'n'B-infused rock band...

04: Beggars Banquet [1968] Featuring..."Sympathy For The Devil", "No Expectations", "Street Fighting Man", "Stray Cat Blues", "Factory Girl"

To Be honest, Beggars Banquet is far from the most solid collection of songs in the Rolling Stones discography, but it makes this list on the strenght of two songs, really..."Sympathy For The Devil" and "Street Fighting Man", two indispensible Stones songs, to be sure...Beyond them, however, is the scrappy and undeniable "Stray Cat Blues", the lovely and plaintive "Factory Girl", and the slightly odd-yet-endearing "Jigsaw Puzzle"...Points must be given for experimentation...In the wake of the previous year's misguided attempt at Psychedelia, Their Satanic Majesties Request, on Beggars Banquet it would seem the Rolling Stones took a step back and assessed their strengths, and found a better way to incorporate new ideas and sounds into their distinct brand of Blues Rock and R'n'B...So the congas and bongos and mellotrons and pedal steel add texture to the songs without overpowering them...This album marks the beginning of the second, and greatest phase of the band's history, and is the last with Brian Jones...From here on in we've got Mick Taylor putting his indelible stamp on what Bob Dylan calls "the greatest Rock band of all time and forever"...I guess if I consider what "Rock'n'Roll" truly is, at it's roots, I'd have to agree. The Stones are the template.

03: Sticky Fingers [1971] Featuring..."Brown Sugar", "Wild Horses", "Can't You Hear Me Knockin'?", "Bitch", "Dead Flowers", "Moonlight Mile"

Sticky Fingers isn't running a distant third, not by a longshot...In fact, there's the thinnest of lines separating the top three Rolling Stones' albums on this blathering list of mine...I mean, there's just a ton of great, even iconic songs, on this album, including my personal favorite of the entire lumpen, the haunting and lovely closer, "Moonlight Mile", which I think is a bit of a lost gem in their catalog...Overall, it's as solid and strong an album as any in their catalog, and perhaps most notable as the first Stones album with Mick Taylor in full effect...

02: Let It Bleed [1969] Featuring..."Gimme Shelter", "Love In Vain", "Live With Me", "Let It Bleed", "Midnight Rambler", "Monkey Man", "You Can't Always Get What You Want"

Let it be known that Let It Be is my favorite Stones' album, though I'm willing to admit it isn't quite their best...But shit, it starts off with "Gimme Shelter" for fucks sake, ends with "You Can't Always Get What You Want", and in between stacks up 9 of the rawest, grimiest blues rock songs in their canon...It boogies plenty, and cries so sweetly at other times, and finds this British band finally figuring out American music, chiefly the Blues and Country, including one of the finest approximations ever of a blues standard by a bunch of white British art-school lads, Robert Johnson's "Love In Vain"...What's perhaps most interesting about Let It Bleed is that there's very little Brian Jones on this album, who only contributed some percussion on two tracks, and very little Mick Taylor, who only shows up playing guitar on two other tracks, making this the most pure Kieth Richards album in the band's catalog...A MUST!

01: Exile On Main St. [1972] Featuring..."Rock This Joint", "Tumbling Dice", "Sweet Virginia", "Sweet Black Angel", "Happy", "All Down The Line", "Stop Breaking Down", "Shine A Light"

In the Rolling Stones' discography, Exile On Main St. is truly Epic...This double, gatefolded LP unfolds regally over 66 minutes, it's 18 songs covering all the usual Rolling Stones bases - Blues, Shuffle, Boogie, Rock, R'n'B, Country - but I think what sets this collection of songs apart from any of their other albums is the laid-back and joyous nature of many of the songs, and the recording itself...Hell, I daresay Exile On Main St. could be called a Gospel album! Of course, it would be a Gospel album fueled on heroin and indescriminate sex in a mansion in the French countryside, but those are God's creations too, if yr inclined to such beliefs..."So come on, come on down, sweet Virginia...C'mon, honeychild, baby you...Come on, come on down, you got it in ya, uh huh...You got to scrape the shit right off yr shoes..." It's just my own observations, but it seems to me that Exile On Main St. isn't nearly the most popular in the Rolling Stones catalog, perhaps because "Tumbling Dice" is the only major hit on the entire album, which is a shame because this is the album on which the band finally perfects their appropriation of all their musical influences, and they do it without really trying and in spite of all sex and drug distractions...In the end, I believe it's the relative "obscurity" of most of these great songs that makes this album still sound the freshest and most exciting today...Try not to sing along...

Hotcha! Hank

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